Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Toil and Trouble: 15 Tales of Women and Witchcraft edited by Jessica Spotswood and Tess Sharpe | ARC Review

Toil and Trouble: 15 Tales of Women and Witchcraft

Jessica Spotswood and Tess Sharpe

Brandy Colbert, Zoraida Córdova, Andrea Cremer, Kate Hart, Emery Lord, Elizabeth May, Anna-Marie McLemore, Tehlor Kay Mejia, Lindsay Smith, Nova Ren Suma, Robin Talley, Shveta Thakrar, Brenna Yovanoff

Release Date
August 28th, 2018

320 Pages



Where to Preorder

A young adult fiction anthology of 15 stories featuring contemporary, historical, and futuristic stories featuring witchy heroines who are diverse in race, class, sexuality, religion, geography, and era.

Are you a good witch or a bad witch?

Glinda the Good Witch. Elphaba the Wicked Witch. Willow. Sabrina. Gemma Doyle. The Mayfair Witches. Ursula the Sea Witch. Morgan le Fey. The three weird sisters from Macbeth.

History tells us women accused of witchcraft were often outsiders: educated, independent, unmarried, unwilling to fall in line with traditional societal expectations.

Bold. Powerful. Rebellious.

A bruja’s traditional love spell has unexpected results. A witch’s healing hands begin to take life instead of giving it when she ignores her attraction to a fellow witch. In a terrifying future, women are captured by a cabal of men crying witchcraft and the one true witch among them must fight to free them all. In a desolate past, three orphaned sisters prophesize for a murderous king. Somewhere in the present, a teen girl just wants to kiss a boy without causing a hurricane.

From good witches to bad witches, to witches who are a bit of both, this is an anthology of diverse witchy tales from a collection of diverse, feminist authors. The collective strength of women working together—magically or mundanely--has long frightened society, to the point that women’s rights are challenged, legislated against, and denied all over the world. Toil & Trouble delves deep into the truly diverse mythology of witchcraft from many cultures and feminist points of view, to create modern and unique tales of witchery that have yet to be explored. 

I really loved this anthology, and some of the stories in here were absolutely spectacular. I really loved the different settings, contexts, types of witches, etc that are featured in the book. I loved the diverse nature of the book -- there were no two stories that were the same, or even similar. And yet, the ways in which they were connected were on a cellular level. They all had the same messages, and inspired the same thoughts, while being entirely different tones.

Look I just really loved the book.

I don't have enough space to go through every story, so I'm going to just highlight my favourite ones. But know that I love all of them so much, and I love all my baby witches.

Tehlor Kay Mejia's Star Song features Luna, an artist, social media star of a Bruja, who strikes up a connection with a science, NASA loving girl on Instagram. I have never read anything by Tehlor Kay, and if everything she writes features characters like Luna, I'd be thrilled. I also really liked the complicated relationship between her mother and the generations before her. It added this really interested perspective, as most witches are seen as familial bodies, with information being passed down. I loved that this was the opening story, featuring a modern witch, debunking some old traditions, and featuring a Latina queer woman. So much love for this story.

The Heart in Her Hands by Tess Sharpe, one of the editors of the anthology, had such a beautiful concept and execution. I loved that Bettina was a kitchen witch, and that her story was built around soulmates and love. I just really loved the soft incorporation of magic, and that this was a story about Bettina being able to love who she wanted to. So beautiful and meaningful.

Lindsay Smith's Death in the Sawtooth was a really interesting story as well, that was completely on the other side of the spectrum from Star Song. This story is about Mattie, a follower of Lady Xosia, and therefore an outcast in the fantastical witch/wizard society. This story is a lot more structured, as in the magical world is more structured, than some of the other stories, and I really enjoyed that. I thought that the conflict between Mattie and most others in the story was intriguing, and the undertones about organized belief systems was right up my alley.

The One Who Stayed by Nova Ren Suma was haunting, plain and simple. A story, narrated by a collective 'We', it deals with sexual assault, rape, and the power in numbers. I won't say more about the plot, but it gave me chills. The way it presents a group of women helping others through hardships, and dealing with such intense topics was spectacular.

Jessica Spotswood's story, Beware of Girls with Crooked Mouths  was the story I was maybe the most excited for. I love her Cahill Witch Chronicles, and seeing her write sister witches again made me happy. And with family curses, beautifully integrated lgbt+ themes, all set against a beautiful Victorian setting made for such an intense story about family and the limits of magic.

Why They Watch Us Burn by Elizabeth May gives me chills just thinking about it. It's so beautifully written, sounding like a starkly honest feminist manifesto. The story, about 12 girls who are imprisoned for 'leading men to sin' aka who are accused of witchcraft, deals with the power that women have, and how women are viewed across time and society. The spine chilling style in which this is written in, matched with the intense feelings of hope and redemption, makes such a stunning end to this anthology.

Overall, This was a spectacular collection of stories, written by a collection of amazing women. And what you're left with when you finish, is not only the tales of these powerful, magical women, but the feeling that all of them are connected. That is something I wasn't expecting out of this collection -- an overarching tale of female power, courage, connection, and endurance. 

Such a beautiful collection, and I'm so glad I read it. 4.5/5 Stars.

Happy Reading!

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