These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling (336 pages)

A Modern Salem Witch Trial
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These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling (336 pages)

These Witches Don’t Burn Is a Story About a Coven of Witches Hiding in Plain Sight

Managing a break-up is difficult enough on its own. But for Hannah, there are additional complications. Not only does Hannah still need to see her ex Veronica at school, but they’re also part of the same coven. Living alongside Regs (or Muggles as Harry Potter fans might call them), Hannah’s coven is comprised of elemental witches who can control the four elements. With thirteen families coming together, the coven elders become aware of a new threat: a witch hunter. Because she is underage, Hannah hasn’t yet come fully into her powers and this new threat only exacerbates her stress.

As if the mystery of this witch hunter isn’t stressful enough, Hannah also finds herself quickly falling for Morgan, the new girl in town. Sterling masterfully weaves both of these dilemmas together making for both relatable and supernatural tensions. Hannah continues to run into Veronica at coven meetings while also desperately trying to hide her true identity from Morgan, something that makes her feel dishonest. As the pieces of this mystery start to fall together, Hannah finds herself in a tight spot.

A Solid Balance of the Real and Fantastical

As mentioned, Sterling’s These Witches Don’t Burn balances a lot of elements here (no pun intended). Not only does she convincingly craft this clandestine magical society but she also creates realistic conflicts among the main teenage characters. Sterling’s decision to include gay characters also does not feel forced and makes this novel a fun addition to a growing number of more inclusive YA titles. The main satisfaction of this novel comes not necessarily from unraveling the mysteries but by watching these characters’ relationships change and grow.

The Bottom Line: 4/5 Brookie Stars

There are two main types of YA fantasy novels: the ones that take place in completely imagined worlds and the ones that fit nicely into our own. What I really enjoyed about the fantasy elements of this novel was that this story could be happening right down the street from me. Considering I live just south of Salem, the story seemed even more plausible. Sterling adds enough details for proper world-building but also relies on the importance of love and trust to really carry the story.

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Rachel Gomes is a 30-something high school English teacher who lives with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband and their son. Rachel is a voracious reader who loves to learn and has her doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction. She’s happiest listening to podcasts and talking to friends about the latest news in nerd culture.

Favourite book: Don’t make me choose between A Song of Ice and Fire and Harry Potter
Favourite brunch spot: The Farmer’s Table


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