Reviews tagging 'Colonisation'

The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches, by Sangu Mandanna

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roget's review

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adventurous emotional funny hopeful lighthearted relaxing fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No


Where to begin with this...

Mika Moon is a 31 year-old witch living in a world where magic people must hide to avoid danger. The only interaction she has with other witches are her adopted guardian's meetings, which are held briefly and sporadically a few times a year. Mika calls their group "the very secret society of witches," though Primrose (aforementioned distant-guardian and leader of the group) resists the idea that they are a society at all. Primrose doesn't like anything that promotes dangerous unnecessary connection and its resultant, potential reveal of witches. She loathes that Mika has taken to uploading magical videos online, even though all the viewers assume the magic is simply good editing.

It's a surprise, then, when Mika is identified as magic through the content she'd uploaded. The message asks her to come to Nowhere House to tutor three young witches and help them gain control of their rambunctious powers. Nudged to accept by her instincts and magic, Mika travels to this place to meet the house's caretakers, Ken, Ian, Lucie, Jamie, and the three little girls they look after--Rosetta, Terracotta, and Altamira (named by their adopted guardian and fellow witch, Lillian, who spends most of her time away from home). (It must be mentioned that all witches become orphans shortly after their birth, due to an unfortunate magical backfiring centuries before). Lillian hasn't taught the girls anything about how to use their powers, and the wards on the property can only hide so much. The greater the number of witches together, the more reactive and difficult to manage the magic becomes. With a mundane solicitor and his many prejudices coming for a visit soon, the grown folks at the Nowhere House beg Mika to stay, tutor the girls, and help them get a handle on things, lest the children be discovered. (Jamie does not quite beg. He seems reluctant to invite anyone new into their home).

Mika accepts, and what follows is one of the most precious stories of acceptance, belonging, found family, and love that I've read this year.

The characters.

An absolute gumball of a goober. Definitely gets ahead of himself and has some poor decision making moments, though we get enough development for him that we're able to understand his motivations, I think. I loved his knitting, his penchant for getting carried away, and his never-ending, unfinished projects. If a craft store exploded into a human being, it would be Ian.

Ian's husband, and also the gardener. I think the book said it best: he is "kind and nice." Ken is not a loud character, but he is a much needed sensible and calming presence in the Nowhere House. One of Jamie's surrogate dads (that one talk made me emotional), and if I had to pick someone to get a hug from, it would probably be him.

Probably the least developed of the main bunch, but still lovely. A mix of pragmatic, humorous, good-natured, and stubborn. I appreciated her maternal nature and the caretaking she does, as well as some of her more forthcoming moments of comedy or honesty.

The house's librarian (there is a library extension on the house that now operates digitally and through post) and the primary caretaker/guardian of the children. He's got a backstory that I found both harrowing and heartbreaking, but not melodramatic. A perfect example of "grumpy-with-a-heart-of-gold" played out to its full effect. The book does a great job balancing his reservations and grouchiness with the softer sides of him. He doesn't do things for no reason. He genuinely loves the children, and the book never has to tell us that, because it's so obvious through what he does. His development unrolls at a steady, well orchestrated pace, and by the end, I adored him. (I adored him even at the beginning, but my appreciation deepened quite a lot).

Rosetta (10), Altamira (7), and Terracotta (8)
I'm grouping the girls together because I don't want to give too many spoilers. But, you should know that they each have their own growth moments. They aren't convenient little props, and you can see the unique traces love has left on them just as you can see the effects of displacement, loss, and other traumas. If you're like me, you'll be wholeheartedly invested in making sure they get to stay together, no matter the magical risks.

This character's arc is not revolutionary. It's not the first time I've seen a lonely-loner-finds-a-home style story. But her conviction, her insecurities, and her values are quite well balanced and tested. I think the story's conclusion really put her growth on display, and I appreciated that.

This book is cozy. It's kind. It's got some swearing and a few, brief mature scenes (which are skippable if you are not one for those). The magic is an interesting element that seems to provide a good foil for many kinds of difference, and I'm sure many people will connect with Mika's descriptions about struggling to be normal when she is not.

What puts this over the top for me was the balance. The pacing is excellent, all the way through. The plot moves at a steady, good clip, and the characters are all unique and filled in. They all have a distinct role, and that role is never "ticking a checkbox." Hard topics are explored with kindness and lots of support. It's very uplifting, and there are well-put lines throughout it that make you stop and go, "Mm. Yeah."

It's not often that I find a book with strong plot, strong characterization, and strong pacing--especially one that's this short. I really did enjoy it, its hopeful message, and the family at its core.


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