This book is a love letter to our earth and a plea to save her
The moment I saw the gorgeous hardcover copy of The Nature of Witches, I knew the book would grace my shelves.
As a kid, I loved reading about witches more than anything else, but that part of my reading life has faded into the background over time. When I picked up this book, I was at once reminded of why I loved these stories.
Yet for all the familiarity of that feeling of sinking into a world where magic is possible, this is a fresh and modern take on witches and magic. One that reminds us that climate change is no longer a myth or a legend, but a reality.
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The Nature of Witches follows the story of Clara, who is a rare kind of witch — an Ever witch, whose magic changes with the seasons rather than being tied to a single time of year.
While most witches have their season of strength, then fall back to let the others shine, Clara’s magic transforms with the turn of the sun. She is a Summer, Autumn, Winter, and Spring all wrapped into one.
In this version of our world, witches help keep the climate in check, working with the Earth to keep balance. Except that non-witches have delved too deeply, and out-of-season weather challenges the witches who weren’t born to work with it. Each seasonal power has its gifts and its weak spots, and as the weather patterns detach themselves from the seasons, the witches struggle to keep up with managing the atmosphere they way they used to.
Clara’s unique power may be the key to keeping disaster at bay — but at great personal cost. Her powerful magic seems linked to her emotions, and has attacked those she loves most, drawn by her connection to them.
I worried that the climate change core of this story might feel too real, too bleak. That the delight and wonder of magic would be overshadowed by a very real fear that our own world lacks the power to combat a crisis we’ve had a hand in creating. There are, after all, no Ever witches here to help restore balance.
And there was some of that, to be sure. But Griffin balances the realities and risks of climate change with the heart and delight of magic, of Clara’s relationship to the Sun and her powers. This is a world that looks and feels like ours, but holds its own magic all the same.
At first, I had a bit of trouble grasping onto Clara as a narrator. She changes with each season, her powers shifting along with her desires to match the weather. In Summer, she is full of passion. Come Autumn, she begins to cool.
But, as she begins training with Sang and becoming more confident in who she is and what her powers are, we start to get a sense of who she is deep down, beneath the superficial changes wrought by the Sun’s movement across the sky. As she begins to understand who she is, so too does the reader.
Like many YA novels, the adult characters are a bit one note at times, reminding me of the professors of That Wizard School a bit as they each fulfilled particular roles in Clara’s life without too much nuance.
Still, the magic system and the relationships between Clara and her friends are what really makes this book shine. The seasonal take on witches’ powers makes a ton of sense, following the Wheel of the Year as many real-life witches do, with each season embodying particular energies. It felt natural and authentic, integrating easily into a world that otherwise looks much like our own.
In all, this was a magnificent read that feels relevant and pressing for our times, reminding us that there is no magic solution for climate change while also leaving a sense of hope that we have the ability to make a difference all the same.
I recommend this book to those who love stories about witches and who love the natural world and, frankly, to anyone who’s looking for a story with a fresh approach to the idea of magic and the “chosen one.”
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