Review Detail

An intellectual Halloween staple
Overall rating 
 
4.3
Plot 
 
5.0
Characters 
 
4.0
Writing Style 
 
4.0
WHAT I LOVED:
The two stories that tie for the best of the anthology are Tess Sharpe’s “The Heart in Her Hands” and Elizabeth May’s “Why They Watch Us Burn” because WOW. Both stories are f/f as well. Sharpe’s story, in which a young witch meets her soulmate and rejects him for the girl she’s always loved, dissects the idea of soulmates and what that means for free will. Meanwhile, May’s highly allegorical tale draws powerful parallels to how the media and awful people treat women who speak out against men who abuse them. In a labor camp where she’s been sent, the heroine falls for a fellow witch-prisoner and all the girls imprisoned there reclaim both their names and their powers in a blaze of glory. It’s amazing.

That’s not to say those are the only good stories because they aren’t. If your jam is closer to magical realism, Zoraida Cordova’s “Divine Are the Stars” (in which a matriarch’s heirs come to collect their inheritance and contend with a mother tree) and Tehlor Kay Mejia’s “Starsong” (in which a Latinx girl’s business of making star charts from her star-related abilities brings her into contact with a cute but skeptical girl) are both vivid, intelligent delights. I could dig into most every story and tell you why I like each one of them, but I just don’t have the time.

But the book’s strongest draw is its diversity. It’s a diverse set of authors with a diverse set of characters, yeah, but each story draws on a different magical tradition from across different cultures the world over. In the United States, people tend to think of the Salem Witch Trials or popular but very white examples from popular media. Think Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Hocus Pocus and the Harry Potter books. Toil & Trouble disrupts that narrative and gives the readers brujas, girls connected to Baba Yaga, a Comanche girl who can feel water like it’s part of her. Witches and magic aren’t just for white girls and it also digs into the role of sexism in why women face specific persecution as witches.

Even one of the weaker stories, “Death in the Sawtooths” by Lindsay Smith, isn’t bad so much as it is not suited for being a short story. The worldbuilding that goes into this mystery and the idea’s potential is large enough for a novel, but trying to compress all of that into a few dozen pages makes the magical abilities of the characters and the events of the story confusing. If Smith ever wants to expand this story into a full book like Ibi Zoboi is doing with her own story from the Black Enough anthology, I’m game for it.

WHAT LEFT ME WANTING:
Just two of the stories, “Daughters of Baba Yaga” by Brenna Yovanoff and “The Love Spell” by Anna-Marie McLemore, failed to leave an impression on me, so I consider them the weakest by default even if they’re not necessarily bad. I genuinely have NO memory of what was in either story.

FINAL VERDICT:
Though I read the book in February and March 2020, it’ll be a fun book to break out again when Halloween comes around and the tide of witch stories comes back in. One of the most varied anthologies out there in terms of who took part, what stories they’re telling, and what their inspirations draw from.
Report this review Was this review helpful to you? 0 0

Comments

Already have an account? or Create an account
Powered by JReviews

FEATURED GIVEAWAYS

Latest Book Listings Added

Playing the Cards You'reDealt
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
Ten-year-old Anthony Joplin has made it to double digits! Which...
Discovering the Underground with Snow White (Fairytale Encyclopedia)
 
3.7
 
0.0 (0)
There are not only dwarves in the underground. This hidden...
Rock by Rock: The Fantastical Garden of Nek Chand
 
4.0
 
0.0 (0)
This luminous picture book tells the fascinating true story of...
Bisa's Carnaval
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
Discover the sights and sounds of Brazil through the eyes...
Redemptor (Raybearer, #2)
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
The highly anticipated sequel to Raybearer, the instant New York...
Dark and Shallow Lies
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
A teen girl disappears from her small town deep in...
Imposters
 
4.0
 
5.0 (1)
Frey and Rafi are inseparable . . . but very...
Better Than the Movies
 
4.7
 
5.0 (1)
Liz Buxbaum has always known that Wes Bennett was not...
African Icons: Ten People Who Shaped History
 
5.0
 
5.0 (1)
Meet the ten remarkable kings, queens, inventors, scholars, and visionaries...
Count to LOVE! (A Bright Brown Baby Board Book)
 
5.0
 
5.0 (1)
Cuddle up with your little one and get ready to...
The Mystery of the Meanest Teacher: A Johnny Constantine Graphic Novel
 
4.5
 
0.0 (0)
THE MYSTERY OF THE MEANEST TEACHER: A JOHNNY CONSTANTINE GRAPHIC...
 
3.0
 
0.0 (0)
A shocking thriller about a group of friends who go...
Bird Boy
 
4.5
 
0.0 (0)
Take flight in this heartwarming story about a boy who...
Love You By Heart
 
4.5
 
0.0 (0)
Acclaimed creator of The Word Collector, Happy Dreamer, Say Something,...
Fa-La-La Llama (Touch-and-Feel Board Book)
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
Get ready to deck the halls with these joyful, singing,...
The Oddmire, Book 3: Deepest, Darkest
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
The third adventure in the beloved fantasy series full of...

Latest Member Reviews

More Ryan's World of Science: Ready-to-Read Level 1
 
5.0
"MORE RYAN'S WORLD OF SCIENCE features science experiments that are Ryan approved. Not only is this book full of science,..."
Yosemite: Ready-to-Read Level 1 (Wonders of America)
 
5.0
"'Wonders of America: Yosemite' by Marion Dane Bauer, illustrated by John Wallace, will make readers eager to take a vacation..."