Mar 05 2020

These Witches Don’t Burn (These Witches Don’t Burn #1) by Isabel Sterling

Great concept, abysmal execution. I love, love, love the idea of teenage lesbian witches coming of age but there were two huge problems I had with this book that seriously interfered with my enjoyment of the story.

A brief on said story, before I go about lamenting where it could have done so much better: Hannah is a teenage Elemental witch from Salem, Massachusetts. Witches in this setting are hereditary, and there are lots of rules about not letting non-witches (in this setting known as Regs) find out about their existence. Aside from Elemental witches, who control the elements, there are Casters who brew potions and write spells, and Blood witches who can control anyone whose blood they can touch. Hannah just had a really bad break-up with another teen witch from her coven, Veronica, after a trip to New York City put her in the grip of a vengeful Blood witch. When inexplicably weird things start happening in Salem, Hannah fears that the Blood witch has tracked her down, but soon discovers that a far greater threat looms against the witch-kind of her hometown.

Sounds amazing, right? Plus, with that badass cover, how could I possibly resist?

The first sign of trouble was when the new detective arrested Hannah on suspicion of arson because she was unhurt at the scene of the second fire he found her at, despite dozens of other kids also being unhurt at the scene of both fires. You can expect that kind of amateur hour nonsense from a uniform maybe, and I was kinda maybe willing to overlook it until I realized that this was only the first of many astonishing lapses of logic used to provide conflict/drama and advance the plot. There were some really cool plot twists involving secret identities but it was always really clear who the bad guys were. I did like how Isabel Sterling dealt with (most of) the other characters tho, and Hannah’s relationships with Morgan and Gemma were really sweet and dealt with prejudices in really excellent ways. If the entirely ludicrous mystery-thriller part of this book had been cut out, I would have been 100% happier reading it.

But then we come to the second major problem I had with the book: the characterization of some of the people we’re meant to root for. While Morgan and Gemma were both really terrific creations, Veronica is a toxic person who Hannah should run far, far away from. It boggles my mind that Veronica is considered one of the leads of this book. Worse still, as the book wears on, Hannah turns from relatable teenager to completely insufferable brat. I have a really high tolerance for teenage brattiness, in all literary genres, but Hannah just did awful, stupid things, seemingly for the sole purpose of advancing the mystery plot! I was actually mad at Ms Sterling on Hannah’s behalf for making her do the dumb shit she did!

Amazing concept, brilliant cover, some really sweet moments but ugh, insultingly bad plot choices. Would definitely read another romance from Ms Sterling but probably never a mystery-thriller, that part was so bad.

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