Book Review: The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches

Book Review: The Very Secret Society of Irregular WitchesThe Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna
Published by Berkley Books on August 23rd 2022
Pages: 336
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four-half-stars

A warm and uplifting novel about an isolated witch whose opportunity to embrace a quirky new family--and a new love--changes the course of her life.
As one of the few witches in Britain, Mika Moon knows she has to hide her magic, keep her head down, and stay away from other witches so their powers don't mingle and draw attention. And as an orphan who lost her parents at a young age and was raised by strangers, she's used to being alone and she follows the rules...with one exception: an online account, where she posts videos pretending to be a witch. She thinks no one will take it seriously.
But someone does. An unexpected message arrives, begging her to travel to the remote and mysterious Nowhere House to teach three young witches how to control their magic. It breaks all of the rules, but Mika goes anyway, and is immediately tangled up in the lives and secrets of not only her three charges, but also an absent archaeologist, a retired actor, two long-suffering caretakers, and...Jamie. The handsome and prickly librarian of Nowhere House would do anything to protect the children, and as far as he's concerned, a stranger like Mika is a threat. An irritatingly appealing threat.
As Mika begins to find her place at Nowhere House, the thought of belonging somewhere begins to feel like a real possibility. But magic isn't the only danger in the world, and when a threat comes knocking at their door, Mika will need to decide whether to risk everything to protect a found family she didn't know she was looking for....

I received The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches as a surprise gift from my dear friend Meghan, from over at Meghan Plays Games, who knows how much I love spooky season. I sat down one night to get started reading The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches only to read the entire darling thing in one sitting. Honestly, this book is like being wrapped in a warm blanket after an entire day of being stuck in cold, wet, and dreary reality.

 

“Magic. As a child, she had discovered the existence of her magic alone, had been afraid of it and then fallen in love with it alone, and had learned to use and control it alone. Even now thirteen years into adulthood, she continued to experience the joy and wonder of magic alone. Apart from when she posted her witchy videos online, of course. That was the closest she’d ever gotten to sharing who she really was with anyone.”

 

The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches follows a young adult witch, Mika Moon, who lives a pretty lonely life as a secret witch. Forced to pick up and leave if anyone suspects her of having magical powers, Mika has always been afraid to put down roots. Her one solace is pretending to be a witch on her popular social media account, which features her happily brewing potions and herbal teas in what is a caricature of herself, of sorts. But one day, her social media catches the eye of a family in need and Mika’s life changes forever. 

 

Skeptical and afraid, Mika ventures to Nowhere House, a home filled with three young girls in desperate need of a tutor—a magical tutor. Though Mika has spent her whole life hiding her identity as a witch and almost never in the company of witches, she finds she cannot leave these three girls, raised as sisters, to fend for themselves. Before she knows it, Mika is defying everything she’s ever known, and moving into Nowhere House with a housekeeper, an elderly retired actor and his husband groundskeeper, and an attractive and grumpy Irish librarian named Jaime. 

 

“For one thing, witches were uncommon. It wasn’t every day you stumbled upon one, let alone three. And for another, three witches living alone together was absolutely not allowed.”

 

What follows is an absolutely delightful tale of acceptance and love, as Mika sets aside her fears and past traumas to pass on her love of magic to the young wards of Nowhere House. Through magic lessons and living together, she slowly earns the trust of both the girls and their grumpy librarian father figure. I was absolutely charmed by this story of found family and cozy witchy-ness, which was filled with Jane Austen quotes, and delightful depictions of brewing magical potions by way of ingredients like moonlight.

 

“In moments like this, she really and truly loved being a witch. She loved losing herself for hours in the hum of magic, the sparkle of gold dust in  the air, the soft warmth of witchfire, the ideas and the creativity and the fun. Why would anyone ever want to do anything else?”

 

Mika is a likable and relatable heroine, simultaneously rebellious and reluctant to rock the boat. Her love interest, Jaime, is a protective father figure with a crunchy exterior and a soft and chewy center. Their romance is very sweet and doesn’t unfold too quickly—The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches takes just the right amount of time and care in setting up the transformation from initial attraction and distrust into full blown affection and love. 

 

I delighted in the original take on witches that The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches presents too. When many of us think of witches, I think we picture covens, made up of powerful and confident women, chanting spells together under moonlight, as a sisterhood. But in The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches all witches come into the world as orphans due to a mysterious spell gone wrong in the ancient past. And when more witches are together, the amount of magic becomes more bountiful, powerful, and ultimately, uncontrollably dangerous. Therefore, it’s simply deemed too risky for witches to gather.

 

“‘It’s not always enough to go looking for the place we belong,’ Jaime said, his eyes on the house ahead. ‘Sometimes we need to make that place.'”

 

Literally my only “complaints,” so to speak, about The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches is that some of the side characters could be a little more fully developed. The young girls themselves, especially outside of Terracotta and Rosetta, could have used a bit more page time and development, but what we do get from these girls is precious and mostly believable for children of their age. I also thought the sex scenes were a little out of place in what mostly feels like a wholesome and family friendly read. However, the scenes aren’t too salacious or too frequent, so the incongruity is not that big of a deal. 

 

Other than that, The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches is absolutely delightful and charming. I’d recommend this novel to fans of The House in the Cerulean Sea or The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy and for those that love witches, romance, found family, and fun reads. If you’re looking for a cozy fantasy read for fall, this is the perfect one. 

 

four-half-stars
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Posted October 12, 2022 in Book Reviews, Fantasy, Romance

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