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“Winter is the truest of the seasons. It’s what remains after everything else is stripped away. The leaves fall. The colors fade. The branches get brittle. And if you can love the earth, understand it when all the beauty is gone and see it for what it is, that’s magic,” Clara. –The Nature of Witches
The Nature of Witches
by Rachel Griffin
LGBTQ, Strong Female Character
Witches have been in control of the weather for hundreds of years, keeping the atmosphere calm and stable. Each witch has powers based in the seasons: winter, spring, summer, and fall. Shaders, or people without magic, depend too much on the witches to keep the weather steady, pushing the limits of the witches. Thus, shaders have been starting to think that the magic is infinite and, as Clara says, “As if this planet were infinite.” More and more witches are being depleted of their powers and dying, causing the witch community to grow tired.
Clara Densmore is not just any ordinary 17-year-old witch, she is an Everwitch. An Everwitch is a witch that is tied to all four seasons. It is a rare and powerful magic; she can use her magic year-round whereas regular witches can only use their magic during their designated season. However, Clara cannot fully control her magic, which resulted in the deaths of her parents and best friend, Nikki. Clara fears her powers, and she is scared that by using her magic she will hurt other people she loves.
Then, Clara’s mentor and teacher, Mr. Hart, dies. Clara must continue her Everwitch training with two new visitors: a teacher named Mr. Burrows and his assistant, Sang Park, from the Western School of Solar Magic. Sang, a spring witch who has an interest in botany, is tasked as Clara’s primary trainer, and soon becomes Clara’s love interest. As Clara struggles with her Everwitch magic and explores the romantic pull she feels toward Sang, she must decide if she wants to improve her control over her magic or be stripped of her magic.
The Nature of Witches is a riveting story filled with romance, self-discovery, and magic. Readers may become very emotional because they are immersed in Clara’s first-person perspective. The story focuses on Clara, which allows readers to understand her thoughts and actions. Readers watch as Clara switches between wanting to be stripped of her magic and accepting it. Clara’s mental struggle is relatable because she is deciding between what she wants, what would be “easy,” and her duty as the most powerful witch. In the end, Clara realizes that her magic is a part of her and is something she can’t live without. Through her experiences, Clara learns the importance of loving both herself and her powers.
Readers will meet several complex, lovable characters inside the pages of The Nature of Witches. Clara and the other characters are portrayed with depth, showing both their good and bad traits. LGBTQ themes are expressed through Paige’s and Clara’s romantic past; the two girls were friends who became partners. There were no labels put on either person or judgment from anyone, suggesting that it is wholly accepted and integrated into society.
Griffin also includes thought-out and vivid worldbuilding by using mystical and descriptive language. The Nature of Witches is engrossing and easy to read, so readers will fly through the pages. Although the inclusion of witches and magic that controls the atmosphere is highly fictional, the story’s main idea is based on the possibility of snowstorms in June and tornadoes in winter. Climate change has been a hot topic for years and this story serves as a reminder that our world is still suffering, and readers must do something before it’s too late.
The Nature of Witches lets readers know that the first step to help stop climate change is to understand the harmful things humans do that affect the climate. The book does not give specific ways to make changes. However, it implies that people will have to face some type of horrible disaster before they accept that things must change. As Clara points out, “We aren’t in this alone and shouldn’t act like we are; the atmosphere is hurting, and that’s a problem for all of us, witches and shaders alike. The challenge is great, and we have a lot of work ahead of us. But we’re in this together, and if there’s anything I’ve learned this past year, it’s that together is where the magic lies.” At the end of the day, we must communicate with each other and work together to effect change.
Griffin gives readers an earnest, thoughtful, and fantastical story about magic and self-acceptance. Both the characters and plot will keep readers interested. While The Nature of Witches has a timely and important message attached to it, the message is not shoved in readers’ faces. The story’s vivid worldbuilding, the interesting plot, and the lovable characters make The Nature of Witches the perfect book for readers who love fantasy and climate fiction. Readers interested in reading another fantastical story that shows the dangers of climate change should grab a copy of Spark by Sarah Beth Durst.
- Clara spends the day with her summer fling Josh. After a long day, needing the comfort of his warm body, she “take[s] Josh’s hand, and he follows me the three steps to the bed. He tugs me close to him, brushes his lips against my neck.” They “fill the darkness with heavy breaths and tangled limbs and swollen lips, and by the time the mood reaches its highest point in the sky, Josh is asleep beside me.”
- After a training incident with Clara’s ex-girlfriend, Paige, Clara remembers the time when they dated. Paige asked Clara to kiss her. “When our lips touched for the first time, [Clara] knew there was no going back.”
- Sang, a spring witch, as well as Clara’s trainer and love interest, almost kisses Clara. “‘Clara,’ he says, his voice rough with something that sets my insides on fire. ‘If you don’t want me to kiss you right now, you’re going to have to stop looking at me like that.’ But that’s exactly what I want, I don’t care that his lip is bleeding and I’m out of breath, I want it so badly it doesn’t feel like a want. It feels like a need.” But they do not kiss.
- Sang tells Clara that he likes her. Clara admits she’s tired of fighting her attraction. They hug and share their first kiss. “He kisses me as if it might never happen again, slow and deep and deliberate. There’s a gentleness to the way he opens his mouth and twists his tongue with mine, the way he traces his fingertips down the sides of my face and onto my neck as if he’s memorizing me.”
- After Sang and Clara’s kiss, Clara admits, “I couldn’t sleep last night, kept awake by the ghost of Sang’s lips on mine, by the way his hand felt pressed against my lower back.”
- Clara meets Sang outside a school building before their meeting with their teachers. “I can’t help the way my eyes drift to his lips, the way the back of my hand brushes against his.”
- Clara walks a campus trail early and goes into the woods. She suddenly hears Sang’s voice coming toward her, but she hides. When she sees him, she confesses, “I want to run to him and wrap my arms around his waist and kiss him beneath the branches of our tree, but something keeps me rooted in place.”
- While driving, Sang calls Clara impressive. “And before I know what’s happening, he pulls over to the side of the road, and I’m closing the distance between us, crawling onto his lap and wrapping my arms around his neck, I kiss him with the urgency of the water roaring down the mountainside and my magic rushing out to meet it.” They continue to kiss into the night. “His hands find my hips and his lips drift down my neck. My head falls back and I arch into him before returning my mouth to his. I kiss him until the sun sets and the moon rises, until my entire body hums with want.”
- During one of Clara’s classes, Sang comes in as a special guest. When she looks at him, “My face heats with the memory of his body under mine, his face tilting up to me, his mouth on my neck and his hands in my hair.”
- Clara hopes Paige can’t tell her heart is racing when she sees Sang. Clara remembers “echoes of his mouth on mine and his fingers on my skin and the way he breathes out when I kiss the notch in his neck flood my mind when I see him.”
- Sang tucks Clara into bed, and “he gives me a soft, slow, lingering kiss.”
- During the Spring Fling, Sang and Clara hug and admit how happy they are with each other. “Kissing him under the light of the stars makes me feel as if he is who I was always meant to find.” Clara admits to herself that Sang is magic to her, causing, “My lips [to] part, and the kiss deepens, each of us breathing the other in as if we’re the cool night breeze or the perfect scent of daphne.” When Clara falls backwards, “Sang follows, his mouth back on mine, and I think for a moment how perfect it is that two spring witches are falling for each other in the gardens at night.”
- When Clara breaks up with Sang, she put “my hands on either side of his face and kiss him through my tears and his.”
- In the aftermath of the solar eclipse, Sang runs to meet Clara and, “his lips meet mine, and I kiss him without hesitation or fear or worry. He weaves his hands through my hair, and his breaths are heavy, matching my own. I open my mouth and tangle my tongue with his, kiss him deeply, kiss him with greed and desire and longing.”
- As Sang and Clara lay in bed, “I close my eyes, bend down, and kiss him. He puts his hands on either side of my face and opens his mouth, and I get lost in him, lost in the way his fingers feel on my skin, the way his hair tickles my face, the way his lips are soft and taste like black tea and honey.”
- When Sang gifts Clara a journal, she thanks him and leans in to kiss him. “He kisses me again, then looks out over the meadow.”
- Sang summons a small storm in his hand and commands thunder while Clara commands lightning. Sang tells Clara thunder will always follow lightning and they walk up to each other, and Clara describes, “I pull Sang into me and kiss him, greedy, deep, long, and eager, soaking up every drop of him before I leave.”
- The storms dissipate and Sang and Clara cling to each other as they continue to kiss until the Autumnal equinox starts. “His lips are on my mouth, my neck, my chest, and I hold his face between my hands, run my fingers through his hair and down his back.”
- As part of training, Clara and the other summer witches try to put out a fire. Clara is taken aback by the memories of the death of her best friend. Clara thinks, “This is the first time I’ve been involved in a group training session since I was on this same field last year, practicing with my best friend. Since the magic inside me rushed toward her in a flash of light, as bright as the fire in front of me. Since she screamed so loudly the sound still echoes in my ears.”
- Clara’s teacher asks why she fights against her magic. Clara tells him that he knows the reason, elaborating, “He wasn’t here when my best friend died, when my magic sought her out and killed her in one instant, one single breath. But he’s heard the stories.”
- Clara is paired with Paige for her training on how to handle storms. Clara recognizes that the storm is unstable and tries to pull Paige away. Clara tries to tackle Paige before the storm hurts her but the lightning strikes Clara and goes toward the gold chain around Paige’s neck. “Paige shakes beneath me. I scramble off her and stay by her side.” Paige ends up with a burn on her neck but is otherwise unharmed.
- Sang accidentally poisoned his mother after growing a plant that has poisonous seeds that she put on her salad. He says, “She got really ill. Vomiting and pain, so weak she could hardly stand. My dad saw the seeds on her plate. He looked them up and realized they were toxic.”
- After the Spring Fling dance, Clara, Sang, and some of their peers decide to play the ring of fire – a game where the witches need to keep a lightning bolt alive without it dying or touching them while passing it to each other. During a round where the lightning starts to get too strong, it aims for Sang, and, “lightning enters his chest and shoots down his left arm, exiting out his fingertips. He convulses and is thrown several yards before slamming into the ground, shaking, shaking, shaking.” Sang passes out and “a superficial burn is already forming on his skin, an intricate, fractal-like pattern that’s deep red and looks like the leaves of a fern. It covers all the skin I can see on his chest and neck.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- During the Spring Fling, Clara is talking to Paige. On Paige’s breath is “the sharp smell of alcohol.”
- Badass is used twice.
- Shit and fuck are both used once.
- The book is centered around witches and magic. Below are some, but not all examples of the witch’s magic.
- Spring magic is calm as “its sole purpose is bringing beauty into the world,” says Clara. It helps plants grow and deals with spring atmospheric occurrences such as tornadoes.
- Summer magic is intense and bold. Summer witches specialize in thunderstorms and fires. Clara says, “No other season can absorb as much magic from the sun as summers,” making the season strong because witch magic derives from their connection with the sun.
- Winter magic is aggressive and precise. Witches with winter magic deal with blizzards, wind, the cold, and moisture. According to Clara, “Winters are more straightforward than anyone else. We don’t soften ourselves with indirectness or white lies or fake niceties. What you see is what you get.”
- Autumn magic is slow and steady, building “on an undercurrent of thankfulness and sorrow.” Since it is a transitional season, it is attuned to its environment and can easily change to accommodate it.
- Sang picks a fight with Clara, hoping to get her mad so she will use her magic without restriction and to relieve any anger built up between them. They have a small magic fight and by the end of it, Clara has unknowingly pulled spring magic from Sang to create a birch tree. When Clara uses her magic, “The earth shifts as a birch tree shoves through the ground and grows right next to us, tall and white and real. Spring magic heightened to its full strength in the dead of winter.”
- When Mr. Burrows takes Clara to a field test, she is trapped with a family of shaders. They are stuck in a field surrounded by a wall of rocks and a sunbar, a concentrated wall of sunlight, and triple-digit temperatures. To help the family survive, Clara creates hailstones to keep them cool. Clara is “in a free fall of magic, power bursting from my fingers and into the air, tossing the hail higher and higher as if it’s weightless. I create as much hail as possible, stones dropping out of the sky in rapid succession.”
- During the Eclipse of the Heart Music Festival, a huge storm breaks and threatens to flood the river. Clara must stop the storm and the river before thousands are flooded. As she tries to stop the storm, she “throw[s] my magic into the storm, and all four seasons follow, tumbling into the cloudburst and taking hold. Winter magic dries out the air, lessening the humidity. Summer focuses on the updraft, pushing down as hard as it can. Spring lines the bank of the river, forcing the water to hold. And autumn cools the air so it can’t rise.”
by Brynn Jankowski