Just a cheeky little apparently standalone novel to close out my summer of witches (though, glancing at my to-read shelf, summer might become an autumn of witches too)—and how fitting that it should be a book where the seasons are connected to one’s witchcraft. The Nature of Witches is a delightfully straightforward tale of magic, love, fear, and growth from Rachel Griffin. As long as you don’t expect too much from it, you will be entertained.
Clara is an Everwitch, so rare that the last one lived over a century ago. Most witches find their magic tied to and characterized by the season of their birth; Clara, on the other hand, is equally strong during any season—at least in theory. In practice, Clara isn’t living up to her potential, or so it seems her teachers feel. In this world, witches live openly among nonmagical humans (“shaders”) and use their magic to control the weather. Climate change is making that more and more difficult, however, and the higher-ups among witches see Clara’s Everwitch abilities as crucial to changing that. But Clara is afraid: the stronger her power gets, the more likely it is to lash out and kill those she feels close to. It happened when she was younger, and she is determined not to let it happen again.
I really like Clara. Griffin makes it easy to relate to her fears and desires. She feels isolated by what she is, and she isolates herself even further in turn, compounding the problem. When the inevitable love interest shows up, she tries to push him away for his own good—classic. As someone who typically doesn’t enjoy romance, that subplot was probably the hardest for me to enjoy—at one point, I thought he was going to betray her, lol, but that’s just me craving more drama.
And therein lies my critique: honestly, this book drags in the conflict department. The conflict is there—both Clara’s internal agonizing over what to do about the upcoming total eclipse, as well as how she butts heads with her teachers, etc. But it never feels like it fully ignites, if you know what I mean? I kept waiting for something more intense to happen. Instead, the book just keeps plodding on towards the next summer.
To be clear, I don’t need high stakes! This was a great book to read on my end-of-summer vacation at my neighbour’s cabin on a lake. I don’t mind that we don’t see Clara saving the world or that there isn’t a nefarious plot by shaders or anything else another author might dream up to inject more tension into this story. That isn’t the point. Griffin is going for lower-stake, slow-burn character drama, and I am here for that—I just wish she had developed it differently.
Nevertheless, I really enjoyed the characterization. I loved how Clara, despite her understandable dislike of Mr. Burrows and Ms. Suntile, also empathizes with their goals. Rather than turn these two authority figures into one-dimensional antagonists, Griffin makes sure they are relatable humans, just trying to do their best with the resources they have—and that includes Clara. I also enjoyed Clara’s method of communicating with Sang.
I do wish the resolution hadn’t been quite so neat and tidy. Don’t get me wrong—I like a happy ending, and I don’t know if it was foreshadowing or just predictability that let me see this one coming. In an echo of my earlier critique, I would have liked to see Clara do a little more of her own sleuthing to figure out the solution she hits upon.
One final note of praise: I read this book as my summer was coming to an end, and I am writing this review well into September, with each day colder and darker than the last. This book reminded me that the passing of the seasons is beautiful, something to celebrate rather than to dread. Each season has its time in the sun; each has its purpose. Each will come around again. Ours is to appreciate it while it is here.
The Nature of Witches is a smooth, easy read. If you like romance and witchcraft and appreciation for nature, you’ll like this book. While I won’t be giving it any awards any time soon, I am truly glad I gave it my time, and it was a perfect read for the time in which I read it.