A review by elizabethchant
Coven Be Charmed by Caitlin Ryan

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.