I had such high hopes for this book. First of all, the cover had me entranced. It’s quite lovely and really sparks curiosity. Sadly, upon reading it I found it didn’t live up to my expectations and didn’t live up to the hype. Also… warning to you, but this review gets very snarky. I promise you I’m not a mean person.
In the Universe of The Nature of Witches, witches have lived alongside non-magic humans, called shaders, for centuries. Witches have controlled the climate using power from the sun, and each single witch’s power peaks during the season in which they are born. Clara is an Everwitch, a witch of immense power whose power has no peak but who can control the weather in all seasons. The problem? Clara’s power targets those she loves the most with disastrous consequences. Living a solitary existence, Clara wishes her power away, despite knowing that her power is vital to saving humanity as the climate becomes more erratic due to the shaders’ past irresponsible behaviors. When Clara falls in love with a fellow student visiting from another school, she will have a choice to make. Will she allow her power to be stripped, saving the boy she loves and allowing herself to be with him, or will she further isolate herself in order to hone her powers and save humanity?
In the essence of being totally fair, I first want to talk about what worked for me, because this novel has a lot of positive aspects. Firstly, it’s a unique take on the popular witch tale that blends together the classic themes of witching with a naturalist approach, pulling in current events with the climate change tie-in. It’s true that our ecosystems have their own systems of checks and balances, and human behaviors do a lot of damage to these systems when we disrupt the natural order. Using witches and their powers as natural guardians for the planet is quite clever, and that’s one of the things that most excited me about this book.
There were also some lovely passages and lovely scenes. I especially liked the way Sang and Clara left messages for one another with the flowers during a period where Clara felt the need to distance herself from him for his safety. Both understanding the symbolism behind each plant, they were able to communicate without actually meeting. This was a beautiful concept, and it made me feel like I was misjudging Clara, because it’s the one time I felt like I was really seeing an important part of who she was. But for the rest of the book I basically couldn’t stand her.
That brings me to what I didn’t like, and it was typically wrapped up in Clara’s character. She was a snotty little brat most of the time who sat around feeling sorry for herself. Sure, she acted as if she was doing it to protect other people, but she never tried to figure out what to actually do about it without hurting other people mentally and emotionally. And, seriously, you basically know that the fate of the entire world rests on your shoulders and you’re the only one who can save the entire planet, and you would even consider stripping yourself of that power just so you can have a boyfriend? Truly, how selfish and irrational can one person be? If this seemed to be just a momentary phase in this book, I may have overlooked it. But it just so happened to be the main conflict, which slowed the pace and made the whole thing seem monotonous and infuriating. Consequently, I never really grew to like Clara at all, and I tended to celebrate when one of the other characters called her out for her ridiculous behavior. Both Sang and Paige were much more compelling characters, and they both deserved better than Clara if I’m being honest. I didn’t actually feel a connection between Clara and anyone, including Sang. I realize this all comes across as a little harsh, because I do understand that Clara had been through some devastating losses in her life for which she felt responsible. And I do realize this was her reckoning with her past and her future, figuring out her place. But there were simply things I couldn’t overlook.
Speaking of monotonous, the love story. Perhaps I am over the whole YA romance genre in general. Maybe I just don’t remember what it was like to be young and “in love” and over the moon with someone for the first time. I am, after all, a 37 year old woman and I’ve just passed my 15th year of marriage, so perhaps I’m jaded. I understand that’s a powerful feeling and young people have a hard time setting that aside to focus on, I don’t know… the coming apocalypse or something trivial like that. But if you are facing the coming apocalypse and can’t stop getting distracted by the fire in your loins, get out of the way and let someone else take over the hero stuff, because you’re going to get me killed. And I don’t like that. Don’t get me wrong, I realize a lot of people like this concept in fiction and find it swoon worthy. That’s just not me. I’m way too cynical and get annoyed easily with the mushy stuff when it distracts from the plot. I was told she was head over heels in love with Sang, but for the life of me I couldn’t figure out why. They didn’t have much chemistry. I could kind of see why she liked him, but I couldn’t see what attracted him to her. She was kind of a jerk for more than half the book.
Ok, now I have to touch on my biggest problem of the whole book, and in doing that I have to give away the end. I’m so sorry, but I found the ending so laughable I couldn’t contain myself. So here’s your warning…
I’M ABOUT TO COMPLETELY SPOIL THIS BOOK!!!!! STOP READING IF YOU MUST RIGHT HERE!!!
I’m sorry, but once I realized this, I could not stop finding it funny. Clara had to reset herself and then everything was fixed. Just like that. The eclipse drained other witches of their power completely, but Clara was the only exception to the rule. In her case, there was a bug in her software and she needed to reboot. And she was way too willing to try this despite the fact it was barely a theory (which she had just read for the first time about 30 minutes before), and if it didn’t work everyone on Earth was screwed. Alas, all was fine and everyone got what they wanted, the world was saved, and Clara hopefully gets to satiate that sexual frustration before she winds up blowing up the world herself with the sheer force of her explosive desire. Oh, Happy day! It was all just terribly convenient for me, and I had trouble buying it.
I also consider myself a very environmentally conscious person, and I thought Sang’s little project of finding a way to murder weeds without causing them the pain of pulling them was utterly ridiculous. A very petty issue, but it made me do a fair amount of rolling my eyes. I love the Earth, but WEEDS??? Again… harsh, I know.
Anyway, I know my reaction isn’t typical. I know this book is getting rave reviews among readers, making me the exception rather than the rule, but this just wasn’t the book for me.
Published June 1, 2021 by Sourcebooks Fire. ISBN 1728229421. 384 pages.