SPOILER WARNING - I tried really hard not to spoil this book for any potential reader but there may still be some things which can be considered to be spoilers so please read with caution. If you want to go into this without knowing anything about it, read it yourself and come back to read the post afterwards!
When I was 17, you would not catch me picking up any book that didn’t include some kind of magical or mythical elements. The world of the unknown? Ghouls, werewolves and vampires? YA fantasy novels with creatures of every description living in an underground society? Sign me up. I was hooked. I was obsessed with the vampire trend, a devoted follower of the ‘Edward vs Jacob’ debate and a hard-core fangirl of the television series ‘Supernatural’. It meant that my taste in books ranged from visionary to highly questionable.
Nowadays, I don’t often opt for those kinds of stories, even though I am writing one myself (as a homage to my younger self). My reasoning has always been that I didn’t want to be influenced by anyone else’s stories or creations when writing my own but every time I saw ‘Stray Witch’ pop up on my Twitter, I found myself resisting the urge to buy it then and there.
It was an itch that I was avoiding scratching. A thorn in my side that I wouldn’t pluck out. An obstacle in my path that I kept finding ways to walk around rather than face head-on.
This wasn’t because I was under any impression that it wouldn’t be worth the read. Believe me, I did not doubt that Eva was a far more capable writer than myself who had world-building, story-telling talents that I could only dream of. I just kept telling myself not to go near it until I had finished writing my debut ‘Reaper’.
However, despite my best efforts, I couldn’t get away from how much I wanted to read this one.
The first thing that drew me to this book was the title - ‘Stray Witch’ - even reading that phrase out loud would fill me with anticipation. I was so intrigued by this idea of a ‘stray’ character (brooding and mysterious in my mind) and how this concept would affect her witching abilities and play into the narrative of the story.
The next thing was the inclusion of vampires. My kryptonite. I like to pretend that now I'm an adult, I am ‘over’ my vampire phase but this is obviously not true because I got butterflies in my stomach at the thought of witches and vampires colliding in this novel.
And the last thing, the nail in the coffin that made me decide to buy this book, was the mention of it being a ‘slow-burn romance’. I mention this a lot in my reviews but there is nothing I love more than a romance that takes its time and progresses gradually. I’m a sucker for longing glances, stolen touches and fluffy moments between characters. The uncertainty surrounding their interactions. The building tension. It makes the pay-off when they finally come together so much sweeter.
So, Eva, you got me. You got me good. I couldn’t run away from ‘Stray Witch’ anymore.
I’ll just say it straight away - I loved it. This book was everything I hoped it would be and lived up to my high expectations. It had humour, commentary on social topics, infinite detailing of the world and the characters within. Eva’s writing is so gripping, especially during tense encounters and there were times where I found myself ignoring my partner when he spoke to me just so I could get to the end of a chapter (when he reads this, he’s going to be livid).
I only have one complaint and really it’s not much of one. It’s also subject to my personal preference for books. There will be many people unbothered by this so take it with a pinch of salt. Skip ahead to all the fun stuff if you like. I’m going to be listing my favourite things after this paragraph.
It felt, to me, that the story was hindered by its cliff-hanger ending rather than benefited from its inclusion. I am a very strong believer in stories needing to reach completion in some way rather than relying on the addition of a sequel to end that particular plot. This is not to say that I don’t like sequels or trilogies. On the contrary, I really enjoy them. I also believe that this book fully deserves its sequel because it was enjoyable to read. I just wish that certain things were tied up before we reached the final page.
I don’t want to spoil the plot for anyone intending to read this book so I won’t mention any specific examples of what I mean. There were just certain things that I would have liked to have seen resolved in some kind of manner rather than left for the next book.
I will still be picking up the next book and I am very excited to read about Alba’s adventures going forward. She’s a witty, strong and relatable character that so many people will like and root for. I even found myself hoping good things would happen to her because I liked her that much and seeing some of the crueller moments of her life made me feel protective of her.
As I did with my last review, I am going to list three things that I liked about this story. Things that I think you, as a potential reader, may like too.
This is a fairly obvious one for those of you who have read this book. Clarence is Alba’s vampire love interest in the story and I think he may be the best vampire character that I have come across so far in my years of reading vampire stories. In fact, he is my favourite character in the whole book. He’s thoughtful, charismatic and beguiling but he also has these moments of vulnerability that make him so endearing to read about. You can understand why Alba is attracted to him because he has this mysterious edge to him but he’s also very open with her. You can tell he cares and genuinely has her best interest at heart when it comes to certain actions (which speak louder than words).
I also like that the romance between them isn’t forced or rushed. Eva took the time to show us these two characters as individuals before working on their dynamic. I can tell that she put a lot of thought into their interactions and how that would inevitably change the way they view each other. It meant that the romance was well balanced and based on more than just an initial attraction or spark. They learn to trust each other but also to accept each other’s struggles.
17 year old me would have been Team Clarence...who am I kidding? 25 year old me is Team Clarence.
Without giving away too much detail, I thought the struggle Alba faced coming into her powers was a nice touch. So many YA stories put a heavy amount of emphasis on the lead character being ‘the most powerful’ from the get-go and from what I’ve read (given that there are two more books in this series to prove me wrong), Alba isn’t your stereotypical ‘chosen one’ with power on tap. She’s powerful for sure but she’s not when she first starts out. She has to learn to command her powers and that made her journey more believable and exciting to read.
Eva is one hell of a writer. I find her writing style very compelling and (if you excuse the pun) spellbinding. Her ability to construct an engaging, fascinating and vivid world is admirable and shines through her words. I found this book hard to put down and that is quite rare.
If you like descriptive and colourful writing that also doesn’t shy away from the gritty reality, I would highly recommend this book to you. I think you will find it to your liking.
Would I recommend this book to my friends? I think that answer is obvious. I would definitely recommend this to my friends (and my nan who is going to read it as soon as her kindle is working). The only people I wouldn’t recommend this to are those who are completely uninterested in fantasy, mythical creatures or the supernatural...but then I’d still say you should give it a try. It may still float your boat.
So as always, let me know your thoughts on this book. Did you love it? Did you hate it? Did you fall in love with Clarence like me? Tell me everything.
I would also encourage you to tweet or message Eva and let her know your thoughts! One thing we authors love, above all else, is feedback!
Sending my love to you all.
The Writing Community’s Biggest Fan - Hannah Writes