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Chilling Adventures of Sabrina meets The L Word in this fresh, sizzling rom-com by Lana Harper.

Emmy Harlow is a witch but not a very powerful one—in part because she hasn't been home to the magical town of Thistle Grove in years. Her self-imposed exile has a lot to do with a complicated family history and a desire to forge her own way in the world, and only the very tiniest bit to do with Gareth Blackmoore, heir to the most powerful magical family in town and casual breaker of hearts and destroyer of dreams.

But when a spellcasting tournament that her family serves as arbiters for approaches, it turns out the pull of tradition (or the truly impressive parental guilt trip that comes with it) is strong enough to bring Emmy back. She's determined to do her familial duty; spend some quality time with her best friend, Linden Thorn; and get back to her real life in Chicago.

On her first night home, Emmy runs into Talia Avramov—an all-around badass adept in the darker magical arts—who is fresh off a bad breakup . . . with Gareth Blackmoore. Talia had let herself be charmed, only to discover that Gareth was also seeing Linden—unbeknownst to either of them. And now she and Linden want revenge. Only one question stands: Is Emmy in?

But most concerning of all: Why can't she stop thinking about the terrifyingly competent, devastatingly gorgeous, wickedly charming Talia Avramov?

340 pages, Paperback

First published October 5, 2021

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Lana Harper

4 books763 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,778 reviews
Profile Image for Emily.
Author 15 books69k followers
February 22, 2021
This is the kind of book that you just sort of ache to step inside. I want to be thereeeeeee heeeeeelp. It's a PERFECT fall read you want to make sure you've got preordered now.
Profile Image for Samantha.
409 reviews16.7k followers
November 1, 2021
TW: ghost possession

This is a book I almost didn’t read, because romance books that also have magic tend to be written in a way I don’t like. But I loved this! This is John Tucker Must Die meets the Tri-Wizard Tournament, set in a town that’s a mix of the vibes from Practical Magic and Halloweentown, AND featuring a romance between two bi women. It’s truly a delight.
Profile Image for Lex Kent.
1,682 reviews8,616 followers
October 7, 2021
4.25 Stars. I had so much fun with this! This was one of my most anticipated reads of 2021 and I’m happy to say that it was just as good as I hoped. The vibe was The Other Woman/John Tucker Must Die with some the Goblet of Fire, but with sapphic adult witches. It was really enjoyable and a great read to get you in the mood for Halloween.

I was really impressed by how good Harper’s writing was. Her style is very smooth and nice to read, plus her details are really on point. Not only do you know what this magical town run by witch’s looks like, but you even know what it smells like. It seems to me that authors don’t use taste and smell very often anymore, but Harper did and it just really brought this story to life. I live in New England, actually only a couple of hours from Salem, Mass., and I can’t tell you how magical the month of October is around here. The gorgeous colors of the leaves changing, the sunny days that are just cool enough to keep the bugs away, and the smells of pumpkins and apple cider in the air just makes it special around here. The way I feel about New England in the fall is the same way Harper described the town of Thistle Grove (minus the witchey magic of course) and I could not help but to fall in love with her setting. While this is her first book under Harper, it’s not a debut as she writes YA under Lana Popovic.

I was really happy with the characters, especially the two main characters. This is first person, in the head of Emmy Harlow, but the other characters are so well done, especially Natalia Avramov, so that you feel like you know her and she even steals a bit of the spotlight from Harlow. Natalia has this really sexy presence, mix in some darker necromancer magic, and she just has a bit of a bad girl vibe, but with a heart of gold, that made her into a crush-on-able book character. I have to also mention that I was really happy with the romance. The characters have great chemistry and you just can’t help hoping they will somehow end up together.

I was pleasantly surprised that while this book had a good romance, the magical fantasy parts were well done too. I find a lot of paranormal romances to either have too much romance and not enough paranormal, or the opposite. I think this book was perfectly balanced and that it will appeal to fans that love magical and paranormal books, but it will also work well for romance fans that are more dipping their toe into this category for Halloween reads.

TLDR: I absolutely recommend this one to readers looking for good Halloween books. I think this book will have a wide appeal to many different readers and it was good fun too. I really enjoyed the writing and I hope Harper will write more sapphic stories, in the future, as I would love to read them. This was really enjoyable and I hope this will be out on audio as I think the writing style would transfer very well and I would definitely buy it.

A copy was given to me for a review.
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,475 reviews9,408 followers
April 1, 2023
**3.5-stars rounded up**

After she graduated from high school, Emmy Harlow, left her small town of Thistle Grove and moved to Chicago. Since that time, she really hasn't been back.

She's forged her own life in the city completely separate from her magical family in Thistle Grove. Perhaps, now is a good time to mention that Emmy is a witch.

During her time in Chicago, she's felt her powers waning. Apparently, it's important for her to remain somewhat tied to her magical roots.

With the approach of a traditional spell-casting tournament occurring in Thistle Grove, Emmy finally decides to return for an extended visit. Her parents will be so happy.

Emmy's family normally acts as the arbiters for the competition and because of where she falls within the family line, it is her turn. She could have passed the duties on to her overzealous cousin, but Emmy feels like it is finally time for her to be involved.

Upon returning to town, it doesn't take long for Emmy to be right back into the small town circle: gossip, run-ins with ex-boyfriends, flirting with old classmates, amongst other things.

We learn more about the reasons behind Emmy leaving town, more about her and her relationships with her family.

I love the trope of a character returning to their hometown after an extended absence. As someone who moved away from my own hometown as soon as I graduated high school, I can totally relate to those feelings.

When you go back, it's so mixed. You're from there, of there, but also, feel like you are out of place. Life moves on without you while you are away and it's like learning about a whole new place once you finally do go back.

I really enjoyed that aspect of this book. Emmy being reintroduced to her roots and really reconnecting with the people she had left behind.

The tournament was interesting as well, although I could have used more of it. It's basically like the Triwizard Tournament, but for the founding magical families of this town. I wish there would have been more of that aspect.

Unfortunately, I didn't connect with the romance. I wanted to be interested, but I just didn't care either way. It was fine, but I wasn't sold on how quickly Emmy and Talia fell for one another.

Also, I'm not really sure Gareth's vices were worth the efforts the ladies went to in order to get back at him. Not to be mean but, get over it.

With all of this being said, this was a super cute story overall. I loved the town of Thistle Grove. It felt to me like an Adult version of The Babysitters Coven and I'm not mad about it. I will absolutely be continuing on with this series.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

I am looking forward to returning to this town and this great cast of characters when the second book releases in May!
Profile Image for Chelsea (chelseadolling reads).
1,474 reviews19.2k followers
June 2, 2022
Might be more of a 2.5, but I'm rounding up because that's what feels right, lol. My thoughts on this one are a little bit mixed! I really, really enjoyed the setting and the almost grown-up-Halloweentown-y vibes of it all, but I'd be lying if I said that this wasn't a little.. cheesy? Which isn't necessarily a bad thing! But I went into this one hoping it would be the queer, witchy contemporary fantasy of my dreams and it ended up falling quite a bit short of those dreams. I do definitely still intend to carry on with the series because I'm very curious to see where the story will go without the whole magical competition as the center of everything, but I just didn't enjoy this installment quite as much as I was hoping to.
Profile Image for Meg.
249 reviews52 followers
September 22, 2022
I am cursed to be disappointed by this year's crop of autumnal witchy romances, it seems. All of them have been varying shades of "meh". It's also the third time or so this fall where I've thought a book had distinctly YA vibes, and learned that the author is making their adult debut after previously writing YA. There's nothing wrong with YA, or authors transitioning to writing adult fiction, but these books (this one included) felt like YA: But With Steam and it hasn't worked for me.

This book centres on a town that has four founding members (two male, two female), whose descendants form factions with magical affinities and colour branding. There are the Nature Magic Ones, the Vaguely Slavic Ones with Sexy Necromancy Magic, the Boring Bookkeeper Ones, and the... Ones Who Are Good at Everything... and Own Property... and Are Entitled Assholes and Everyone Hates Them? You might even say they are... ambitious and cunning. Anyway. The main plot of the story surrounds this competition where the heirs from three of the families compete in three rounds of magical skill-testing for honour and glory or something (the nerd from the fourth house gets to be the referee because they are Not Like the Other Witches). The competition has a name that I've already forgotten, so let's call it the Tri-Witch Tournament.

(Millennial fantasy writers find another point of reference, I beg).

This is the kind of book where the author has a thesaurus, and by god they're going to use it. Every noun is paired with an adjective, and every verb has an adverb (tons of them are alliterative to boot). I mean, why write "musical" when you could say "mellifluous"? Why use "gloomy" when "sepulchral" will do? Why would you have hair circling someone's head "like a crown" when "like a corona" is so much timelier? Who doesn't know immediately what imagery "Her pale eyes glittered like something out of a Billie Eilish song" is meant to evoke?

The worldbuilding may be slightly suspect and the prose purple, but at least those elements have some attention to detail and thought behind them. Harper approaches everything else in this book with the energy of a vague wave you might give a former classmate whose name you don't quite remember (Kristin? Kirsten?) when you pass them in the cereal aisle at the grocery store. I didn't feel any attachment to the characters, and there isn't any real sense of tension or conflict throughout the story. I knew more about what everything smelled like and what everyone was wearing than I understood about any character's inner life.

Also, I'm tagging this as romance—because that's how it's marketed—but it only qualifies by a hair. I wouldn't say the romance between Emmy and Talia drives the story, and though they are cute together there isn't a lot of there there other than mutual attraction and lust. It was a significant bummer as I was looking forward to a sapphic witch romance this October. Alas.
Profile Image for Miranda.
65 reviews
October 12, 2021
I...hated this. So freaking disappointing! This was the Triwizard Tournament meets John Tucker Must Die with bisexual witches, and I truly don't know how a plot like that goes wrong.

The romance was so boring, had no tension or excitement, and the dialogue was stiff despite an attempt to be quippy and trendy - it actually felt unnatural. I didn't really care about the revenge plot against Gareth, because we didn't really get to know much about him or what he did to make our character want to ruin his life. The book could have benefitted from some well placed flashbacks to encourage some connection with what happened to the characters.

Overall, a huge bummer as I had high hopes for this one!
Profile Image for ~ a foray in fantasy ~.
269 reviews258 followers
March 13, 2022
The writing is objectively bad, the references are cringey, and the magic system is more full of holes than Swiss cheese. But you know what? I can’t bring myself to give this book 2 stars, purely based on the sapphic romance.

The relationship between Talia and Emmy is just fantastic, even if Emmy doesn’t have much personality.

Also, the whole premise of the plot is just kind of ridiculous. I mean, running away from your family and never going back to your hometown because some idiot boy broke your heart??? No offense to Emmy, but that’s just stupid.
Profile Image for Jacob Proffitt.
2,901 reviews1,511 followers
November 11, 2021
I had a complicated time with this story for two reasons. The first is that Emmy gives so much power to the idiot Gareth. Yeah, he's a complete douche canoe and should be shunned by anybody with taste and/or standards. But the story completely ignores that Emmy's actions all flow from the assumption that he was right. Which makes her like a lot of victims of exploitative manipulation, frankly, but that doesn't make it any less uncomfortable. Indeed, her whole life in however many years it has been, the life she can't wait to return to, is predicated on his worldview being both accurate and valid.

And it doesn't help that the core conceit of the three conspirators forming a bond is that all three of them fell for Gareth-the-pustule. This is not a way to convey that they are smart, capable women who deserve sympathy and support. Heck, Linden fell in love with the compost heap despite knowing what he'd done to Emmy. Which means that every time she is referred to as Emmy's bestie I sneered, just a little bit. This is not the action of a best friend.

The second reason is a ton more subtle. I kept getting the feeling that everything was ramped into crystal hues. Like, lots of adverbs and adjectives and sense descriptors. This was a real advantage as the story dips into the magical world of Thistle Grove. The magical elements and effects were vivid and engaging and as lovely as they were atmospheric. And I really regret that I learned the author has written YA because it made me aware that this makes it feel a bit like it was written for that genre, only with adults and sex and careers and stuff. This is a completely unfair feeling because Emmy isn't a YA heroine (despite the above concern) and the story has a lot of layered emotional depth.

And one of the great strengths of the story is the emotional arc as Emmy learns the pain her actions have caused others and how being too oriented to her pain has made her wound people she loves and who love her. I loved many of the interactions with her parents and friends. I loved watching her come into herself as she eventually worked free of the delusion she had accepted from the snot-rag ex.

And I haven't even gotten to her relationship with Talia, yet. I loved that Talia had her own complexity, as well. Her family is descended from Baba Yaga and Harper chose to lean into the necromantic as their gift's focus. So Talia's magic is inherently creepy and Talia embraces that aspect. Only. Harper shows how she engages with the dread and darkness with compassion and understanding and even love. So yeah, Emmy and Talia have all the exciting chemistry that pulls them together initially. But it was easy to see why Emmy would engage emotionally, as well, as she got to see Talia's soft center emerge.

So in all, I found this very engaging. It's a solid four stars of entertainment, despite having a plot built around revenge against the dopiest cardboard villain and his dopey cardboard family. Seriously, the small-town witch haven just really worked for me and I'm glad I gave this story a shot.

A note about Steamy: There's a single explicit sex scene so this is low on my steam tolerance. Frankly, I don't remember it very well, so I'm going to call it gratuitous.
Profile Image for Roz.
351 reviews179 followers
September 24, 2022
4 ⭐️
2 🌶️

this was so cute 🥺

never felt so single in my life😭
Profile Image for Helen Power.
Author 10 books446 followers
October 16, 2021
TLDR: I recommend this book to those who want a descriptive, modern story of witchcraft with phenomenal worldbuilding.

~Full Review~

Payback’s a Witch is a romantic fantasy with delightful worldbuilding of the ethereal quality. The novel follows Emmy as she returns home and comes to terms with who she is and where she comes from. Emmy is an intriguing, multi-layered character, who at times is quite frustrating, but she remains relatable throughout.

The writing style is the primary focal point of this novel. The book is chock-full of clever lines and insightful remarks about the world that the author has created. The prose is heavily laden with worldbuilding and imagery. The book uses flowery, at times old-fashioned syntax, but it’s nicely paired with modern expressions, such as “nasty woman” and talks of being “chaotically neutral”. Unfortunately, Emmy’s witty internal observations and beautifully implemented flashbacks do come at the expense of pacing, and the read is quite slow and heavy with description. This book is definitely for those who read for language and setting.

Because of the focus on language, the worldbuilding is phenomenal. I would say that it even rivals that of Harry Potter, with the way that magic works and the little idiosyncrasies that are explained throughout the book. There’s an intricate complexity to the magic described that shows the author put a lot of time and effort into constructing this fantastical world. The book is rife with magical history, for the town and the founding families.

Magic is in the air, along with a hint of sexual tension. The romantic chemistry between Emmy and Talia is cute, but it takes a backseat to everything else that’s going on in the book. I would almost say that this is a fantasy novel with a romance subplot. While the romance plotline does follow your typical romance story arc, it’s overshadowed both in quality and in amount of time spent on the main plotline, which reminded me a lot of the Triwizard tournament in Harry Potter (in a good way!)

I recommend this book to those who want a descriptive, modern story of witchcraft with phenomenal worldbuilding.

*Thank you to Netgalley and the author for the ebook to review*
This review appeared first on https://powerlibrarian.wordpress.com/
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Profile Image for Madita.
506 reviews17.6k followers
November 1, 2022
2.5 stars
I was extremely excited to read this book about revenge and how these women would fight against this stupid man but sadly I was disappointed.
Don't get me wrong the book was okay but not as good as I hoped it to be.

Emma was a fun and interesting mc but at times I was confused on why she did certain things. Maybe this has to do with the fact that my heart has never been broken with my not existing romance life but I think they did too much for what the Gareth guy actually did, as in too much effort.
Yes Gareth was a little wounded in the end but for how much energy they invested into getting back at a cheater was weird. I expected a bit more as the revenge or at least something that would equal the amount of energy and time they invested into this.

This is also basically the triwizard tournament from HP but with witches which good for them but I would have loved to have something that doesn't scream HP so much.

ON top of that it was just boring. This felt like an essay for school with a word count and to reach it they just added millions and millions of adjectives to prolong the story.
I also was disappointed in the romance since I really wanted to read about Talia and Emma but I was let down by the lack of chemistry.
This is promoted as romance but I did not think that even though it was the reason I kept reading, that it was exciting enough.
I was so bored at times because nothing was happening even though with a plot like this there should be way more tension at all times.
Profile Image for Maddie | bookish.pgh.
215 reviews56 followers
September 29, 2021
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina meets The L Word in this fresh, sizzling rom-com by Lana Harper.

Thank you to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group for the opportunity to read and review an advanced readers copy of this book. This in no way affects my review, all opinions are my own.

I'm feeling a little conflicted about this book. To start, I thought the premise and setting of this story was incredible. It was giving me all of the spooky, witchy, fall vibes that I crave this time of year. The descriptions of Thistle Grove were enchanting and really made me feel like I was in a Salem-esque magical town. I was so excited for the magical tournament and thought the trials were creative and interesting.

Sadly this book just felt so slow to me. At about the halfway mark I wasn't really excited to pick it up anymore. Luckily it picked back up again towards the end, but the focus on small details outside of the competition left me feeling uninterested in the story and the characters' relationships. I wish the romance aspect was a little stronger so that I at least felt invested in Emmy and Talia, but even their romance fell a little flat.

I still feel like others might enjoy this one, but unfortunately it wasn't really for me. I did appreciate the spookiness of it overall and think that future books in this series could have potential with the strong setting of Thistle Grove.
Profile Image for Prabhjot Kaur.
1,039 reviews141 followers
June 16, 2022
That was the thing about growing up with magic. Until you left it behind for good, you had no idea how incredible it felt just to be around it.

Emmy Harlow is returning home to Thistle Grove after many years. She left Thistle Grove as soon as she finished high school and made a life for herself in Chicago and quite likes it. Emmy is a witch. Emmy has returned to be the arbiter at the upcoming witch tournament. There are four magical families in the town - Blackmoores, Avramovs, Thorns, and the Harlows. Whilst the other three get to compete in the tournament, Harlows are the weakest ones and only serve as the arbiters but when she experiences the powers bestowed upon the arbiter, things change.

I might have forged a new life away from Thistle Grove, but this was still the town that grew and made me.

I loved the starting, we dive straight into Emmy's return and how Thistle Grove's magic kinda works, and how the town has spooky vibes. Emmy's reasons for staying away from here are also made clear right at the start and we get to meet scions from all the magical families straightaway as well. It was all great but I have some major issues with the plot.

First of all, it's supposed to be an adult book but pretty much everything reads like YA with sex scenes thrown in there. Now, I love YA but when I am promised an adult book, I expect an adult book, not YA. So this was a letdown.

I liked Emmy in the beginning but after a few chapters, she turned out to be just not interesting. I mean she did leave the town and the magic behind so why come and steal Dahlia's right. Dahlia is Emmy's cousin, if Emmy hadn't returned to be the arbiter for the tournament then Dahlia would have been the arbiter and Dahlia had looked forward to this since she was young, and also because she stayed back, it should have been Dahlia instead of Emmy.

Places from the past are usually much smaller than you remember when you return to them years later, shocked that they'd ever managed to command so much space in your brain at all.

Then there's the stupid reason for Emmy leaving the town and staying away for almost a decade. By the way, this actually sounded a lot like The Ex Hex but the other way round but equally stupid. So, almost nine years or a decade ago, Emmy was with Gareth Blackmoore for one summer and Gareth kept their relationship a secret and broke her heart so she had to get away and for this very stupid reason she stayed away even when she became an adult. If the reason would have been that the Harlows weren't as powerful as the other families and Emmy didn't want to stay in a town where she was weak in the magical department, I would have accepted the reason. Yes, they do mention this too but the main reason was that Gareth broke her heart eons ago and that's why she stayed away from her family and her best friend, and even magic. The magic is actually rooted in the town so if you go away, your magic fades away too. That's why none of the other witches ever leave the town or go far away. Also, I didn't like Emmy's relationship with her parents. She's the only child and she not only leaves her parents, but she also doesn't even invite her parents to Chicago for a visit. Not even once. She was a pretty crappy daughter along with being a crappy friend to Linden Thorn.

Along with this, I hated how Talia and Linden come up with another stupid plan to get back at Gareth because he was dating both of them together and they also rope in Emmy and of course, Emmy also wants to get back at Gareth for the same stupid reason that I just explained. I mean, they are adults so instead of dealing with things like adults, they deal with it like young adults. They spend a lot of time on this too. As I said, it reads like a YA plot.

I also didn't like the romance if I can call it a romance because I did not see any romance. There was also no chemistry between Emmy and Talia. Everything happened so fast between them including that misunderstanding. I couldn't care about that aspect at all.

Now onto the things that I enjoyed. I liked the witch tournaments but I do have to say that they were straight out of Harry Potter. I mean they were copied completely.

I also liked the writing. It flowed and made me read page after page even though I didn't like the main character.

Besides Emmy and her stupid reasons, I did love all the other characters. I loved Talia Avramov the most and I wish we had a dual POV. All the other characters were done really well. I also liked the magical aspect and all the secrets that were revealed.

I guessed what the second book would be about even before reading the blurb about that and I will be reading that. Out of the adult witchy books from 2021, I think this is the best even though this could be better.

3 stars
Profile Image for Natasha Ngan.
Author 7 books3,317 followers
November 8, 2021
A perfect autumnal bubblebath of a book, full of withchy-ness, familial and friendship bonds, cosy small-town vibes, and a dash of spice. I can't wait to sink into the magic of Thistle Grove again!
Profile Image for Charlie Marie.
170 reviews68 followers
October 13, 2021
This is a perfect bon bon of a sapphic witchy romp, set in a quirky small town that’s like Star’s Hollow hopped up on magic and ectoplasm- what’s not to love?
Profile Image for Natasha.
496 reviews378 followers
August 12, 2021
Witches, exes, a magical town, a competition, and falling in love with someone you knew in your childhood. That's the combination of everything that appears in Payback's a Witch.

This book was delightful. Our main character Emmy teams up with her best friend Lin and a girl from her town named Talia to team up and get back at their mutual ex.

The storyline that takes the mainstage of this book is the compeition that is being conducted. It was a fun storyline.

The setting wasn't as visual as I would've liked, save for a few scenes. The trope of a town that is magical but with spells to prevent outsiders from seeing those aspects existed though there wasn't really much on why magic was hidden at all. It was pretty simple worldbuilding for the most part. Although the mythology around the town and the three main families was done pretty well.

The fantasy was pretty straightforward but in a good way. I personally do prefer simple magic systems. This book also included in the concept of people who marry witches becoming witches themsleves which I don't think I've seen much, if at all. So I enjoyed that concept.

The romance wasn't a big part but I liked it a lot. It felt pretty natrual.

All in all, I found this to be a good read and can see this being a good halloween book.
Profile Image for Anniek.
1,711 reviews627 followers
October 5, 2021
If you read one witchy book this spooky season, make it this one!

This was such a well written, atmospheric read, with amazing world building. There were all these details about the town that really built the scene and made it so easy to visualize. It was impossible not to love the main character, who had so much depth to her. Aside from this being a romance, it's also about whether or not you can grow into your full potential if everyone who's known you your whole life has boxed you in with their ideas of who you are and should be, which I found really relatable.

But the romance. Omg, the romance! I loved this sapphic romance SO much!! I could really feel the chemistry between them, and there was this scene which was basically like "show me all of your tattoos and explain them", and just... Yeah, you should probably just read this!
Profile Image for Ivana Grgic.
40 reviews
November 7, 2021
DNF😬 This had so much potentional! The title and cover are so cute, but the writing I can’t do. The beginning was good but it’s almost as if the longer the main character was in the town… the more confusing the way she spoke became?? I don’t know if this was intentional because she was “regaining her powers” but it did not work lol. Also there was literally no background or context at all to anything I just had to pretend I knew whatever they were talking about 😭
Profile Image for Averi.
18 reviews4 followers
October 17, 2021
Dnf 😬 too wordy, extremely slow plot. How does it take 60 pages to describe one 24 hr period where barely anything happens?
Profile Image for aarya.
1,210 reviews
November 26, 2021
2021 Fall Bingo (#FallInLoveBingo🍂): Astrology

3.5 stars

Easily the best of this fall’s witchy rom-com slate. I super liked the magical tournament aspect. I had a couple quibbles/questions about the worldbuilding but overall appreciated that it wasn’t hollow or surface-level, which is all I ask for. Re: the romance… hmm. I liked both MCs but felt something was lacking. Maybe it was the single POV? Too much focus on Asshole Gareth? I don’t know. But I definitely think this is worth a read and I’ll try the second installment in the series.

Disclaimer: I received a free e-ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Jude in the Stars.
832 reviews448 followers
November 24, 2022

So, this was entirely delightful… Magic and witches, broken hearts and revenge, friendship and kinship, romance and steam… I had a fantastic time listening and wish the other books in the series were sapphic as well. Alas, they are not, but this fact has no bearing on how much I loved this book, which can be read am looking forward to book 4 in the series, In Charm’s Way, which will also be sapphic. In the meantime, this first book can be read as a standalone.

Ten years after she left Thistle Grove with a broken heart, Emmy Harlow is back for what she believes is the last time. As the Harlow scion, she’s expected to act as arbiter during the Gauntlet of the Grove, a spellcasting tournament between the other three founding families. Emmy’s family is far from being as powerful as the Blackmoores, Avramovs, and Thorns, and Emmy’s always had a hard time feeling less than. Having lived far from home for years now, whatever magic she had has fainted progressively. Coming home is bittersweet: she doesn’t want to be here, she doesn’t want to feel happy here, yet she’d never relinquish her duty to, say, her cousin who would love to be the Harlow heir. And then there’s Linden Thorn, Emmy’s best friend. And Talia Avramov…

First of all, I love Emmy. She’s complex and torn, and over the course of the story, she learns heaps about herself and what she really wants. She’s also sweet and funny and considerate. Talia is hot, smart, powerful yet unexpectedly vulnerable, which only adds to the hotness. Everything between them, from the first meeting, worked for me. They made me laugh and squee (on the inside; I don’t squee aloud) and tear up. Emmy’s renewed friendship with Linden brought a lot of feelings as well. I also liked the world-building and secondary characters a lot. And the narration only adds to all that. If you’ve recently listened to Mistakes Were Made by Meryl Wilsner, you may recognize Jeremy Carlisle Parker as Cassie’s voice (as Quinn Riley). Each voice fits and the pace is excellent. Seriously, enchanting is the word for this audiobook.

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76 reviews1 follower
October 22, 2021
I wanted to like it but the main character is just do damn whiny. My god. She's so very put upon by anyone and everyone. She had a bad breakup in high school, so she ran away for a decade. She isn't the most powerful witch, so she never stops complaining about it. This is after she leaves the only place she can be magical, making her powers starve and, not die but go into hibernation. Like, if she can't be the most powerful, she's taking her ball and going home. The fuck? She talks about the big sacrifice she's making by coming home to be arbiter and really hates that her cousin thinks it should have been her, but her cousin was kind of right. She's the one who left for a decade and hasn't seen her family or friends for at all for five years. She's the one who hasn't done anything magical for literal years. I don't see how she realistically *could* do the magical heavy lifting of being arbiter, a big magical job for a big magical event. Her cousin should have gotten to do it. Emmy gave up the right to do it and it's genuinely surprising that she actually managed it.

She absolutely loathes this guy who broke up with her in high school. Which, I get, kind of. God knows I can hold a grudge. But also it's been *ten freaking years*. You've already let him have an outsize effect on your life. Maybe try to chill. Just a little. As an experiment, maybe try being less extravagant in your hurt fee-fees. The world won't end if you let something go for once.

The book tries really really hard to get us to be okay with her merry band cheating. And they kind of succeed? Like, I didn't hate him but I saw what they were talking about it hurting the town. That was bad. But I just never hated Gareth that much. I didn't like him, that's for sure, he's definitely not a good guy. But literally every time Emmy is narrating him it's just "he pouted", "he whined", etc and after a while it was just too much. This is unreliable narrator territory. I get she got her heart broken in high school. I get she hates him. He certainly doesn't seem like a good guy. But what the hell kind of characterization is this? This isn't a person to hate. It's some sort of weird cartoon character. To make it worse, he seemed like he was an actually competent cartoon character. So he's whiny and a bad boyfriend, but he seems like a competent witch. Like, he could have won and maybe should have. Maybe I was just reading it wrong but I had a hard time getting past the cheating aspect. Which wasn't even cheating when you broke it down, it was tactics and teamwork (which seems borderline cheating anyway considering its an individual competition) but they kept saying it was a plot to beat him and acted like they were cheating... which I guess amounts to nothing, but cheating bothers me and it was just very frustrating.

The romance with Talya was good. I liked it. Talya was awesome. Kinda feel she deserves better than Emmy but at least Emmy had personality. A lot of romances just have the romantic partner be a really vivid, interesting person and the POV character be so bland and boring that anyone can self insert. That said, I don't like Emmy's personality.

Also, small bone to pick but: their first night together, Talya is telling her about how her ex broke her heart by expecting her to leave and getting upset about it when she wouldn't even consider, then 5 minutes later Emmy... does the exact same thing and gets upset when Talya gets mad? Explain it to me.

Profile Image for Debra Akins.
249 reviews95 followers
October 5, 2021
This book was alright, but I really wanted to love it. I mean c’mon.. a sapphic witchy revenge romance? YES! I was thrilled for this ARC for my spooky season vibes. I hate to say that I struggled getting through this because I kept putting it down out of lack of investment.

A lot of the writing style / verbiage just wasn’t it for me. The pacing of the plot seemed to drag on. There were a lot of repetitive fluff parts that could’ve not been in the book and I don’t think it would’ve changed it. I can’t stand when things feel over explained via dialogue between characters rather than internal monologues.

It’s marketed as a romcom, but I wanted more for the the romantic plot-line for Emmy and Talia. I was so, so excited for a sapphic witchy romance and that’s been the major selling point of this book.

These things took away so much of my yearning to love this book. I know this is the beginning of a series, so I’m not going to give up on the rest because I love everything about the idea of this story.

Thank you to NetGalley and Avon Books for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Dylan.
434 reviews87 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
November 4, 2021
DNF @ 22%

I had been looking forward to reading this, but sadly it just didn't work for me. It really does just feel like a re-hash of Sabrina, in particular it feels very similar to the recent Netflix adaptation. I was also very underwhelmed by the romance content. The main character and the love interest are both bi which is very cool, however the extent of the romance content so far essentially boils down to "Wow, she has a nice garnet necklace. Omg am I in love with her???". Not interesting at all to me. Couldn't face finishing this and I certainly can't imagine this being a whole trilogy.
Profile Image for Sydney Books.
215 reviews2,608 followers
September 29, 2022
This was just a DELIGHT. Practical Magic meets Halloweentown meets the Triwizard Tournament all rolled into one spooky sapphic ball of FUN. This very much got me into the Halloween spirit and I am obsessed with Emmy and Talia forever 🥹🫶🏻
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