The Nature of Witches by Rachel Griffin takes a new spin on contemporary fantasy and uses unique worldbuilding to tell a powerful story about change.
Clara is not like other witches. Usually a witch belongs to a season. While they have power all year round, they are strongest in their season and their magic is specific to that. But Clara is an Everwitch—all of the seasons combined. She burns hot in the summer, and immediately cools on the first day of fall, and so does her love. That’s not the only reason why she’s alone, though. Her magic is extraordinarily powerful, and it seeks out and attacks those she holds too closely. It killed her parents and her best friend, and so she is determined never to get close to anyone again. She keeps herself isolated in a cabin, away from the rest of her school, afraid of her magic.
Unfortunately, her magic is just what the world needs. Witches have always kept the natural world in balance, protecting humanity from dangerous storms and wildfires. As the non-witches, or “shaders,” continue to push the world to its limits, however, the climate becomes more and more erratic. Witches are dying in record numbers as they stretch their powers to their limits. Clara’s special powers might be the solution. Her school pushes her to learn to control them. But when she accidentally kills her favorite teacher, Clara is more determined than ever to rid herself of her powers once and for all.
Hoping to push her, the school brings in a new teacher and his mentee, Sang. Sang is a spring witch who loves plants and might be the kindest person Clara has ever known. She knows she can’t risk falling in love, but the more time she spends with him, the more she wants to give up everything to be with him. Things become more complicated, however, because Sang encourages her not to fear her magic. As she becomes more and more comfortable with her powers, she’s not sure she can part from them. Does a world exist where she can both embrace her powers and not fear losing those she loves?
The most compelling aspect of this novel was the concept, particularly the magic system. I was fascinated by the idea of tying magic to the seasons. The author really develops and leans into this concept. For witches, your season not only determines your powers, but also your personality. Winter witches are colder and more reserved, while summer witches are passionate. In addition, the author uses this concept to make a statement about climate change. I appreciated the message because it was subtle instead of preachy, but incredibly powerful.
One area where I struggled was connecting to the characters. For me, the reading experience is all about falling in love with a wide cast of characters. This novel had very few. I did not dislike Clara, but I also never fell in love with her. As the novel went on, I began to empathize with her more, and I did like watching her growth. The one character I did love was Sang. He was sweet, pure, and perfect. He made Clara a better person, and ultimately, I liked her in the end because of him.
Another positive was the beautiful writing! All of the descriptions, from the setting to the intense storm scenes, were detailed and stunning. I would read this book over again simply to savor the writing.
For lovers of contemporary, elemental fantasy and sweet, hopeful love stories, this is the read for you!
The Nature of Witches by Rachel Griffin was published on June 1, 2021.