San Solano, Texas, is a quaint town known for its charm, hospitality, and history of murder. Twice now, twelve men have been brutally killed, and no one knows who did it. A shadowy witch? A copycat killer? Or a man-hating murderess? Eighteen-year-old Natalie Colter is sure that the rumors about her great-great-grandmother's cult of wronged women are just gossip, but that doesn't stop the true-crime writers and dark tourism bloggers from capitalizing on the town's reputation. It's an urban legend that's hard to ignore, and it gets harder when Nat learns that the sisterhood is real. And magical. And they want her to join. The more Nat learns of the Wardens' supernatural history, the more she wonders about the real culprits behind the town's ritualistic murders. Are the Wardens protecting San Solano from even darker forces? There are shadows in the woods, bones on the outskirts of town, and questions Nat needs answered. But everything becomes more urgent when people start getting "marked" as new victims--including Levi Langford, the boy whose kiss haunted Nat for a year. With Levi in danger, doing nothing would be harder than fighting back. Nat knows that no one is safe. Can she and the sisterhood stop the true evil from claiming their town?
The Bitterwine OathFeatured
Aside from the town's inability to forget these unsolved crimes, she is also having nightmares and knows her best friend is keeping something from her. As she begins to learn about what it is, she learns about the dark and deadly things that exist in their town and her connection to it all.
The dark premise was really intriguing, and I appreciated the smattering inclusion of passages from Lillian's book, one of Malachi's friends. However, once we begin learning about the secret society, the tone of the book definitely changes. I was intrigued about the past with Malachi and the present, as we slowly gain information. I felt like it was hard to pin down information about Malachi, what really happened, and the full answers as to how it has carried forward. I tend to like a faster-paced and more intense read of this genre.
Overall, I found this to be an intriguing dark book with magic, mystery, and murder (past) that kept me reading. Would recommend for people who like books with inherited missions and secret societies.
What worked: Think Secret Circle meets a Southern paranormal sisterhood. Each of the 'Wardens' are descendants of the original women who one night back in 1921 made an oath for revenge against men that had wronged them. Instead something terribly went wrong and twelve men died. In 1971 the same thing happened, with similar results. Each of the women descendants have some paranormal ability. Nat is the descendant of Malachi, the original woman who cast the spell.
I really liked how the author shows what magical abilities each of the women/teens have. The matriarch, Maggie, is over the covet. By day all the women serve in the community, have church responsibilities, and are nothing like the stereotypical 'witch'. Nat doesn't believe the rumors and brushes them off as just gossip or something that draws tourists into the town.
I did have a hard time with all the different characters in the town. Some of the girls sounded too similar to each other. Nat's personality did stand out with her being inquisitive and wanting to find out the truth. Her and Levi's relationship did feel realistic. She didn't really forgive him for leaving town so suddenly after their quick first kiss. I like how the relationship is shown and how it slowly builds from a friendship to much more.
One thing I wished for was more of the paranormal investigators. They pop in and out of the novel and kind of fizz at the end. Quinn, one of the investigators, states she's more 'sensitive' and can sense the evil in the town. I kind of wished she'd been used more in the storyline, especially with the final battle.
The evil shadows are creepy and gruesome. And what they do to gain access to 'shadow' men in the town is equally creepy.
Engaging paranormal tale where a Texas town's supernatural gruesome history is bound to be repeated and the girl who is willing to do anything to stop it.