“I’m standing here, telling you how much you hurt me, and you can’t hear it. You broke my heart, and you didn’t even notice.”
In These Witches Don’t Burn, witches and magic are very real in the historical Salem. However, even with the magical lore surrounding the town, Hannah and her coven have to keep their elemental magic secret. In between learning magic and dodging her ex-girlfriend, Hannah has to solve the mystery of blood rituals and symbols suddenly appearing in her town, signs that a Blood Witch might just be in town.
I had extremely high hopes (and hype) for this book. Gay witches? Cute cover? Salem? It was the perfect match. I’m still super disappointed in myself for not liking it, but it just wasn’t my thing at all.
I was quite into it at the beginning, even if I had some issues connecting with and caring about the characters. It started off pretty light and cute, some fun magic, some cute flirting, a blood ritual here and there, but it got real serious real fast, and I was not expecting it. Like, this cute cover sold a nice wholesome witchy romance with a mystery spin and what I got was a far cry from that. There’s a lot of trauma and violence and stuff in this book as you go deeper and deeper, and while it’s nothing like some books I’ve read, it was a lot different from what I expected going in.
In terms of the plot, I found it to be pretty shallow overall. The sudden twist at the end was supposed to be super big and twisty, but in the end, I wasn’t really shocked or surprised at all. In general, I wasn’t all that into the plot, due to Hannah’s one-mindedness to them mainly being hunted rather than being the hunter, etc. It lagged at points to and there was a lot of Hannah not being allowed to go anywhere and constantly getting yelled at for doing it anyway. Downside of having surviving parents in YA I guess!
The world was the most interesting to me, but I still wish it had been more fleshed out. We learned there were three types of witches, but that there were also other ways to access magic without being a witch. It generally just felt very broad and shallowly defined, and I would’ve liked a stronger or stricter magic system. Even within the elemental magic system things weren’t really clear, Hannah both needed to learn things and couldn’t do a lot but at the same time it sometimes felt like she could? I don’t know.
The characters were generally okay, though I didn’t end up liking any of them. We had a large cast of adults, all her were somehow useless and very not suspicious of any of the weird things happening, which just led to a lot of random teenage scrambling and detectiving when the adults failed them (over and over and over again). I also didn’t personally feel the sparks in the romance at the forefront, unfortunately, it was a well-written f/f romance but I just didn’t feel the connection between them, which made a lot of the scenes fall flat later on in the novel. I did really like the best friendship that the novel was also partially centered on, and I liked that a female friendship was part of the focus of the novel.
Overall, I’ll keep my eye out on Sterling as her writing and stories mature more, as many of the issues did make sense for a debut, but unfortunately, I can’t say I loved this one.