Iris Gray knows how dangerous magic can be. She watched her best friend stripped of her powers after an attempt to turn her boyfriend into a witch ended in tragedy. Iris knows how lucky she was to avoid the same fate even if the aftermath of the trial left her family fractured.
Now that she and her mom are settled in Washington, Iris hasn’t told anyone about her powers. She hopes she never attracts the attention of the Witches’ Council ever again.
Keeping a low profile should be easy. Except Iris is stuck working alongside Pike Alder at her mom’s animal sanctuary. Pike is a self-proclaimed witch hater and an arrogant ornithology student interning with Iris’ mom. His two joys at work are being right and driving Iris to distraction.
It’s no wonder Iris needs a way to vent her frustrations. But what should be a harmless exercise in writing a curse she’ll never cast goes horribly wrong when an owl steals the curse and flies away. Now Iris has to track down the injured bird before her curse is unleashed and turns Pike into a witch. Unless it kills him first. Thanks to the owl, the curse would also be amplified, leading to even worse consequences for the entire region.
Traversing the Pacific Northwest looking for a bird and a curse will be hard. Doing it alongside Pike without revealing the truth will be a nightmare–especially when Iris starts to realize there might be more to Pike than she was willing to see in Wild is the Witch (2022) by Rachel Griffin.
Wild is the Witch is a standalone witchy fantasy and Griffin’s sophomore novel. Although it also features witches, it is set in a different world than Griffin’s debut The Nature of Witches (read my review). Iris and Pike are white. Iris’s mom, recently divorced from Iris’ father, is in a relationship with another woman.
In addition to scrambling to contain her erstwhile curse, Iris struggles with anxiety throughout the novel. These depictions are handled realistically and include thoughtful coping mechanisms (including Pike repeatedly trying to provoke Iris to annoyance in order to distract her and get her out of her own head).
With most of the story set over the course of Iris and Pike’s search for the escaped owl, a lot of the narration focuses on Iris’ largely misplaced frustration with and dislike of Pike. This focus serves to underscore the scope of Iris’ reckless behavior in writing the curse to begin with and also makes a lot of the positive outcomes for her character arc feel unearned compared to the potentially severe consequences of her actions.
This story is filled with action, banter, and a few fun takes on classic romance tropes (“there’s only one tent” anyone?) but the hate to love starts so strongly in the hate front that it’s difficult to buy into Iris and Pike’s changing feelings for each other. Wild is the Witch is a fun story but the pieces never fully come together.
Possible Pairings: Flowerheart by Catherine Bakewell, The Wicked Deep by Shea Earnshaw, Once Upon a Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber, Improbable Magic for Cynical Witches by Kate Scelsa, Sweet and Bitter Magic by Adrienne Tooley
*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*