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Saturday, August 27, 2022

The Very Secret Society Of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna (reviewed by Shazzie)

 



Official Author Website
Order The Very Secret Society Of Irregular Witches over HERE
 

OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFORMATION: Sangu Mandanna was four years old when an elephant chased her down a forest road and she decided to write her first story about it. Seventeen years and many, many manuscripts later, she signed her first book deal. Sangu now lives in Norwich, a city in the east of England, with her husband and kids.
 

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: As one of the few witches in Britain, Mika Moon knows she has to hide her magic, keep her head down, and stay away from other witches so their powers don’t mingle and draw attention. And as an orphan who lost her parents at a young age and was raised by strangers, she’s used to being alone and she follows the rules…with one exception: an online account, where she posts videos “pretending” to be a witch. She thinks no one will take it seriously.
 
But someone does. An unexpected message arrives, begging her to travel to the remote and mysterious Nowhere House to teach three young witches how to control their magic. It breaks all of the rules, but Mika goes anyway, and is immediately tangled up in the lives and secrets of not only her three charges, but also an absent archaeologist, a retired actor, two long-suffering caretakers, and…Jamie. The handsome and prickly librarian of Nowhere House would do anything to protect the children, and as far as he’s concerned, a stranger like Mika is a threat. An irritatingly appealing threat.
 
As Mika begins to find her place at Nowhere House, the thought of belonging somewhere begins to feel like a real possibility. But magic isn’t the only danger in the world, and when peril comes knocking at their door, Mika will need to decide whether to risk everything to protect a found family she didn’t know she was looking for….
 

OVERVIEW: I read Travis Baldree's Legends and Lattes early this year and was quite surprised by my own reception to low stakes in my fantasy reads, so I did request a copy of this book as soon as I saw it. This is a charming, paranormal fantasy that can be read in a single sitting. The book begins with Mika, our main character, beginning a meeting with other witches, as she tries to come up with multiple names for their gathering, in order to get to Primrose, her adoptive guardian who functions as their head witch. This sets the tone for the chapter, as well as for the rest of the book.
 
"WITCH WANTED. Live-in tutor wanted for three young witches. Must have nerves of steel. Previous teaching experience not necessary. Witchiness essential." 
 
The story really kicks off as Ian, one of the many characters who inhabit Nowhere house discovers Mika as a witch from her presence on social media, and sends her a message, seeking a tutor for Terracotta, Altamira, and Rosetta, the children of the Nowhere household, who are in dire need of lessons to help keep their magical powers in control. The Nowhere house is also home to Ken, Ian's partner, who is as calm and composed as Ian is flamboyant like the stage actor he once was, Lucie, the motherly housekeeper, and Jamie, the librarian who will surely give you "Bah! Humbug!" vibes, as far as Mika is concerned.
 
The book contains just a limited amount of worldbuilding. There is just enough shown to keep the story going, but this is not a book that focuses on big stakes and problems that affect a entire populations of people. As the story progresses, the reader is slowly shown different interactions that show growth in most of the characters. It almost feels like the author took her time planning each of them in order to have a wonderful balance of respect for personal boundaries and displays of empathy, along with showcasing the need for communication about the difficult things in life, in order to get the characters to open up to others.
 
We talk often about books that can be read in one sitting. This book reads like the author could've written it in a single sitting. What I loved about the author's handling of the different topics this book contains, is that they feel so easily woven into moments which occur in everyday life, that it is so easy to forget that this is a work of fiction. There are moments of humour, of compassion, ones that show care and hurt, and all of them feel so natural to the flow of the story.
 
This book contains a romantic subplot, which is the only part of the book that I did not fully enjoy, and this purely boils down to preference. I have loved reading a lot of romantic fantasies lately, and I have observed that I lean toward those that progress slowly. I didn't particularly feel that in this book, but I also have a strong suspicion that it might be because of the large set of characters in this book that were each forming their own relationships with Mika.
 
CONCLUSION: This is a bite-sized paranormal story that is perfect for readers who love found families.  It is a compelling exploration of connection, and the importance of conversation in creating, maintaining, and strengthening it.

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