I raved about the very gay and very witchy These Witches Don’t Burn when I read it earlier in August. Well, if a gay, witchy standard was set, This Coven Won’t Break excelled it. Even gayer. Even witchier. Fabulous. My gay little heart is happy. <waves flag in lesbian>
Hannah is an Elemental Witch living in Salem (obvs), and trying to negotiate all the pressures on her life; the grief of losing her father to Witch Hunters, the normal stress of high school, the newness of her relationship with Blood Witch girlfriend Morgan, her fierce determination to work with the Council on destroying the drug they’ve developed to wipe away magic, and of course, the deepest secret – the fact her magic hasn’t worked properly since a test version was used on her, when another school student tried to burn her and her ex girlfriend (and fellow witch) at the stake. With the trial due to start in a matter of weeks, the Council has set Hannah a series of tasks to help in the best way they think she can, but things are getting more lethal by the day, and without full control of her powers Hannah is vulnerable.
It was really wonderful to revisit a cast of characters I had grown to care about in the first book. I love both Hannah and Morgan, and especially love their cheesy, magic tinted relationship, which is just more beautiful as it grows here in book two.
Hannah is struggling with very real emotions and it’s brilliant to see grief fairly represented in a character who is driven, as too often these characteristics are represented as polar opposites, when in reality, magic or not, grief is a devastating blow to be felled by at any age, especially when still growing, and in such harrowing circumstances. The fact that the book follows Hannah’s path through her pain rather than just deciding it is dealt with was something that made me really happy to see shown.
The dynamics of the three magical Clans that the author has created in her universe are frayed, and it is Hannah who drives them together, without maybe even meaning to, and watching a failing government reform to do better is something we can all hope for these days.
The other dynamic this book explored a bit more than the first was that of being a gay woman. Shown through humiliating conversations with parents, laughter with friends, and intimate moments with lovers, it’s brilliant to see the validation that this book gives to the love between same sex couples. The author is an LGBT educator so although the fact she has used this book as a teacher (and relating) opportunity is not surprising, it is still lovely to see, and goes onto my growing list of recommended Sapphic reads.
Although my favourite representation of magic in modern literature still is A Court Of Thorns and Roses (book reviews here, here, and here), these books handle magical realism so well, and it’s easy to get lost in the idea of being able to work with the elements or be a brilliant spell caster or heal people using blood magic. Magical realism captures me in a different way, just the idea that this might be going on and we don’t know about it… it’s beautiful, and I love it.
Where book one could easily have been a standalone, this book relies on the previous knowledge to allow for you to be full immersed in the story. There’s nothing wrong with that – it just means you need two books.