Witches of Ash and Ruin by E. Latimer

 

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Modern witchcraft blends with ancient Celtic mythology in an epic clash of witches and gods, perfect for fans of V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic trilogy and A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES.

Seventeen-year-old Dayna Walsh is struggling to cope with her somatic OCD; the aftermath of being outed as bisexual in her conservative Irish town; and the return of her long-absent mother, who barely seems like a parent. But all that really matters to her is ascending and finally, finally becoming a full witch-plans that are complicated when another coven, rumored to have a sordid history with black magic, arrives in town with premonitions of death. Dayna immediately finds herself at odds with the bewitchingly frustrating Meiner King, the granddaughter of their coven leader.

And then a witch turns up murdered at a local sacred site, along with the blood symbol of the Butcher of Manchester-an infamous serial killer whose trail has long gone cold. The killer’s motives are enmeshed in a complex web of witches and gods, and Dayna and Meiner soon find themselves at the center of it all. If they don’t stop the Butcher, one of them will be next.

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I received a copy from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Celtic mythology. Ancient gods. Queer witches. A sleepy Irish town. MURDER!! This book has all of my favorite ingredients, and the result did not disappoint. The witchcraft is ensnaring, the romance broody, and the tea abundant. A perfect read for a chilly October night.

Despite its basic YA title, Witches of Ash and Ruin stands out with clever prose and unique characters. The book is written from multiple perspectives, and while it is not quite Laini-Taylor-level of mastery, the world feels fleshed-out and diverse. We see events unfold from multiple distinct points of view, each character written in a way that makes them relatable and dynamic. Our main character, Dayna, has a wholesome and close-knit bond with her coven members; the female friendship featured in the story is inspiring and refreshing. The inclusion of queer characters felt natural and respectful–some YA books can feel as though they are diverse only for diversity’s sake, but that was clearly not the case here. The romance between Dayna and fellow witchling Meiner was a sweet, slow burn; the sexual tension could be cut with a knife. I really enjoyed seeing the characters interact with one another.

The plot itself is an interesting little mystery, and, as the blurb states, has a similar vibe to A Discovery of Witches. The story flowed pretty smoothly, despite some minor plot holes. While a bit slow to start, it picked up rather quickly and after that, I could not put the book down. It was sexy, spooky, and completely captivating. There is a certain aura that accompanies books like this; there is no common element, just a bit of writing craft that sets it apart (see also: Half BadThe Raven Boys, and strangely enough, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer). I only wish the magic had been described with a little more depth, as it was characterized more by an atmosphere than a method (which I suppose is acceptable, just not my preference). I would have also liked to have seen a few more anecdotal scenes. I loved the characters and the setting–I want more description of the everyday life of these witches.

All in all, a wonderfully atmospheric read that I would highly recommend to anyone who is magically inclined. Don’t let the cookie-cutter title scare you away–this one is different.

Happy Reading,

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(Also, apparently, my WordPress 4-year anniversary has come and gone… thanks to those of you who have been here all along, and thanks to anyone who has since joined me!)

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