I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.These Witches Don't Burn (These Witches Don't Burn, #1) by Isabel Sterling
Published by Razorbill on May 28, 2019
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult
Pages: 336 •Format: ARC •Source: ALA
Hannah's a witch, but not the kind you're thinking of. She's the real deal, an Elemental with the power to control fire, earth, water, and air. But even though she lives in Salem, Massachusetts, her magic is a secret she has to keep to herself. If she's ever caught using it in front of a Reg (read: non-witch), she could lose it. For good. So, Hannah spends most of her time avoiding her ex-girlfriend (and fellow Elemental Witch) Veronica, hanging out with her best friend, and working at the Fly By Night Cauldron selling candles and crystals to tourists, goths, and local Wiccans.
But dealing with her ex is the least of Hannah's concerns when a terrifying blood ritual interrupts the end-of-school-year bonfire. Evidence of dark magic begins to appear all over Salem, and Hannah's sure it's the work of a deadly Blood Witch. The issue is, her coven is less than convinced, forcing Hannah to team up with the last person she wants to see: Veronica.
While the pair attempt to smoke out the Blood Witch at a house party, Hannah meets Morgan, a cute new ballerina in town. But trying to date amid a supernatural crisis is easier said than done, and Hannah will have to test the limits of her power if she's going to save her coven and get the girl, especially when the attacks on Salem's witches become deadlier by the day.
Isabel Sterling's delightful, suspenseful debut is equal parts sweet romance and thrilling mystery. With everything she loves on the line, Hannah must confront this murderous villain before her coven--and any chance she has with the new girl--is destroyed.
I am a huge fan of witches in paranormal fiction, and I honestly feel like they don’t get the attention they deserve! So when I heard that These Witches Don’t Burn not only focused on teenage witches but was also set in Salem, I HAD to read it. I was lucky enough to grab a copy of ALA and saved it for the fall as the perfect witchy read.
The world of These Witches Don’t Burn divides witches into three categories: Caster Witches, Elemental Witches, and Blood Witches. Hannah, the protagonist, comes from a family of Elementals who are part of a fairly good sized coven in town. I think the author did a great job with the world building, and I enjoyed learning not only about the type of magic witches could do, but the rules around witches who are still coming of age and when they could learn certain types of magic (it reminded me a bit of the original Sabrina the Teenage Witch).
The story starts off normal enough for a YA paranormal teen novel: some of the teens are witches and must hide their powers from their “Reg” friends, while balancing relationship drama, part time jobs, and navigating the high school social hierarchy. However, things start getting spiced up when dark magic and rituals start appearing around town and of course our protagonist and co. start investigating, as fictional teens do. I was surprised by how high the stakes and tension felt- there’d be one “incident” that I’d barely recover from and then another one would happen right away- it was almost action scene after action scene that made it hard to put the book down and definitely kept me engaged enough to want to read the sequel. Despite the “culprit” not being that hard to spot, the journey to Hannah and her friends discovering who was behind everything was still entertaining and took some twists that I did not expect.
There’s also a lot of diversity in this story, which is great. There’s a lot of different types of relationships highlighted, as well as diversity in religion (Wicca is mentioned quite a bit, both through characters who are casual practitioners and those who are seriously involved with it) and even diversity in the types of witches and an examination of the prejudices and stereotypes that were held in this fictional magic system. I also really liked how the author explored and explained a bit about Wicca through Hannah’s boss who is an avid practitioner, and how Hannah doesn’t discount Wiccan magic just because it’s practiced by Regs- rather it’s just a different kind of magic.
Overall: These Witches Don’t Burn is a refreshing, modern take on a witch story with a lot of diversity that feels very natural and many twists and cliffhangers. However, I do feel like more could have been done with the Salem setting to feel more atmospheric and I didn’t feel overly invested in the characters (especially Hannah, she felt like a rather typical YA protagonist to me who happened to have powers). Overall though I did enjoy my reading experience and look forward to the sequel!