Published by Nancy Paulsen Books (1.30.2024)
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
Format: ARC, 400 pages
Zara Jones believes in magic because the alternative is too painful to bear—that her sister was murdered by a serial killer and there is precisely nothing she can do to change it. If there’s anything Zara cannot stand it's feeling powerless, so she decides she will do whatever it takes—even if that means partaking in the occult—to bring her sister back from the dead.
Jude Wolf might be the daughter of a billionaire, but she is also undeniably cursed. After a deal with a demon went horribly wrong, her soul is now slowly turning necrotic. Flowers and insects die in her wake and monstrous things come to taunt her at night. If Jude can’t find the right someone to fix her mistake, she fears she’ll die very soon.
Enter Emer Bryne: the solution to both Zara's and Jude's predicaments. The daughter of a witch, Emer sells spells to women in desperate situations willing to sacrifice a part of their soul in exchange for a bit of power, a bit of magic to change their lives. But Emer has a dark past all her own—and as her former clients are murdered one-by-one, she knows it’s followed her all the way to London.
As Zara and Jude enter Emer's orbit, they'll have to team up to stop the killer—before they each end up next on his list.
FIRST FIVE STAR BOOK OF 2024!!
Holy shit, ya’ll. This book was fuckin’ awesome!! I think going into this book totally blind is what made me love this so much, and I implore you to skip this review if you have not yet read it. The only thing I knew going in was that it was about witches, and I ended up being completely broadsided!
I read House of Hollow last year, and while I enjoyed it, I didn’t love it. This one blew it out of the water! This was the most unique book I’ve read since Blood Sister Scribe, and I ate it up. In the first chapter I was only slightly interested; but then Jude came into play, and her chapter was so grotesque and intriguing (umm, necrotic soul? Gangrenous leg?! Bargains with demons?!?) that I was like, okay ma’am, you have my attention. Then you find out Emer’s backstory – she was raised by demons, and has one named Bael that is basically her guardian and protector – and after that I was hopelessly hooked!
The magic system in this book was bomb AF!! I loved the difference between soul magic and blood magic, and how feeding those two different things to the demons had different outcomes and levels of power. The invocations themselves were awesome! Written on metal and fused into your skin to make a deal with a demon – thus tethering the demon to your soul in exchange for your power. SO. FUCKING. COOL. All of it was fascinating! I loved the fact that Latin was used to speak to the demons, and the demons’ own language (voces mysticae) made humans physically sick to hear.
Ya’ll, I fucking LOVE Bael. Emer only ever called Bael ‘it,’ but I can’t help but think of it as a him. And I knew from the very first time I met him that I adored him, when Emer asked him to do something and said he ‘always appears unwilling to follow her orders in front of other demons’ and from that moment on, he had my heart! I love that Bael was supposed to be an evil demon, yet took care of Emer and protected her. It was so badass that she could tell him ‘occide’ (‘kill’ in Latin) and he would eviscerate her enemies! (Is it bad that I want one? Lolll) I was waiting the entire book for her to use the heartspace spell she’d saved for Bael! View Spoiler »
There were a couple of nice twists in there as well that I didn’t see coming! I looove when an author can surprise me! The last quarter of the book had me allView Spoiler »
I also feel the need to mention that this book is delightfully dark and gruesome! There’s some pretty graphic body horror in a couple of parts, and it is definitely not for the faint of heart. Coming from me, this is a high compliment, because I LOVE gory shit. And I’m pretty impervious to feeling disgusted (it’s more of morbid fascination for me than feeling ill, not sure what that says about me), but there were a few parts that had me like-
And I was 10/10 here for it!! My faces while reading were probably hilarious!
There are 3 perspectives in this book – switching back and forth between our MCs Emer, Jude, and Zara – but I never had trouble telling them apart. They have distinct personalities and different backgrounds, so I never had to worry about getting them mixed up. I have to say though, Jude was my favorite! She referred to herself as ‘a deviant with swagger‘ at one point, and that was pretty spot on, lmao. Most of the banter between the girls came from Jude being a smart ass, and I was HERE for it. She was brash and unapologetic and maybe even a little feral, but she felt so genuine to me that I want to be friends with her! Zara was the hardest to warm to, because she’s kind of a goody-two-shoes and a stick in the mud. She had a big heart though! Emer came off as a bit of a bitch in the beginning, but she’s a total badass and was hard on the exterior because of everything she’d been through. They made for a great trio!
Two other things I want to note: 1) this is written in present tense, which is unusual (but was pulled off beautifully!), and 2) There’s LGBT rep! The romance takes a backseat to the action – which I really appreciated – but it was super sweet! View Spoiler » There’s also this beauty:
(explanation of why men can’t wield magic)
“Even the devil does not trust men to honor a bargain, so it does not deal with them. It offers power only to women.”
“What about trans women? How does that work?”
“Of course I have written invocations for trans women. Demons do not care about bodies. They only care about souls.”
FUCKING. BRILLIANT. I appreciated the undercurrent of feminist rage and girl power in the tone of this book, and the taking back of power in an unbalanced patriarchal society. How women can become the hunters instead of the hunted. HIYAAA!
Writing style: 4/5
Overall rating: 5/5