There was a little witch in every woman, but not every woman was a witch.
Seventeen-year-old Dayna Walsh is struggling to cope with her somatic OCD; the aftermath of being outed as bisexual in her conservative Irish town; and the return of her long-absent mother, who barely seems like a parent. But all that really matters to her is ascending and finally, finally becoming a full witch-plans that are complicated when another coven, rumored to have a sordid history with black magic, arrives in town with premonitions of death. Dayna immediately finds herself at odds with the bewitchingly frustrating Meiner King, the granddaughter of their coven leader.
And then a witch turns up murdered at a local sacred site, along with the blood symbol of the Butcher of Manchester-an infamous serial killer whose trail has long gone cold. The killer’s motives are enmeshed in a complex web of witches and gods, and Dayna and Meiner soon find themselves at the center of it all. If they don’t stop the Butcher, one of them will be next.
With razor-sharp prose and achingly real characters, E. Latimer crafts a sweeping, mesmerizing story of dark magic and brutal mythology set against a backdrop of contemporary Ireland that’s impossible to put down.
I went into this book with low expectations. I read it for a book club group chat I joined on Twitter and everyone kept saying it was just okay. Imagine my surprise when I fell in love with this story from the first page.
I love these characters so much. A group of women who form their own family and do magic? Yes, please! Dayna is so loyal and brave. Her struggle with OCD is so raw and relatable. Meiner is complicated, given her upbringing. She struggles with rage, but also wants to do the right thing and separate herself from her grandmother.
Cora is ambitious, deliciously so. Despite often being mean, I found myself caring a lot for her and how driven she is. Reagan is such a caring friend and the life of the party. The Callighans— Bronagh, Brenna, and Faye— are wise and loving. Grandma King is conniving and intimidating— you never know whose side she’s truly on.
Dubh and his brothers are sinister villains. Who they are and why they’re doing what they’re doing is the real mystery in this story. They made me genuinely afraid for the witches. Samuel I could honestly take or leave. He adds a true crime aspect to the story that helps Dayna and her coven solve the mystery, but I didn’t like him as a character.
But you know what I do like? Dayna and Meiner’s romance. It moves slowly, but realistically. It starts as a flirtation and slowly grows to something more. They’re not in love yet, but they care very much for each other. I love how they’re not afraid to be real with each other and call each other out. They also just have great banter. I genuinely melted for them.
The pacing of the novel may be slow, but the plot is exciting enough to carry it forward. Besides, Latimer spends a lot of time balancing writing the plot with building the characters and atmosphere. I’ve heard this novel described as “The Raven Cycle, but with witches and murder” and that couldn’t be more apt.
What’s more, Witches of Ash and Ruin is a great crossover read. Adults and teens alike are sure to love it. In fact, it’s one of the best YA books I’ve read in a long time. I’m truly blown away by how incredible it is.
There’s some great representation in this book. Dayna is bisexual and has OCD. Meiner and Cora are both sapphic. Meiner also struggles with anger. Reagan and her mother Yemi are black. Dayna’s mother Fiona has post-partum psychosis. I really appreciate how diverse this novel is.
I’m honestly shocked that Witches of Ash and Ruin isn’t as well-loved as other similar books. It’s fantastic, a wonderful story with actual consequences for the characters. I couldn’t be more excited for the sequel. I would absolutely recommend this book, especially if you’re a fan of books like The Raven Cycle. I promise you Witches of Ash and Ruin will ruin your life in the best way.
Self-harm (used to do magic), some homophobia/biphobia, forced outing (happens prior to book, but is mentioned), mention of/alluding to conversion therapy, alluding to/mention of physical/emotional abuse, mention of rape, & light body horror
Have you read Witches of Ash and Ruin by E. Latimer? What are your thoughts? Let’s discuss in the comments!