Wild is the Witch: A Review

Wild is the Witch by Rachel GriffinIris 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.

Find it on Bookshop.

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*

The Nature of Witches: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Nature of Witches by Rachel GriffinWitches maintain the weather and climate in every season. But as the weather becomes more erratic, the climate more damaged by shaders (those without magic) who take the witches’ help for granted, it’s becoming harder for the witches to keep nature in balance. More witches are dying of depletion than ever before as they push their seasonal powers beyond their limits to try and help.

Clara could change that. As the first Everwitch born in a hundred years, she is stronger than any other witch alive. With her magic tied to every season, she should be positioned to help with out-of-season storms and other unpredictable weather phenomenon.

The problem no one is willing to acknowledge is that Clara’s magic is as dangerous as it is strong.

In Autumn, Clara is ready to do anything to deny her power. Her magic has already cost Clara her parents and her best friend. She isn’t prepared to lose anyone else.

In Winter, it’s harder to ignore how dangerous things are becoming for witches and shaders alike. Even Clara has to accept that she needs to help–no matter the risks.

In Spring, Clara falls for Sang, the spring witch helping her learn to control her powers. As Clara becomes more comfortable with her magic, falling for Sang feels inevitable even if it means making him a target for her magic. Clara already severed ties with her ex-girlfriend to protect her. She isn’t sure she can do that to Sang.

In Summer, Clare will have to decide once and for all if she can balance her happiness and her magic–and how much she’s willing to give up for either in The Nature of Witches (2021) by Rachel Griffin.

Find it on Bookshop.

The Nature of Witches is Griffin’s debut novel. Clara is white, Sang is Korean American, and there is diversity among the supporting cast.

This novel is strongly tied to the seasons which are on full display at the Eastern School of Solar Magic in Pennsylvania where most of the story takes place. The novel is set over the course of one year with parts broken up by the seasons which trace both the changing weather and subtle changes in Clara’s personality and moods as different seasons gain dominance.

Clara’s efforts to find control and ground her magic read as an extended (and for many readers, much needed) metaphor for mindfulness and acceptance. While some narrative threads–including Clara’s reluctant status as a rare Everwitch–will feel familiar to genre readers, Clara’s path to internal acceptance will be affirming and welcome for readers living in a world that often feels as out of control as Clara’s own. The weighty beginning as Clara moves through grief for her parents and other casualties from her magic also lightens throughout the narrative as Clara fully processes her losses. The slow burn between Clara and Sang as well as Clara’s complicated history with her ex-girlfriend add another dimension to this story and cue Clara as canonically bisexual.

Griffin’s lush writing is evocative and well-informed. Griffin became a certified weather spotter for the National Weather Service while writing this novel. A magic system that is cleverly integrated into our modern world underscores the current climate crisis and need for change while offering readers a decidedly escapist story. The Nature of Witches is the perfect choice for readers looking for a magic-infused story with high stakes, characters with chemistry, and lush writing. Recommended.

Possible Pairings: Flowerheart by Catherine Bakewell, The Wicked Deep by Shea Earnshaw, Strange Grace by Tessa Gratton, Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman, The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones, There Will Come a Darkness by Katy Rose Pool, Sweet and Bitter Magic by Adrienne Tooley, The New Policeman by Kate Thompson, Twister