Coven Be Charmed by Caitlin Ryan

elizabethchant's review

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adventurous lighthearted mysterious medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes


A copy of the book was provided to Sapphic Book Club in exchange for an honest review.

Caitlin Ryan's lighthearted urban fantasy is the first in a new series focusing on the witches of Honeydrop House. This is also the first of Ryan's works I've read, and focuses on Rose, a down-to-earth life coach who's bemused to find herself in possession of magical powers following a yoga retreat endured under duress for her sister's sake. 

I appreciated the author afterword explaining that the numerous Harry Potter references that frame the magical system are a reflection of the formative impact Rowling's books had on Ryan, and are not intended as an endorsement of her transphobic views, but they made the experience of reading the book much less engaging for me. Unfortunately, every time I hit one I spent several minutes staring into space feeling sad and angry, which really killed the mood of the book for me. For readers who don't have that problem, this has the potential to be much more fun, but I'm not entirely convinced it was necessary: the relationship between witch and familiar, and other aspects of the magical system, have other precedents and could have been developed in other ways. 

The ensemble cast were well-drawn, with several offering intriguing details for development in later books in the series, including a potential future romance for Rose. The established relationship within this book would have benefitted from some fuller development: because there was relatively little interaction between the couple within the book, I didn't feel like I got a sense of why Rose cared so much about Billie, and this would have added to the weight of the plotline developed here. 

Honeydrop House itself is a delightful location: I'm a total sucker for magical house tropes, and love the idea of the house changing itself to welcome the coven's new members. As the initial book in a series, it does a lot of heavy lifting in the world building, leaving room for future instalments to run with the premise.

I'd recommend this to readers who enjoy urban fantasy and don't mind Potter references, for whom I think it will be an enjoyable new series. 

judeinthestars's review

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mysterious fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes


There’s no right way, I guess, to find out you’re a witch and your new coven needs your help to fight demons and warlocks and whatnot before you learn to do more than light a couple of candles.
I really like the gallery of characters and the never-ending twists and who wouldn’t want a sweet sausage-stealing goat as their familiar? One minute I want to say it’s a cosy witch story, the next it ups the ante and it’s not so cosy anymore. Rose, the main character, is a life coach who absolutely definitely doesn’t believe in anything magic. Rude awakening doesn’t even begin to cover what she feels when her whole life falls into the paranormal. She goes from judgy and disbelieving to determined and steadfast as she realises how little control she has over what’s happening. I liked the older witches, Alice and Lottie, a lot but the two younger ones, animal-lover Hayley and wonderfully sarcastic Serena, stole my heart.
However, there were too many editing issues for the reading to go as smoothly as I would have liked and way too many mentions of JKR’s wizards’ universe for me to enjoy fully. The author explains in a note at the end of the book that “the inclusion of these references is not intended as a support of the author”, which feels a bit naive to me. I will, nevertheless, keep an eye on these witches and hope they grow into themselves. There were witches before HP, there will be witches after, and this particular coven has a lot of potential. Also, did I mention the goat?