Blog Tour Book Review: The KC Warlock Weekly: Accused by M. N. Jolley

Blog Tour Book Review: The KC Warlock Weekly: Accused by M. N. Jolley

Last year, I took part in the Book Bloggers Novel of the Year Award where I read a lot of wonderful writing from various indie authors. My favourite across the board was Accused by M. N. Jolley* so when the opportunity came up to be on the blog tour, I’m there! This book needs to be on the shelves of many many more people. It’s hard to write reviews of books that you adore but here I go…

My name is Levi. I’m a journalist, I’m autistic, I’m bad at magic, and I swear I didn’t kill her.
Research for the paper usually falls into a few basic patterns. Someone in the city says there’s a troll under Buck O’Neil Bridge, or they’ll call just so a friendly ear will listen to them complain about a pixie infestation.
That sort of content carries me through slow news weeks. It’s rare that I uncover a murder.
Being framed for murder, though? That’s a first.
With the Wizard’s Council hunting me for a crime I didn’t commit, I’ve got no choice but to solve the murder and clear my name. If I don’t unravel this case, nobody will, and I’ll go down for it so hard I might never see the light of day again.

I haven’t connected with an Urban Fantasy book in a while. I was feeling a little tired of books where the main character is a supernatural badass, or has been holding a stake since they could grip things. Give me a regular guy like Levi, who gets embroiled in things that are way above his pay grade but still wants to do the right thing even if it means things are going to get difficult for him. Much more difficult!

Every character was my favourite character at some point. From Ben, Levi’s date who has no idea about the magic world and learns about it along with the reader, to Maggie, the fae auto-mechanic/ magic item dealer who has her own serialised story. The side-characters are fully fleshed out and I’d read more about all of them! I also really love seeing Autistic and queer rep in any book, but especially in this genre where it’s been lacking.

The writing is a dream. Jolley uses Levi in an interrogation to tell the story of his extraordinary couple of days and there are a couple times where the story might not always be quite what it seems. It never felt too complicated to follow, and gave me a couple moments of ‘oh dang!’ while reading. The plotting is a masterpiece and when I was forced to put the book down, it was easy to pick back up and dive in.

Okay, I’ve finished raving. Please check out M.N. Jolley’s website and read the book, there’s even an audiobook read by Nikola Hamilton who sounds delightfully like Jon Hamm to me. I can finally go and read the sequel that I’ve been holding off until I finished this review and I’m so excited.

*I received this book to read and review as part of the 2021 BBNYA competition and the BBNYA tours organised by the TWR Tour team. All opinions are my own, unbiased and honest.

Blog Tour Book Review: The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake!

Blog Tour Book Review: The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake!

My forays into dark academia have either been immense successes (A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik singlehandedly dragged me out of a reading slump) or triumphs over my will to finish (The Secret History by Donna Tart is on my shelf waiting for me to get past that half-way mark). So when I kept hearing about The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake*, I needed to see where it would land on the scale .

When the world’s best magicians are offered an extraordinary opportunity, saying yes is easy. Each could join the secretive Alexandrian Society, whose custodians guard lost knowledge from ancient civilizations. Their members enjoy a lifetime of power and prestige. Yet each decade, only six practitioners are invited – to fill five places.

Contenders Libby Rhodes and Nico de Varona are inseparable enemies, cosmologists who can control matter with their minds. Parisa Kamali is a telepath, who sees the mind’s deepest secrets. Reina Mori is a naturalist who can perceive and understand the flow of life itself. And Callum Nova is an empath, who can manipulate the desires of others. Finally there’s Tristan Caine, whose powers mystify even himself.


Following recruitment by the mysterious Atlas Blakely, they travel to the Society’s London headquarters. Here, each must study and innovate within esoteric subject areas. And if they can prove themselves, over the course of a year, they’ll survive. Most of them.

I can see why this book has people by the throat. If vibes could be measured per page, it would be off the charts. The characters are living in a massive country house, messing with magic, space and time, and have the Library of Alexandria at their fingertips. At least, what the Library will allow them to see. The plots role in The Atlas Six is to be the skeleton for the body of the whole story, you really only see the teeth. If that sounds strange, it’s because I’ve been deep in this book for days and every thought in my head is tinged with the writing style.

Speaking of, the writing matches the vibes. It’s like wading through treacle. Rich, but sticky. Blake is dealing with a lot of concepts in her magic system that I found a struggle to follow, but it didn’t always feel like I had to follow either. Similar to when The Secret History was talking about Greek, some readers could possibly read this in a way that meant that they understand and followed the science and theory, but for a casual reader it could be a bit much. It felt best to let it wash over you.

Going in, I had expected all the characters to be unlikeable but I actually could pick out maybe half of the core group that I was rooting for to survive. Libby really wormed her way into my heart. You bounce around the points of view of all of them but unlike other books with multiple POVs, I had no preference which meant their were none that I had to slog through to get to a favourite.

This book is for those dedicated to dark academia, those that like to swim in a sentence and those that use candles as a main form of lighting.

“Men in particular are draining, they bleed us dry. They demand we carry their burdens, fix their ills. A man is constantly in search of a good woman, but what do they offer us in return?”

*I was sent a copy of this book for review purposes. It has not changed my opinion.

Book Review: A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske!

Book Review: A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske!

I feel like A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske* has been on my radar for months and months. A few bloggers that I have similar reading tastes to got early copies and the rave reviews had me impatiently waiting for this to drop through my letterbox. And it was worth the wait. Reader, I’m in love.

Robin Blyth has more than enough bother in his life. He’s struggling to be a good older brother, a responsible employer, and the harried baronet of a seat gutted by his late parents’ excesses. When an administrative mistake sees him named the civil service liaison to a hidden magical society, he discovers what’s been operating beneath the unextraordinary reality he’s always known.

Now Robin must contend with the beauty and danger of magic, an excruciating deadly curse, and the alarming visions of the future that come with it—not to mention Edwin Courcey, his cold and prickly counterpart in the magical bureaucracy, who clearly wishes Robin were anyone and anywhere else.

Robin’s predecessor has disappeared, and the mystery of what happened to him reveals unsettling truths about the very oldest stories they’ve been told about the land they live on and what binds it. Thrown together and facing unexpected dangers, Robin and Edwin discover a plot that threatens every magician in the British Isles—and a secret that more than one person has already died to keep.

This book does it all. It has magic, intrigue, murder, romance, libraries, and a personal favourite; a house party in a country manor. So I’ll start with the magic. The idea of building magic with delicate hand movements, like those old cat’s cradles games that I remember being truly awful at as a child, is delightful to me. It’s a fresh magic system while also being just relatable enough that I could fall into this fantasy world without trouble. One of the points-of-view being from a non-magic user discovering this world for the first time, definitely helped.

From the start, I was hooked by the story. When someone is being interrogated for information on the first page, I want to know what is going on! The pacing of the whole book made me want to pick it back up the minute I put it down. 370 pages felt both long and short as I wanted to know where the story would end up but wasn’t willing to miss a minute of how Robin and Edwin got there.

As someone who doesn’t have the strongest visual when reading, I did find that some of the descriptions were a little slow for me. It’s not overly-descriptive, but this is the kind of book that will fill people’s minds with beautiful rooms and beautiful characters if that’s the kind of reader they are. Despite not being that kind of reader, I was so tied up in the plot and the romance that I didn’t mind.

And the romance? A slow-burn with a sweet jock and a stern intellectual is such a great combination. I’ve only started really reading Romance this year but this definitely had some of the steamiest scenes I’ve ever read, as well as some of the sweetest.

That being said, Robin and Edwin are great but my favourite character? Miss Adelaide Harita Morrissey, the secretary extraordinaire. I hope there’s a lot more of her in the following books. I’d like to see all of the side characters again, even the ones I despise as people. Marske didn’t waste a single word creating filler characters while managing to never leave rooms of her world empty.

As for the sequel, A Marvellous Light ended with me itching for the next book, without a cliffhanger in sight for fellow cliffhanger-haters, and I’m already wishing away my life thinking about how it’ll be at least two years before this trilogy is complete.

I’d recommend this for people who liked P. G. Wodehouse and Arthur Conan Doyle but thought both would be better if it was gay and had magic. A Marvellous Light is out now at Hive, Amazon, Waterstones, and anywhere good books are sold!

*I was sent this book to review as part of the blog tour, this has not changed my opinion. Hive and Amazon links are affiliate links.

Book Review: You’ll Be The Death Of Me by Karen M. McManus!

Book Review: You’ll Be The Death Of Me by Karen M. McManus!

Despite their popularity, I hadn’t read one of Karen McManus’ Young Adult thrillers before You’ll Be The Death Of Me*! They were always the ones I’d see getting rave reviews and think… sure, one day I’ll read one of those. So when the opportunity to be on the blog tour came up, I jumped. So, how did I find it?

Ivy, Mateo, and Cal used to be close. Now all they have in common is Carlton High and the beginning of a very bad day.
Type A Ivy lost a student council election to the class clown, and now she has to face the school, humiliated. Heartthrob Mateo is burned out–he’s been working two jobs since his family’s business failed. And outsider Cal just got stood up…. again.
So when Cal pulls into campus late for class and runs into Ivy and Mateo, it seems like the perfect opportunity to turn a bad day around. They’ll ditch and go into the city. Just the three of them, like old times. Except they’ve barely left the parking lot before they run out of things to say…
Until they spot another Carlton High student skipping school–and follow him to the scene of his own murder. In one chance move, their day turns from dull to deadly. And it’s about to get worse.
It turns out Ivy, Mateo, and Cal still have some things in common. They all have a connection to the dead kid. And they’re all hiding something.
Now they’re all wondering–could it be that their chance reconnection wasn’t by chance after all?

I often wish I had the books that are being published today when I was a teen, and this is no exception. Younger Imogen who was reading adult thrillers about miserable detectives who hate their wives would’ve eaten up You’ll Be The Death Of Me. The plot was steadily paced with twists and turns galore that kept me on my toes, and I felt like the conclusion was a really nice wrap-up of all the threads that McManus had going through the whole book. I can see why these books are so popular based on the ability to tell a satisfying story alone.

That’s not the only thing about this book I liked though. I thought the characters were well-developed and pretty relatable from my own teen-years. Although I never found the dead body of a classmate, I definitely struggled with academic insecurity and had friends that I would’ve loved to have reconnected with after drifting apart. They felt very- teenage! I think they were just the right level of stubborn in their determination to figure out what happened themselves.

The writing is the kind that keeps the story moving at a good pace but doesn’t necessarily leave you thinking about it once the book is closed. This is fine, and absolutely what I expected, but I wish it had left me with more of an impression once I shut the pages. I’m not sure how much of the story I’ll remember when I look back in a couple of years.

But overall, I really liked the book. it’s not the kind of thing that I would re-read but I might dip my toes into Karen M. McManus’ backlist if I find myself in the mood for a YA mystery. She knows how to keep those pages turning.

The paperback is released tomorrow and is currently only £3.99 on Amazon! Don’t forget to check out my fellow blog tour hosts for their opinions on the book!

*The eBook was sent to me as part of the blog tour. This has not changed my opinion.

Book Review: The Plot is Murder by V. M. Burns!

Book Review: The Plot is Murder by V. M. Burns!

Cozy Mysteries are a genre that I am convinced I will love but honestly haven’t read a lot of beyond Charlaine Harris. I’ve somehow managed to collect quite a pile of them but the one that I wanted to start with, so much that I put is on my list of 27 books to read this year, was The Plot is Murder by V. M. Burns. It was a good decision!

The Plot is Murder by V. M. Burns

The small town of North Harbor on the shores of Lake Michigan is about to have a new mystery bookstore. But before the first customer can browse its shelves, the store’s owner is suspected of her own murder plot

The thing that made The Plot is Murder stand out to me was that there’s a book being written in the book. Its two mysteries for the price of one. I’ve never experienced this before, it’s been one of those things that just hasn’t crossed my orbit. But, our main character Samantha is writing a historical romance mystery while dealing with the body in her back garden and I found it fascinating. I found myself waiting for the next chapter of Samantha’s book while also wanting to know the whodunit in Samanthas life. Burns balances both really well and, at least in my opinion, manages to make the historical mystery feel like it was written by Samantha rather than by her. 

And I really liked Samantha as a writer! She takes parts of her life and puts them in her fiction, big things and little things, like a character who knits a lot while she thinks much like her grandma’s friend. And at one point another character starts reading her book and she gets nervous and doesn’t want to know what they think, but does. I think a lot of readers who also write will see themselves in her.

Now, this book is only 250 pages and contains two mysteries. You don’t get a lot of time with our historical characters but I’m plot-driven as a reader generally and I liked that the time spent with Samantha was more based on her, her life and her murder, and the time spend in 1938 England was mostly about who killed a guy at a party with a dash of romance. In the next book, Samantha is writing a sequel with the same characters, as well as dealing with another murder, so there’s plenty of time to get to know the residents of Wickfield Lodge if you wanted.

Then there’s the old ladies in Samanthas life. I’m a sucker for a book that doesn’t act like life ends at 30 and everyone older than that is relegated to the role of mother or old man with wisdom to impart. Samantha’s Nana and her friends from the retirement home are a blast, think Golden Girls but if they were gossiping about who would kill a man. 

The only thing that made me pause was the brief mention of suicide and some negative opinions about it. But apart from that The Plot is Murder sticks to cozy mystery conventions with no graphic images of violence or sex. 

Am I going to keep reading this series? Probably! These books are hard to find in the UK and it’s my first real foray into cosy mysteries of this type so I’m going to prod around a little more and see what I can find, but I’m keeping an eye out for Samantha and V.M. Burns. You can find The Plot is Murder on Hive and Amazon*.

Strange how acute your hearing became when you were waiting to be murdered.

*This post contains affiliate links.

Re-Read Review: The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins!

Re-Read Review: The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins!

When the news of the prequel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, came out I knew I wanted to re-read the original Hunger Games trilogy. It’s been six years since I first read the trilogy and they were really important in my journey of becoming a reader again and book blogging! My original reviews were.. sparse, and very much about my emotional response which is perfectly valid, I just wanted to do a bit of a deep dive into what makes these books so dang good in my opinion. So!

Contexts of Reading

I remember reading this series for the first time really vividly. Not so much the actual story, because I definitely forgot most of the plot points in the past six years. But my life surrounding reading this. I even remember the song I was listening to on repeat at the time. And I think that it’s really interesting that in however many years until I read this again, I might remember things like being in lockdown, playing a lot of Animal Crossing and working really hard at my last university essay. I think only a special kind of book can effect me in this way. I’ve re-read books before and mostly it’s just remembering bits of the story.

The Writing Style

I’ve mentioned a couple times this year that I’ve been struggling to read lately because I’m so focused on the act of reading. However, Collins writing style is so unique and crafted to be bare-bones that it’s incredibly easy to read. There’s no info-dumping or huge chunks of thinking, you’re just in Katniss’s head and immediately in the action. The story is left open just enough that your own thoughts and feelings can fill the gap. I thought that the pacing on the second and third books was a little weird, but by Mockingjay, I was locked in and finished it incredibly quickly.

The Epilogue

I’m not a big fan of epilogues in general. As a reader and an attempting writer, I prefer it when the ending happens and what goes next is left to the imagination. If you want the main character to live happily ever after, you decide what that looks like. But I do like the epilogue in this case, because I think that considering how much she mentions not wanting kids because they’d have to play in the games, it was important to see Katniss no longer have that fear. Plus, Collins got to talk a little about how best to teach younger generations about bad things.

The Messages

The Hunger Games trilogy are political books. Oppressed people hating other oppressed people instead of their oppressor, revolutions galore, people being used as pawns in a game they don’t understand. I mean- very applicable to almost every age of humanity.

Marking my books

I like to keep my books pretty neat and unmarked in general. I use sticky notes to mark them up for reviews and bits of writing I like. But this time I decided to underline, in pen! Mainly because I know these books are going to stick around on my shelves. I don’t have any immediate plans to re-read them, maybe I’ll wait another six years, or more, but when I do- I’ll get a little snapshot into this read and what stood out to me, and I think that’s pretty neat.

Do you re-read a lot? What is your favourite book to re-read?

Book Review: The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler!

Book Review: The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler!

Books about books are my favourite thing. My favourite cosy mystery protagonist is a librarian. My favourite romance is set in a novel-writing class. I read book blogs daily. Plus, I’m an English Literature student so I spend a lot of time reading critical journals. The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler* is right up my street because it’s a book chock full of passion about books. 

Absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder. It makes people think you’re dead. So begins Christopher Fowler’s foray into the back catalogues and backstories of 99 authors who, once hugely popular, have all but disappeared from shelves.

These 99 journeys are punctuated by 12 short essays about faded once-favorites, including the now-vanished novels Walt Disney brought to the screen, the contemporary rivals of Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie who did not stand the test of time, and the women who introduced psychological suspense many decades before it conquered the world. This is a book about books and their authors. It is for book lovers and is written by one who could not be a more enthusiastic, enlightening, and entertaining guide.

I’ve been reading this book for a long time (I started in 2017!). It’s a book where you could dip in and out of with ease. But sitting down for a good long session didn’t quite keep up the charm. So, ironically, I put it to one side and kind of forgot about it until I was doing a declutter. I finished it that day.

You can tell that a lot of work went into the original articles that this book is based off and it pays off. Each author has a neat little biography and the essays were easy and interesting reads. While I raised an eyebrow at some being considered forgotten, I’m sure V.C. Andrews’ Flowers in the Attic haunts many a millennial, it would be impossible not to get excited about the books and the history and reading in general!

Obviously people have different tastes so a book of 99 authors is sure to include some, or many, that I don’t find interesting or recommendable. I wouldn’t personally have chosen to include the overtly racist authors or the prosecuted sex-offender. It felt like Fowler wanted to mention these because he did the research when really these authors could just stay forgotten. Plus, I understand that publishing is, like almost everything, a male-dominated field. But I needed for there to be more diverse choices. It stands at about a quarter female, and very very white.

Overall though, I found myself with a list of authors books to add to my TBR. Some of my picks are From the City, From the Plough by Alexander Baron, a novelisation of his experience in the run up to D-day. The Wooden Overcoat by Pamela Branch, purely from the description as a mix of P.G. Wodehouse and Ladykillers. Whatever I can find by Lucille Fletcher, a noir suspense writer who seems irritatingly out-of-print. The Dr. Thorndyke detective stories by R. Austin Freeman sound like a more to-my-taste detective stories from the time of Sherlock Holmes. And Eleanor Hibberts vast historical fiction repertoire under the pen name Jean Plaidy.

If you’re like me and you feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of current releases, or publishing trends mean that your preferred style is out at the moment, I think this is a really interesting way to refresh your TBR. You’re sure to get caught up in passion for books if you pick this up.

Waterstones | Amazon | Hive

Do you have a favourite forgotten author? Or someone who deserved to be a classic?

Book Review: A Messy Affair by Elizabeth Mundy!

For the past two weeks, I’ve been poorly as all heck. Much like a character in the book, I’ve been “surrounded by piles of crumpled white tissues, littering the room as though it were a graveyard for doves”. Just add a selection of lukewarm cups of tea and ice lolly wrappers, and that’s been my life. I set this scene to tell you that A Messy Affair by Elizabeth Mundy* has been wonderful company.


The only way is murder…

Lena Szarka, a Hungarian cleaner working in London, is forced to brush up on her detective skills for a third time when her cousin Sarika is plunged into danger.

Sarika and her reality TV star boyfriend Terry both receive threatening notes. When Terry stops calling, Lena assumes he’s lost interest. Until he turns up. Dead. Lena knows she must act fast to keep her cousin from the same fate.

Scrubbing her way through the grubby world of reality television, online dating and betrayed lovers, Lena finds it harder than she thought to discern what’s real – and what’s just for the cameras.


I’ve read my fair share of reality TV books written by various cast members of Jersey Shore, so I was immediately intrigued when I read the blurb for Elizabeth Mundy’s third Lena Szarka cosy crime novel. Although Made in Chelsea has never been my reality TV show of choice, I recognised enough to enjoy the commentary on these slightly tragic public figures. And I actually enjoyed this murder storyline more than the art thievery of the last book (review here), although I’m not really sure what that says about me…

While I did think I knew who the murderer was, with only a few wobbles in my certainty, boy was I wrong! A Messy Affair is another example of Mundy’s fantastic plotting. Everything connects. Whatever is introduced to the story, no matter how seemingly random, is brought back in later. Red herrings are my least favourite part of any crime story and Mundy makes sure that everything has a place in the overall story. Twists and turns galore!

My favourite thing about series is that you get to really know the characters. I really liked Lena and Sarika’s personalities when I read the last book and they continued to be wonderful as I got to know them more. While they grow and are changed by the events that have happened in previous books, they also stay the same at the core. No unrealistic personality shifts here. And fingers crossed for more Mrs Kingston in the next book, I love the retired investigative journalist!

Everything I enjoyed in the last book; the writing, the diversity, the cleaning inspiration, it was all here again. I would’ve liked a little more of discussion in regards to the sex work storyline, but this is a light-hearted read, maybe not the place for deep-diving into the way immigrants are treated in the sex industry.

You can find A Messy Affair here! Or if you want to go back to the start; the first book, In Strangers’ Houses is here and the second, A Clean Canvas is here!


“Cleaning is the best time to solve crimes, It frees up your mind to new possibilities.”

Do you watch reality TV? Would you read a book about it (plus murder)?

Book Review: Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff!

I bought Maresi after booking to go to a panel that Maria Turtschaninoff was on about Feminist Fantasy at the Edinburgh International Book Festival (more on this in a later post). Since that talk was yesterday, it seemed like a good a time as any to post my review of this incredible story.

Maresi came to the Red Abbey when she was thirteen, in the Hunger Winter. Before then, she had only heard rumours of its existence in secret folk tales. In a world where girls aren’t allowed to learn or do as they please, an island inhabited solely by women sounded like a fantasy. But now Maresi is here, and she knows it is real. She is safe.

Then one day Jai tangled fair hair, clothes stiff with dirt, scars on her back arrives on a ship. She has fled to the island to escape terrible danger and unimaginable cruelty. And the men who hurt her will stop at nothing to find her.

Now the women and girls of the Red Abbey must use all their powers and ancient knowledge to combat the forces that wish to destroy them. And Maresi, haunted by her own nightmares, must confront her very deepest, darkest fears.

The main thing that I took away after finishing this was how rarely I see first-person past-tense written in the style of a diary/ memoir. We’re introduced to Maresi by Maresi herself on the first page, she tells the reader who she is, that she isn’t a storyteller but that she has been told that her first person account is important and she wants to record it while her memories are still fresh. She’ll occasionally break the fourth wall by talking about the fact that she’s in the ‘now’ and writing about the past but it isn’t overused and actually helped me get into the story more.

Even now as I write, my hand trembles in memory of the terror, and I hope my words are still legible.

I loved the female-based mythology that was at the centre of the book. There’s the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone and it’s all really well thought out. I didn’t know quite how to word this until Maria herself talked about it but it was really refreshing that these three aspects were all valued and honoured rather than just the youth. Even though it’s a young adult novel with a teenage main character, a lot of the other characters in the Abbey are older and not stereotypical old women.

I also loved the value given to reading and knowledge. Y’all know I love a book where characters read! The girls at the Abbey can go out and take the knowledge they learned there to other communities, a little like missionaries, so they’re taught a whole host of things like medicine, farming, animal care and architecture. There’s a really great balance of traditionally masculine and feminine work being done on the exclusively female island.

I originally gave this four stars because it did take me a little bit to get into. The pacing for the first half was very slow, maybe because it’s a translation, maybe because the background information needed to be laid out much like a non-fiction book by our narrator before the action. However, while writing this review, I feel like I appreciate this book so much more now I can see the wood through the trees. It’s worth pushing through if slow-pacing is something that makes you put a book down, because Maresi is the young adult book that you want young adults reading, but that they’ll actually enjoy as well!

Coming to the Abbey and learning to read was like opening up a big window and being flooded with light and warmth.

You can buy Maresi from The Book DepositoryWaterstonesAmazon or The Book People!

Have you read Maresi? What’s your favourite feminist fantasy book?

Book Review: Sanctuary by V.V. James!

I finished Sanctuary* at a little past midnight and my first thought was that I’m very glad I order my shelves alphabetically because I have no idea where genre-organisers are going to put this one. It’s not the urban fantasy I thought it would be, it’s beyond thriller and the witches will keep it off the topical contemporary shelf. Sanctuary is hard to define beyond the word Brilliant. This is a long one today!


Sanctuary. It’s the perfect town… to hide a secret.

To Detective Maggie Knight, the death of Sanctuary’s star quarterback seems to be a tragic accident. Only, everyone knows his ex-girlfriend is the daughter of a witch – and she was there when he died.

Then the rumours start.

Bereaved mother Abigail will stop at nothing until she has justice for her dead son. Her best friend Sarah will do everything in her power to protect her accused daughter. And both women share a secret that could shatter their lives.

It falls to Maggie to prevent her investigation – and Sanctuary itself – from spiralling out of control.

My initial interest for this book was based in the research that V.V. James did into witchcraft because it’s a topic I’m personally interested in and find fascinating. The note at the end says that while the magical system draws on various sources, it shouldn’t be equated to modern day practices, and I’d love a long article from V.V. James going into this. Her talk at the Gollancz preview night was incredibly detailed, and this research shows in the book.

I know I’m not alone in my avoidance of topical books. I like a lot of books that deal with tough subjects but I feel like when they get too close to the realities of everyday, I find them very stressful to read. There were definitely moments like that in Sanctuary; the President tweets using a lot of words in all caps while disparaging Democrats, there’s religious cultural appropriation, there’s a case of rape with a lot of comments ranging from believing victims to slut shaming, even from police which- yeah. The use of police transcripts, emails, tweets and news articles interspersed between the multiple POVs make it feel very real. But there’s no direct allegory for the witches in Sanctuary and I think that’s kind of the point, there’s a bit of everything from religious persecution, sexism, unethical policing and racism. So by adding magic and witchcraft, for me, it actually stopped it being as anxiety-inducing while still addressing important contemporary problems.

The theme of consent is also explored in a really interesting way. You’ve got the rape storyline which we see all the time in real life; popular sports star doesn’t understand the word no. But you’ve also got the idea that the ‘foundational principle of magic is consent’ so magic without consent goes wrong and causes adverse reactions. I liked the way this was dealt with, and the parallels are really interesting.

A lot happens in this book, and every time you think that that things about to get better for the characters, they probably won’t. It’s a busy novel. By having so many POVs (three main and others popping in), it did feel like some characters fell a little flat and didn’t get much page time. I would’ve loved more from some of the other coven members and their children as it developed but there was so much going on that the book didn’t feel lacking without it.

And the writing, oh, the writing. The power of grief was tangible and even if the actions of the grieving were reprehensible, V.V. James made it believable. It seemed easy for the grief to lead to intolerance, even if it isn’t something we imagine in ourselves, it is something we see a lot in reality that I’ve never really thought about before reading this.

With Sanctuary, V.V. James has created a fantasy version of contemporary America that’s incredibly real and brutal. I know I won’t be alone in hoping that Sanctuary doesn’t stay a stand-alone and becomes a companion-style series dealing with similar issues in a world of fictional witchcraft.

“The giveaway of what happened here is the blown out windows. Each one is blackened with soot round the edges, like evil itself crawled out of every hole it could find.”

Sanctuary is out tomorrow! Will you be picking it up?