These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling
“I need a new T-shirt: someone tried to kill me, and all I got was this stupid concussion.”
This was one of my favorite reads of 2019, and no wonder. A YA fantasy filled with magic, mayhem, murder, and high stress, high stakes mystery? What more could one ask for. (Okay, so maybe a little less murder would have been nice for my poor bruised heart.)
First off; the magic. I loved the perfect balance that was struck of explaining the many types of magic while not overloading the reader with information. As a chronic over describer, I am always in awe of authors who can explain complex world building without pausing the plot for a whole chapter to focus on it. Sterling does a wonderful job of giving you enough information to understand what’s happening, without stopping to illustrate how each Castor, Elemental, and Blood Witch’s magic works at once.
Moving on to characters, I loved the relationship between Hannah and Gemma! A lot of books that get praised for having strong friendships (instead of just focusing on romantic relationships) I oftentimes can’t relate to because they feature a kind of intense, touchy feely friendship other people adore but I don’t understand. Hannah and Gemma’s friendship, however, was something I could completely identify with and love. Certainly romance was a major subplot of the book, but Hannah’s various friendships, especially her bond with Gemma, were given equal page time.
On the flip side of that heartwarming best friend relationship, was the friendship that ended in a truly terrifying betrayal. I won’t say who it was, since the grand betrayal is the crux of most of the plot and much of the mystery in the book, but it was a cruel one. The mystery plot was one of the best and most unexpected I’ve read in a while. I figured out neither the betrayal nor the Blood Witch’s identity until moments before they were revealed.
When I started These Witches Don’t Burn, I had the vague impression it might be a series, but that didn’t stop me from reading it shortly after it came out. I regretted that decision as soon as I finished the highly climactic, cliff hanger ending, and then remembered I couldn’t rush out to get the next book IMMEDIATELY. Although Isabel Sterling has a definite vicious streak when it comes to her characters, overall I loved this book; murder, betrayal, arson, and all. (And you can bet I’m reading the second book, which is out now.)