Crisp mornings and the first tinges of color on the leaves are heralding the fall in my New England town. Tomorrow is the autumnal equinox, the first day of fall. Equinoxes come twice a year, now and in the spring, when the length of the day and night are equal. For pagan folks, the autumnal equinox is also known as Mabon, a celebration of the bounty of the harvest. With harvest festivals, falling leaves, and Halloween just around the corner, there’s magic in the air that puts me in the mood to read about witches. Not so much the wicked witches, but the earthy ones who are connected to the land and in tune with the spirits.
Maggie Stiefvater’s new book, The Raven Boys, is perfect for this time of year. Blue Sargent was raised by a family of witches and told from a young age that she would kill her true love with a kiss. Consequently, Blue pretty much stays away from boys. Especially Raven Boys, the snobby rich boys who attend the Aglionby Academy.
Aglionby student Gansey has dedicated his life to searching for the tomb of the Welsh King Owen Glendower. No price is too steep for information about Glendower. Gansey comes from a wealthy family; he can afford it. Along for the ride on Gansey’s quest are Adam, the scholarship student, and Rowan, the troubled one. These three Raven Boys are hunting traces of the supernatural along local ley lines.
Chance meetings draw Blue into their sphere, where she becomes compelled by the legend of Glendower, the strange places it takes them, and the connections to the magic in her own life it suggests. With vivid characters, the suspense of a thriller, and an air of magic that is both beautiful and eerie, this is a very compelling book. The first of a promised series, it will leave you wanting more. Watch the book trailer with art and music by the author.
Another first book in a promised series, Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood is a dystopia set in a world that evokes the culture of suspicion of the Salem Witch Trials and the high society of Downton Abbey. Cate and her sisters have hidden their magic since their mother’s death, but the girls must enter society to either choose a husband or dedicate their lives to the Sisters by the time they turn seventeen. For Cate, that is only a matter of months and it is not her only concern. To prepare the girls for their debut, a new governess with a hidden agenda joins their household, while local Brotherhood officials begin arresting more and more young women under suspicion of witchcraft. Emotions run high and magic turns chaotic as Cate tries to decide between two suitors: her childhood friend Paul and quirky bookseller Finn.
A believable love triangle and a heartrending cliff hanger will draw fans of romance, while the inventive setting makes this book appealing to fans of a range of genres. As the plot unfolds, there are many avenues opened for intrigue in the coming sequels. Look for the next book, Star Cursed, in spring of 2013.
Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman is the quintessential witch book for fall in New England. Orphaned at a young age, Sally and Gillian Owens were taken in by their strange aunts Frances and Jet. Growing up in a creepy old house with a crowd of black cats where love potions were distributed to the desperate at midnight did nothing for the girls’ popularity with their neighbors. Tired of being outcasts and frightened of their own magical potential, they yearned to escape.
Practical Sally married young, while impulsive party girl Gillian ran away. Years later tragedy brings them back to their childhood home, along with Sally’s teenage daughters. Three generations of Owens women must embrace their magic to fend off an evil spirit and deal with the sweetness and sorrow that comes with love.
Published in 1995 as an adult book, Practical Magic is a book for more mature readers that will find the timeless setting charming rather than dated. The agonies of the heart, the strength of love, and the way the ordinary seems to sparkle with magic will appeal to many. A complex standalone narrative makes this a nice antidote to the cliffhangers of the other books in this post.
If all this magic makes you want to learn more about Mabon, Ellen Dugan’s Autumn Equinox: The Enchantment of Mabon is a good place to start. Recipes for food and magic are interspersed with stories about Dugan’s family and their celebrations of the season.
I’d say it’s time to eat an apple and curl up with a good book. Welcome fall!
— Erin Daly, currently reading Adaptation by Malinda Lo