A version of this review originally appeared in Horn Book:
Clara Lucas spent five years training to become a witch through a series of apprenticeships with increasingly disastrous results. Unable to control her magic for even basic spells, Clara is given a choice by the Most Esteemed Council of Magicians who govern all magic in the queendom: have her magic bound (leaving her able to access only a fraction of her power with painful consequences for every spell) or have her magic removed entirely.
Clara is willing to suffer the binding to keep her wild magic. Until her touch causes toxic flowers to grow from her father’s chest and poison his blood–a curse that only Clara can heal with a complex blessing requiring perfect magical control. Desperate to save the only parent she’s ever known, Clara seeks help from her estranged childhood friend Xavier Morwyn.
Newly appointed to the magical council, sixteen-year-old Xavier is willing to train Clara if she agrees to give her magic to him once the blessing is completed. Unwilling to risk harming anyone else makes the bargain an easy choice until Clara begins to understand her magic and learns more of Xavier’s motives and his own mission to find a cure for an illegal and dangerous potion originally intended to treat melancholy in Flowerheart (2023) by Catherine Bakewell.
Flowerheart is Bakewell’s YA debut. Clara and Xavier are cued as white in this inclusive world where LGBTQ+ identities (including bisexual Clara) are embraced and celebrated with transgender and nonbinary secondary characters who are accomplished and conscientious magicians.
As Clara embraces her magic, its voice which always told her the “worst parts” of herself and “brought [her] low” becomes easier to bear and to control. Completing the blessing is only the beginning of Clara’s journey as she also helps Xavier bear the weight of past choices–and secrets–while exploring how to work within the rigid confines of the council to offer people a potion not to erase melancholy and “change who they are, but something that will give them the power to be themselves again.”
Quick pacing and vividly described magic move this story along and make it easy to care about Clara’s journey to save her father and embrace her magic. While several plot threads (including Clara’s mother and the illegal potion) remain under-developed, all of the pieces are present for a compelling and exciting read.
Flowerheart delivers cottagecore aesthetics in a fantasy world where magic and mental health go hand in hand.
Possible Pairings: The Nature of Witches by Rachel Griffin, The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg, The Keeper of the Mist by Rachel Neumeier, Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson, Gallant by V.E. Schwab, A Treason of Thorns by Laura E. Weymouth
*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*