It’s a new year, new reviews! I’m hoping that this year I can actually keep up with my reviews because for a while there I wasn’t writing up reviews for hardly ANYTHING, and that’s the whole reason I started this blog was to review books! But today I have a review for not only the first book I’ve read this year, but also an ARC! Yes, that’s right, I have an ARC review for you today!
Witches of Ash and Ruin
by E. Latimer
Release date: March 3rd 2020
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, LGBT+
Trigger Warnings: homophobia, self harm, rape, forced outing
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.
This book was really intense, and I’m so grateful to Disney Book Group for providing me with an ARC copy to review!
I loved how much diversity there was in this book: the main character Dayna is bi and has somatic OCD and another character makes references to the fact that she has suffered from something similar in the past and takes medication, Dayna’s best friend Reagan is Nigerian and has two mothers, and there is a F/F romance between two of the characters with a previous F/F romance that has happened between two characters in the past. I can’t say for sure if any of the representation is accurate as I myself don’t identify with any of these, but the discussions surrounding Dayna’s sexuality and mental health were relevant and (as far as I can tell) accurate.
There were so many elements of this book that I loved, from the found family of Dayna’s coven, to the hate to love romance between two of the characters, to the murder mystery aspect! I really appreciated the contrast between the two separate covens where one is very caring and they would all do anything for each other, and the other is a very toxic coven that has dealings with black magic.
The last 50% or so was so action packed and fast paced that I just couldn’t put the book down because I was really invested in the coven and the conflict between the them and the three brothers. I also liked that the book didn’t just mention that the coven was in danger, it really acted upon that and made the stakes pretty high.
There were a few things that I had wished we got more of, starting with the world building. This takes place in modern day Ireland and while there are a bunch of historic sites that are mentioned, they aren’t necessarily described and the atmosphere doesn’t give you the feeling of Ireland. Yes, the names of the places and people are definitely Irish, but I wanted something that really made you feel like you were in Ireland! Along those same lines, I wanted more of the Celtic mythology mixed into the lives of the characters – after all, it is a coven of witches that uses Gaelic speech in their spells! They do pledge themselves to gods and goddesses though so there is that.
There was also some interesting contrast between the witches and the church in this small town, but for a while it seemed like it was going to play a larger part in the story and it just didn’t. For example, Dayna’s mother comes back from “camp” and it’s mentioned a few times that Dayna herself was afraid of being sent there by her father but it had no repercussions in the world after that. The relationship between Dayna and her father was also a little strange in the sense that she mentions that she’s afraid of being sent away, yet she seems to hardly ever spend time at her house and her father seems to not really care too much about it until something happens to Dayna with her coven then the conflict between her and her father was brought back up again. I almost felt like there were too many ideas that were added in which meant that they weren’t all fully explored.
By the end of the book there were definitely some questions left unanswered: what’s going on with Dayna’s mother? Where did Sam go, because he just kind of was never mentioned again? Who is the new leader of the coven? What happened with that boy that was with Cora? Why was Carman so set on destroying Ireland? What happened with the police investigation, did they just give up? I think that the way this ended left room for a sequel as it was pretty open ended, but it may also just simply be an open ended standalone!