Review Detail

Young Adult Fiction 786
atmospheric and compelling YA fantasy
Overall rating
Writing Style
THE NATURE OF WITCHES is a riveting YA fantasy read. Taking place in the Eastern school for witches in the US, the book presents an alternate present, where the weather is controlled by witches, people who were born on the equinoxes and solstices. Their birthdate dictates what season of witch they will be, and this sets their magic and resultant personality according to that season. For instance, summer witches can control heat and are full of passion with strong emotions. In the off seasons, their powers become dormant and their personalities somewhat shadowed.

Clara is something different, a witch seen very rarely throughout history - the last one was 200 years before. She is known as an Everwitch or Ever, a witch whose powers remain strong across all seasons. She changes with the seasons too, taking on that season's magic and personalities. She has immense power, and they have high hopes that she will be the one who can help them fight the dangerous climate change that is draining witches with resultant high fatalities. The shaders (non-magic people) are finally listening to the witches and making changes, but the out of control weather may destroy them all before they have a chance to make things better.

Clara lives an isolated life, as the people who are closest to her are in danger from her magic. She has closed off herself and her heart and wishes she had no magic. When a new boy, Sang, comes from the Western school to study botany and is assigned to help train her magic, Clara is reticent, but she knows this training could be the only thing to protect those she loves and the world around her.

What I loved: The writing of this book is lyrical and slowly pulls the reader into Clara's story, immersing them in this world that is not so different from our own. This was a really atmospheric read that swallows the reader into Clara's thoughts and fears. Clara has grown up relatively emotionally isolated for fear of what her magic can do and under the weight and expectations of those around her. Although there are some who see her for the person she is, most have hung their hopes on her and view her as a tool or a means to an end. Navigating what her powers mean, how people react to her, and who she wants to be is very complex. For the YA audience, the search to find yourself and meaning in your own life will definitely resonate.

Clara is flawed. She has immense power, but she does not yet know how to use it. Her emotions are frequently getting in her way, and her fears often take over. As she changes, these fears and feelings evolve, not unlike the journey to adulthood and to self-acceptance. I found her relationships with those around her (including teachers, students, former romantic partners) to be compelling, as she must consider motivations and her own anxieties, often juxtaposed with her emotions and desires. Although the main theme is definitely climate change, the smaller themes around self-acceptance, coping with emotions and fears, the complexity of relationships, and the weight of others' expectations were really powerful.

Final verdict: Atmospheric, compelling, and harrowing, THE NATURE OF WITCHES is a powerful YA fantasy that sweeps the reader away in a story of magic, weather, and the journey to self-acceptance. Would recommend for fans of Stiefvater's SHIVER, Blake's FROSTBLOOD, Aveyard's RED QUEEN, and the TV show MOTHERLAND: FORT SALEM.
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