The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Secrets can protect you. But they can also hurt you.
In an alternate Britain where anti-magic sentiments are high and a misfired spell has resulted in all magical children becoming orphans, Mika Moon has only known isolation and mistrust. She doesn't create strong ties and she definitely does not put down roots. But when a strange message on her social media account lures her to the mysterious Nowhere House, Mika has to decide if she should leave and report them to Primrose, ultimately separating three young children (and letting them grow up miserable under the very same Rules she's always hated)...or if she should stay and teach the three young witches how to control their magic (and maybe give them a sense of belonging and a semblance of a normal life).
The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches is a beautiful story of belonging, acceptance, and found family. The longer Mika stays, the more she realises that maybe the way she was brought up wasn't quite right, even if the strict rules were put in place for her protection. The strange assortment of adults in the house - a retired actor and his gardener husband, a long-suffering housekeeper and a prickly librarian - soon show her what it means to live in community and love each other sacrificially, even when they're at odds with each other. It makes her want to finally set down roots - especially with that hot, prickly librarian who is oddly spending a lot of time with her.
In that light, I suppose you can also read the story as a fantasy romance - with all the predictability that that involves: secrets kept, revelations that come just a little too late, a betrayal of trust. Can Mika and Jamie truly trust each other when the starting point of their relationship was built upon a web of lies? Secrets are costly, but they're not the only ones keeping them. (I did somewhat see that twist coming.)
Overall, the book is a funny and heart-warming read, though not exactly clean. There is quite a bit of swearing and a sex scene somewhere in Chapter 26 - so despite its overall feel-good nature, not exactly one for younger readers.
Note: I received a digital ARC of this book from Hodder & Stoughton via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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