Published: Hodder & Stoughton, August 2022
My Rating: 4/5 stars
“It’s not always enough to go looking for the place we belong, Jamie said, his eyes on the house ahead. Sometimes we need to make that place.”
Practical Magic meets The House in the Cerulean Sea in this whimsical tale of found family, love and witchcraft. I don’t need a crystal ball to predict that will be a crowd-pleaser and fan-favourite for readers of T.J. Klune, Alice Hoffman or Quan Barry.
As one of the few remaining witches in England, the only life Mika Moon has known is one of solitude. Magic loves company, so every modern witch knows they must stay as far away from other witches, in order to prevent a massive surge of magical powers that will expose their secret society to the world. As a substitute for contact with real fellow-witches, Mika keeps an online blog where she “pretends” to be a witch, expecting nobody to take it seriously. That is until she receives a private message with a highly unusual job opportunity: “witch wanted, to tutor and teach three young witches”. Moving in to become a live-in nanny/witch-craft-teacher, Mika soon finds herself breaking all the rules she was once taught about magical safety, as well as tangled up in the lives of the children and their other caretakers.
The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches is delightfully whimsical in style and will most likely put a smile on the face of any reader who encounters it. Mandanna brings to life the English cottage-core-setting perfectly and sprinkles it with lovable and endearing characters, and their interactions. There’s romantic love, sisterly bonds, and the most adorable dog-companion imaginable, making it one of the easiest to love “feel-good” books of this summer.
My one piece of critique is a personal one: it was a little too sickly sweet for my taste. I’m the kind of reader who loves a character that overcomes a struggle to get to their eventual goal. Here, the goals felt a little too easily achieved. For example: for a character with such deep-rooted trust-issues, stemming from an isolated childhood and being orphaned at a young age, Mika’s walls came down a little too easy, and her trust in her new family and love-interest were a little too expeditious. Although I felt the happiness of the characters, the cathartic depth of overcoming adversity was missing at times.
That being said: not every novel needs to emotionally destroy the reader. Sometimes capturing happiness is as powerful as anything. I think, after the past few years we’ve had, many readers will absolutely welcome the feeling, making me feel safe to recommend this book to anyone interested.
Many thanks to Hodder&Stoughton for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. All my opinions are my own.
The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches will be released for retail on August 23rd in US and European territory.
You can find it here on Goodreads.