Witches Steeped in Gold by Ciannon Smart (533 pages)
Enemy Witches With a Grudging Alliance
Seventeen-year-old Jazmyne Cariot may be next in line for the Aiyacan throne, but she’s still waiting for her powers as an Alumbrar witch to show themselves. Her mother is a cruel self-crowned leader and Jazmyne is already working with a rebellion to overthrow her. Even though Jazmyne knows her mother must be removed from power, she’s not sure if she’s ready to take the throne herself.
Iraya Adair, however, has spent her life in prison dreaming of freedom — and vengeance. Iraya is a powerful Obeah witch whose family was overthrown by Alumbrar witches. With the help of other cellmates, Iraya plans an uprising to escape prison so she can reclaim her throne. While both young women want control of Aiyaca, they create a tentative alliance with their shared goal to remove Jazmyne’s mother from her throne.
Sworn Enemies Find Tenuous Peace for a Common Cause in Witches Steeped in Gold
Through alternating points of view, readers are swept into a Jamaican-inspired world that is carefully crafted and filled with nuanced characters. Both Jazmyne and Iraya are fully developed individuals with their own motivations and weaknesses, making choosing a side difficult. Readers find that both the Alumbrar and Obeah orders have just causes and are acting in order to preserve their independence and culture. Smart really takes her time developing this world and her characters, which will not leave readers disappointed.
The Bottom Line: 4/5 Brookie Stars
While this is a hefty read that might seem a bit daunting for some, Smart uses the pages wisely. Because many readers may be unfamiliar with Jamaican culture, the added world-building details do not feel indulgent or unnecessary but are instead refreshing and new. I was also totally engrossed by the alliance between two enemies who would really like to just kill each other. That trope is a bit sharper than many storylines I see in YA but fits perfectly in the world crafted in this novel. Witches Steeped in Gold is perfect for fans of shows like Killing Eve and for readers of the An Ember in the Ashes series.
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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