WITCHES STEEPED IN GOLD
Written by Ciannon Smart
Published by Harper Teen, April 20, 2021
My star rating – 3 stars
Iraya has spent her life in a cell, but every day brings her closer to freedom – and vengeance.
Jazmyne is the Queen’s daughter, but unlike her sister before her, she has no intention of dying to strengthen her mother’s power.
Sworn enemies, these two witches enter a precarious alliance to take down a mutual threat. But power is intoxicating, revenge is a bloody pursuit, and nothing is certain – except the lengths they will go to win this game.
This Jamaican-inspired fantasy debut about two enemy witches who must enter into a deadly alliance to take down a common enemy has the twisted cat-and-mouse of Killing Eve with the richly imagined fantasy world of Furyborn and Ember in the Ashes.
I finished this book a couple of weeks ago and I’ve been struggling ever since then to write the review for it. I feel like I could just write “It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. It was just a book I read.” and I would be happy with that review lol! But that’s the truth really. It really wasn’t bad at all but it did fall into the category of “familiar YA fantasy”… in other words, forgettable. Wow, that sounds unintentionally harsh. Let me try and explain first and then I’ll get into the reasons why I actually did like it lol.
I just don’t think that I was the right audience for this book. Over the last few years I’ve had a MAJOR falling out with YA fantasy. I fell down the rabbit hole of adult fantasy and it’s spoiled everything else since. Adult fantasy just seems to have so much more depth and substance to it. The last 3-5 years in particular have given us a lot of the same things on repeat in YA fantasy. The tropes, plots, characters, romances, etc, are all so so familiar and over done. This book fell into that category. We have characters who are oppressed and are striving for the “greater good”. There are characters who are enemies who must work together. The monarchy who has power when they shouldn’t, etc. I’m generally ok with familiarity in books as long as there’s a selling point. Give me characters I can fall in love with, a fast paced twisting plot, a unique and interesting magic system…. nope.
I just struggled with a lot in this book. The pacing was slow, especially in the beginning. I know that this is the first book in a series so there’s obviously a lot to build, but most of that was done in the first 100 pages and it was REALLY hard to get into. And then there was the writing style. I’m sorry but it just wasn’t the right style for me. It felt a little too chaotic and forced at times, like it was trying to be something more when it wasn’t really necessary. And the characters were sometimes so similar I had a hard time keeping them straight. I would often find myself flipping back to the beginning of the chapter just to find out who’s perspective I was reading from.
As much as this book wasn’t for me, I will say that it was, in the end, a compelling story. The magic and its use of gold was really interesting. And, of course, there was also the Jamaican influence! In the small stories that the characters would tell, and the folklore they remembered, grounded the characters and made them feel a little more real. Every year we have many Jamaican seasonal workers that come to work on the farms here and I love to hear their stories and their culture. It’s sometimes just the WAY they tell the story that makes it so amazing. That’s exactly how I felt while reading this. There was also great diversity and representation which automatically gives this book a plus.
In the end though, this debut wasn’t quite strong enough to convince me to continue with the series. Given time and a little practice, I would love to revisit this author. If she continues to pour her heart, soul and culture into her works, I have confidence she will do well!
Until next time, happy reading!