Toil & Trouble: 16 Tales of Women & Witchcraft edited by Jessica Spotswood and Tess Sharpe
Featuring Brandy Colbert, Zoraida Córdova, Andrea Cremer, Kate Hart, Emery Lord, Elizabeth May,
Anna-Marie McLemore, Tehlor Kay Mejia, Lindsay Smith, Nova Ren Suma, Robin Talley, Shveta Thakrar, Brenna Yovanoff
My Review - 3 Stars
“This is what witchcraft looks like: It is women holding hands, harnessing power, and changing their fate.”
Why They Watch Us Burn, p. 455
This is the second YA anthology collection I’ve read this year and there were enough gems to make me very glad I asked for a review copy. All the stories feature witchy heroines in a variety of genres and I was fascinated to see the authors take their stories in such different directions. I also appreciated the diversity of the characters, whether sexuality, race, class, etc.
Anne-Marie McLemore’s Love Spell was the best in this collection. I loved the imagery, what it meant to be a bruja in the town, the way the heroine’s Catholic faith was woven in, the blighted Harrow pear tree, the acolyte Adrian. All of it. This is the second short story I’ve read by her and the second time her writing has blown me away. I really need to read one of her novels!
“Every woman is never enough; she’s always too much. We angered someone, somewhere, for our too muchness.”
Why They Watch Us Burn, p. 453
Right up there with Love Spell was Elizabeth May’s Why They Watch Us Burn. The writing was absolutely stunning and the story incredibly empowering. I don’t want to say anything about the plot beyond that. But Love Spell and Why They Watch Us Burn are enough reason to read this anthology.
Among the other standouts, Tess Sharpe subverts our ideas about fate and curses in The Heart In Her Hands. Lindsay Smith’s Death In The Sawtooths had just the right amount of creepiness. I liked how Mattie viewed her gift from Lady Xosia in spite of everyone else’s reaction and the way bullying factored into the story.
Brenna Yovanoff wove in the effects of the Cold War in Daughters Of Baba Yaga, which was such an interesting focus. I really liked how Emery Lord’s The Gherin Girls explored gaslighting and emotional abuse in the context of Rosie’s past relationship, as well as how she and her sisters supported one another.
There are several stories that explore issues that may trouble sensitive readers. One that stands out to me is The One Who Stayed by Nova Ren Suma, which needs a trigger warning for sexual assault, molestation, and rape. It was hard to read in places and I’m not someone who needs TWs. It’s a very powerful and a worthwhile story but tread carefully if those triggers are upsetting for you.
A young adult fiction anthology of 15 stories featuring contemporary, historical, and futuristic stories featuring witchy heroines who are diverse in race, class, sexuality, religion, geography, and era.
Are you a good witch or a bad witch?
Glinda the Good Witch. Elphaba the Wicked Witch. Willow. Sabrina. Gemma Doyle. The Mayfair Witches. Ursula the Sea Witch. Morgan le Fey. The three weird sisters from Macbeth.
History tells us women accused of witchcraft were often outsiders: educated, independent, unmarried, unwilling to fall in line with traditional societal expectations.
Bold. Powerful. Rebellious.
A bruja’s traditional love spell has unexpected results. A witch’s healing hands begin to take life instead of giving it when she ignores her attraction to a fellow witch. In a terrifying future, women are captured by a cabal of men crying witchcraft and the one true witch among them must fight to free them all. In a desolate past, three orphaned sisters prophesize for a murderous king. Somewhere in the present, a teen girl just wants to kiss a boy without causing a hurricane.
From good witches to bad witches, to witches who are a bit of both, this is an anthology of diverse witchy tales from a collection of diverse, feminist authors. The collective strength of women working together—magically or mundanely--has long frightened society, to the point that women’s rights are challenged, legislated against, and denied all over the world. Toil & Trouble delves deep into the truly diverse mythology of witchcraft from many cultures and feminist points of view, to create modern and unique tales of witchery that have yet to be explored.
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Disclosure: I received an advance copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Affiliate links included in this post.