The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson (Ace Books)
Immanuelle Moore’s mother was promised to the Prophet — but she went against his word and conceived a child with an outsider of a different race. Once her illicit romance was discovered, she escaped into the forbidden forest, where witches and darkness and evil flourish, only to return months later to give birth to her daughter and then die. That daughter, Immanuelle, lives with the burden of her mother’s sinful legacy, and while she follows all the Prophet’s rules and codes, she doubts their validity. One day, she enters the woods to catch an errant sheep and encounters strange women who gift her her mother’s diary. Within the diary, her mother has drawn strange, horrific creatures, accompanied by a prophecy: Four phases will herald the apocalypse — blood, blight, darkness, and slaughter. By visiting the woods, Immanuelle has possibly initiated the foretold apocalypse. This dark, feminist horror will give you chills.
The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow (Redhook)
Women’s magic and women’s votes are both outlawed in this alternative version of 1893. The Eastwood sisters mean to change that. Pushed into New Salem by their father’s abuse, the three sisters live separate lives: Studious Beatrice Belladonna works in a library, beautiful Agnes Amaranth works in a factory, and wild James Juniper joins a women’s suffrage group. When a cruel and misogynistic politician throws his hat in the ring to become mayor of New Salem, the sisters unite against him. They gather other women willing to fight for women’s rights by using the most potent weapon at their disposal — magic. This year marks the 100th anniversary of women winning the right to vote, and reading this gorgeous novel is an excellent way to celebrate.
Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman (Simon & Schuster)
Magic Lessons traces the Owens’ magical bloodline to Salem, Massachusetts, in the 1600s. When villagers burn the elderly witch who found her as an infant and raised her, Maria Owens travels from England to Curacao, where she works as a maid. She falls in love with a handsome stranger, and after a week of bliss, he disappears and she realizes she’s pregnant. Maria follows him across the sea to Salem, where she finds oppression instead of love. But Maria Owens is a witch, and she refuses to be intimidated. While Magic Lessons is a prequel to Practical Magic and The Rules of Magic, it stands well on its own and is my favorite of the three. It’s a gorgeous meditation on love, family, and revenge, set in the time most famous for witchcraft.
The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave (Little, Brown and Company)
On December 24, 1617, a storm hit the remote Norwegian village Vardø and drowned most of its men. In 1621, the witch trials took place — the first significant witch trial in Norway — and the convicted women were blamed for the previous year's storm. The Mercies takes place during these historic events. Maren is a village woman who loses her brother and fiance in the storm. Ursa has recently married Absalom, as arranged by her father, and this new husband — a relative stranger — has been assigned to investigate Vardø for possible witchcraft. Unused to village life, Ursa hires Maren to help teach her household chores, and as the two spend long days together, they begin to fall in love. The Mercies is a beautiful but bleak forbidden love story set among a community wrecked by tragedy.
The Witch's Kind by Louisa Morgan (Redhook)
After WWII and her husband’s disappearance, Barrie Anne Blythe settles into an isolated coastal farm near her Aunt Charlotte, who raised her. Both Barrie and Charlotte have a bit of magic in them, though they keep it hidden. One night, Barrie sees strange lights along the coast but stays home instead of investigating. The next day, her dog carries home an infant, and Barrie decides to raise the unusual girl on her own. It’s soon clear that the child has more than just a little magic, and when Barrie’s long-absent husband returns, she has to try to hide the child’s magic from him — as well as the government investigators who have been asking questions around town. The Witch’s Kind is a strange and beautifully written novel about family and protecting those we love. Content warning for a miscarriage scene.
Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas (Swoon Reads)
In Yadriel’s traditional Latinx family, women become brujas and practice healing magic, and the men become brujos and help spirits to the land of the dead. Yadriel is a man, but his family refuses to let him complete the ritual to become a brujo because he's trans. With the help of his friend Maritza, Yadriel completes the ritual without his family’s knowledge. When Yadriel’s cousin is murdered afterward, he and Maritza try to find out why — but in doing so, they accidentally raise the ghost of Julian Diaz, another murdered teen. As the three try to help Julian and discover what happened to Yadriel’s cousin, Yadriel and Julian begin to fall in love. This fun and delightful young adult contemporary fantasy recently became the first novel written by a trans author to make it onto the New York Times bestseller list.
The Scapegracers by Hannah Abigail Clarke (Erewhon)
Sideways Pike is a classic high school goth. She’s a self-proclaimed witch and lesbian who’s always clad in black and on permanent outsider status at school. When the three most popular girls in school invite her to cast magic at their party for $40, she takes them up on their offer — and to Sideways’ surprise, the girls befriend her. Together, the four form a patriarchy-busting coven that gets into tons of trouble. If you’re looking for a read with The Craft vibes, this is it. It’s a snarky, witchy blast.
The Near Witch by V.E. Schwab (Titan Books)
“The Near Witch” is a fairy tale and nursery rhyme told to frighten children, but when those children begin disappearing in the small town of Near, Lexi believes the story might hold the answers. Her uncle refuses to let her search for the children, so she sneaks out to find clues, and in her search, she finds a stranger — the first stranger she’s ever seen in Near. She dubs him Cole, and as the two search the moors that surround Near together, they begin to fall in love. However, the village men blame the stranger for the disappearances, and Cole must hide from them while helping Lexi find the missing children and uncover the secrets behind the fairy tale. Schwab’s first novel is a slow but intense gothic romance set in the atmospheric winds of the moors, where a witch’s whisper can just barely be heard.
Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moïra Fowley-Doyle (Speak)
Three friends find a spellbook and cast a spell at a late-night bonfire party, and the repercussions affect everyone in their Irish town. Olive loses a charm bracelet and one shoe, while her best friend Rose loses something much more important, though she refuses to tell Olive what it is. Meanwhile, runaway Hazel finds the spellbook and decides she needs to use it to recover her missing mother, and Laurel, one of the original casters, finds her friendships are being torn apart by a captivating yet sinister boy who appeared after their conjuring. Told in three voices, this feminist, LGBTQ+ young adult novel shows the dangers of everyday magic, and the power of friendships and found family. Content warning for off the page rape.
Brooklyn Brujas series by Zoraida Córdova (Sourcebooks Fire)
In Labyrinth Lost, the first book in the Brooklyn Brujas trilogy, Alex is a powerful bruja who hates magic, so she casts a spell during her Deathday celebration to reject her magical abilities. When the spell backfires, her entire family is sent to Los Lagos — a world between worlds filled with dark creatures and magic. With her best friend Rishi and the mysterious brujo Nova, Alex searches the labyrinth of Los Lagos to find and rescue her family. In book two, Bruja Born, Alex’s older sister Lula accidentally creates an army of casimuertos when she attempts to raise her boyfriend from the dead. The final book in the trilogy, Wayward Witches, follows Rose — the youngest sister — as she’s sucked through a portal and into the fairy realm of Adas on her Deathday celebration. Reading this fast-paced, inventive series is an excellent way to celebrate el Día de Los Muertos.
Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu (Oni Press; 2019)
Nova Huang is a witch who works in her grandmothers' bookstore. One day she follows a white wolf into the forest and discovers it’s her childhood crush, Tam Lang, who is fighting a white horse demon. After helping them defeat the demon, Nova finds out that Tam is a nonbinary werewolf and that dark forces are after them, and only Nova can help. This adorable, YA graphic novel gives all the heartwarming, cozy witch vibes you could possibly need.
Toil & Trouble: 15 Tales of Women & Witchcraft edited by Jessica Spotswood and Tess Sharpe (Harlequin Teen)
These 15 young adult short stories are perfect bite-sized reads for witchy readers of all ages. Steeped in South Asian mythology, “The Moonapple Menagerie” by Shveta Thakrar follows a coven of witches preparing for a magical play. A witch collective narrates “The One Who Stayed” by Nova Ren Suma, as they welcome a new member into their group following a brutal assault. In Kate Hart's intense and eerie “The Well Witch," a young woman who lives alone in a remote Western home, miles away from the nearest well, is targeted by a group of men. These feminist tales vary in tone and approach and create a nuanced picture of witches throughout time and in various cultures.
Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco (JIMMY Patterson)
Witches, demons, murder, and dark magic make Kingdom of the Wicked an excellent Halloween read. Set in 19th century Sicily, Emilia and her twin sister Vittoria are streghe (Italian for witches) but they hide their identity from the rest of the world. After Emilia finds Vittoria brutally murdered, she’s determined to find her murderer and seek revenge at whatever cost, even if that means using forbidden magic. Wrath — one of the seven demons of Hell — joins her in the search for the murderer, claiming he’s been charged with investigating a series of murders targeting witches on the island. With an enemy-to-lover romance and a mystery that will keep you guessing until the end, Kingdom of the Wicked is an intense and dark page-turner.
Margaret Kingsbury is a freelance writer, editor, and all-around book nerd based in Nashville. In addition to BuzzFeed Books, her pieces have appeared at Book Riot, Star Trek, Parents, The Lily, SFWA, and more. She runs a children’s bookstagram account @BabyLibrarians and aspires to write both children’s books and fantasy, if she can ever wrangle enough time to do so between working, reading, and parenting. Follow her on Twitter @areaderlymom.
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