Book Review: These Witches Don’t Burn


These Witches Don’t Burn 

by Isabel Sterling

May 28th 2019, Razorbill 

Goodreads, Amazon, Wordery, Book Depository 

Hannah’s a witch, but not the kind you’re thinking of. She’s the real deal, an Elemental with the power to control fire, earth, water, and air. But even though she lives in Salem, Massachusetts, her magic is a secret she has to keep to herself. If she’s ever caught using it in front of a Reg (read: non-witch), she could lose it. For good. So, Hannah spends most of her time avoiding her ex-girlfriend, hanging out with her best friend, and working at the Fly By Night Cauldron selling candles and crystals to tourists, goths, and local Wiccans.

But dealing with her ex is the least of Hannah’s concerns when a terrifying blood ritual interrupts the end-of-school-year bonfire. Evidence of dark magic begins to appear all over Salem, and Hannah’s sure it’s the work of a deadly Blood Witch. 

Hannah will have to test the limits of her power if she’s going to save her coven, especially when the attacks on Salem’s witches become deadlier by the day.

I am not just disappointed in this book in its general contents, I am disappointed this is going to be a series. I got to the last three chapters and, with the way characters were talking, had this deep feeling of dread this was going to be a series, and when I checked Goodreads, I wanted to scream. I think this could have been concluded in this book. I don’t think it needs to be a series, I just think it’s being drawn out for the sake of it, when all major plot points could have been resolved in this book in the place of certain chapters that felt unneeded.

There is a lot of melodrama and cheesiness in this book. In certain scenes, I could almost imagine them in the old The Secret Circle CW show. It’s tropey without feeling like there’s any genuine emotion, and I guessed all major plot twists bar one due to the tropes and how I’ve seen so much of this exact thing play out before. I guessed witches, who the bad guy was, everything. The one twist I didn’t predict is probably one of the only parts of this book I didn’t feel disappointed by, and I’m glad that the author went there as so few YA books do.

I found the romances in this– exes and new relationships– unbearable and, in the case of the new relationship, insta-lovey. It was difficult to ever commit to authentic presentations of the relationships as they lacked substance and growth, and just felt like they were there for an added layer of drama. I couldn’t for the life of me understand why Hannah ever liked Veronica, either, thanks to how awful her character was. The new relationship had grown on me by the end, but Hannah’s hang ups prevented a lot of attachment to her character, while I really liked her new love interest.

Veronica as a character was just… terrible. She forces herself on Hannah even after Hannah explicitly states NO, and her body language in most scenes between them is always on the defensive. Hannah never gets an apology for the way Veronica acted, how Veronica is incredibly toxic and possessive, a jealous and manipulative character who gaslights and emotionally blackmails Hannah more than once. It’s frustrating that by the end all we’re told is they’ve moved on and that’s it. No apologies. No ever confronting their past properly. Veronica is the biggest hypocrite, manipulates Hannah to the very edge until she’s literally tearing things up in frustration and near a breakdown, and I honestly hate her. Hannah pining over Veronica was awful and tedious, but I at least wanted apologies and more than Hannah getting blamed for Veronica’s general shitiness as a human being. Especially when a revelation comes out about Veronica and someone else that really highlighted how nasty and hypocritical she really is, which made the ending and the sympathy we’re supposed to feel for her almost impossible to conjure up.

In general, lines are crossed and never properly addressed. Her dad, Cal and Lauren, and Gem (whom I adore) were all really great, but I had so many other issues. Hannah spends the whole book feeling pressured to hang around a guy who asked her out knowing she was a lesbian and made her incredibly uncomfortable, and I have no idea why this was done. Even worse is that Hannah never gets a straight apology from those responsible for telling this guy she was bisexual, just because they wanted a petty revenge. There’s also a subplot that should have resulted in the arrest of a male character and didn’t, for what purpose? Drama, of course, and the obvious red herring.

Her grandmother seems to employ fear tactics and, in some cases, physical violence and entrapment– however minor– in order to ‘control’ the order and ‘punish’ them, which was terrible to witness and made me question the covens rather than see why there is trust in them. Hannah’s mum uses magic to force truths out of her, truths that she deserves to keep private, and then never gets an apology for such an explicit breach of basic trust you should have in your child, especially considering it’s HER PARENTS refusing to listen to her that means terrible things are allowed to continue happening. I also feel that, while characters were developed, it just didn’t feel like enough with how long this book felt.

Hannah deserves more from others than she ever got, and it just made me so angry that the breaches of trust and consent were never addressed. Disappointed in this book, and I don’t think I’ll carry on with the series. I’ll be including content warnings, but feel free to skip over as there are some spoilers!

Content Warning: Non-consensual touching, non-consensual magic use, death of a parent, discussions of past abusive relationships, abusive ex-partner, some violence/gore, scenes of threat and danger


If you liked this review, you might like:

🍎Review: Starting From Here by Lisa Jenn Bigelow

🍎Recommendations: What to Read AND Watch if You Like Witches

🍎Review: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

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2 thoughts on “Book Review: These Witches Don’t Burn

  1. Pingback: August Wrap Up – seasonsofwords

  2. Pingback: 50 Bookish Questions Tag – seasonsofwords

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