If they had any clue what real witches were like, what we’re capable of . . .
They probably wouldn’t sleep very well at night.
Publication date: May 28, 2019
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Fantasy
Synopsis: 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.
Content Warnings: fetishising of sapphics (challenged), animal death, death of a parent, toxic relationships
When I heard that These Witches Don’t Burn was a new release featuring gay witches, I was inevitably excited to pick it up. Thankfully, I got exactly what I wanted from it–a teen drama with a witchy spin.
I have to commend this book for being one of the few queer books I’ve read with explicit mentions of characters’ sexuality. It seems like most of the time, authors go out of their way to avoid using labels, and that makes it hard to search for books with specific rep. Not in this book though. Respectively, Hannah and Morgan are on-page lesbian and bi.
The ex-girlfriend aspect of this book was really well-done. We start the book out with Hannah still smarting from her break-up with Veronica, though she knows that she did the right thing. Veronica gives her all to get Hannah to take her back, and Hannah is understandably lured by her advances, but I admired how Hannah had the strength to say no each time. By the end of the book, I was extremely happy with how their relationship was resolved.
Hannah’s relationship with Morgan, the new girl in town, was delightful to read about. Though I’m someone who absolutely despises insta-love, and some may consider their relationship a case of insta-love, I didn’t really think it was. Rather, it was an accurate portrayal of how teenagers meet, have a crush on each other, start texting, and then start dating. Hannah and Morgan were a welcome break from all the Blood Witch and Witch Hunter things going on in the background of the novel, and it was empowering to read about how healthy their relationship was after seeing the toxicity of Hannah and Veronica’s.
The concept of Wicca is addressed within the book, and it isn’t looked down upon. Wicca is acknowledged as real magic, but not nearly as strong as the Elemental, Caster, and Blood Witches’ magic. And the magic system is explained in an extremely easy to understand manner. I liked the concept of magic that almost has a mind of its own–it reacts to outside elements and struggles to escape if bound.
I don’t know if it’s just me, but I did not expect that twist at the end. I felt like such a fool because the signs were all there, but the author did such a good job of making sure that I never noticed them. I also love how Isabel Sterling incorporated the title “These Witches Don’t Burn” into her novel.
Before I end this review, here’s a random tangent of more things I loved about this book. Besides the lesbian and bi rep, there is a trans male side character who dates men, and an older f/f couple who are expecting a baby. And if you’re looking for more books that have the trope of asking for consent before kissing, look no further! What’s even better is the trans-inclusive language. If someone’s gender is unknown, they are always referred to with they/them pronouns. There’s even a scene where someone refers to a culprit as “he,” and Hannah thinks that it could also be a girl, or, and I quote, “someone who isn’t either of those genders.”
Despite the fact that the writing style was trying too hard to be edgy and “teenager” in the beginning, it quickly dials down, so I see no reason why you shouldn’t pick this book up, especially because June is Pride Month. Celebrate with this amazing book featuring teen witches who happen to like girls!