Books

3 spellbinding cozy fantasies

Marigold Claude is the least talented woman in her artsy family. She’s resigned to her fate as a spinster, flouncing away from suitors and fleeing balls to dance barefoot with spirits beneath the full moon. So when her grandmother offers Marigold the chance to be the next Honey Witch, the protector of the isle of Innisfree, the decision feels easy. Marigold doesn’t feel like she belongs in her town, but Innisfree, with its magical guardians and abundant plant life, could be home.

The title of Honey Witch, however, comes with consequences: An Ash Witch wants the isle for herself and has cursed the Honey Witches to live without romantic love. It isn’t until her grandmother dies that Marigold realizes how lonely a curse that can be—especially once Lottie, a beautiful, grumpy skeptic who refers to magic as “mythwork,” arrives in her life and upends everything she thought about love.

But the Ash Witch is waiting for a moment of weakness. If Marigold doesn’t learn how to control her magic and break the curse, her island, her family and the feisty woman who holds her heart are all at risk.

“Wild women are their own kind of magic” in Sydney J. Shields’ The Honey Witch. The pacing of this ambrosiac fantasy might leave diehard romance fans wanting more—Lottie is not involved in the first third, which rushes the sweetly erotic love story—but the whimsical world is more than enough to keep most readers enthralled. Shields’ descriptions of elements such as the landvaettir spirits that guard Innisfree and the blossoming gardens of Marigold’s familial home are impeccably lush. The coziness of the setting is offset by grief and a sense of impending disaster. Marigold spends much of her time reminiscing on loneliness and lost love, and even as the book buzzes towards its predictable, happy finale, the curse and the Ash Witch’s arrival bring destruction and terror.

At its heart, however, The Honey Witch focuses on the internal strength of its characters and how “anyone can be capable of something impossible.” Shields’ warmhearted fantasy will satisfy readers of sapphic romances who love the alternate historical world of “Bridgerton” or who grew up rewatching Halloweentown and Practical Magic.

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