Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement.

the honey witchI have mixed feelings on The Honey Witch. On one hand, it was a quick read with a—not quite enemies to lovers, more being jerks to each other to lovers—Sapphic romance. I liked the idea of honey being the source of magic; it is a miraculous product that never goes off, and bees are awesome. I appreciated the little details like the bee dying after stinging, and Marigold feeling sad about it. Ash being the opposite of honey was a bit of a stretch, but I always like to see opposing forces in magic systems. Honey brings life, ash (fire really) is destructive, but both work hand-in-hand to benefit the world.

For the first time, she thinks that she and Lottie may share a fate: They belong to no one. They are alone. Damn it all, why can’t they be alone together?

The cottage core vibes of the cover are spot on, but it’s not entirely cosy. There is a stereotypically evil ash witch to contend with. I wish she had been more of a complex character. The threads are there; Marigold’s grandmother said they once worked together, but now she just wants the power for herself.

For a powerful witch, her curse didn’t seem all that well thought out. The point of it was to stop the honey witch bloodline, but this is introduced as a world where people marry without love all the time. Marigold’s mother gets round the curse easy enough, and her grandmother just says there’s other ways to make babies. Yeah, you don’t need to be in love to get pregnant.

If it was a curse to inflict pain and suffering, it worked. But the way it was implemented, it was less about love and more about lust.

The worldbuilding just felt a little incomplete. At first, I assumed The Honey Witch was historical fantasy set in a made up English county (Bardshire), but as I read further, I began to doubt this. I’m still not entirely sure if it was meant to be primary or secondary world. The year is 1831. Marigold is attending a ball and under pressure to find a husband. Later on in the book, several queer couples are introduced and not an eyelid is battered, so it’s certainly not the real 1831, but then why leave in the idea that she should be marrying a man?

Marigold laughed then—what is so wrong about being a bitch? It is the closest a girl can be to a wolf.

And then there’s the inclusion of the poet, Tennyson. George not Alfred. The timing is right for it to be a real Tennyson, but George was the poet’s father, so it seemed such an odd detail to include. These sort of things distract me from just getting involved in the story.

I did go into this book with quite low expectations, and enjoyed it more than I thought I would. It came across a bit unfinished though, and definitely had some things I think an editor should have ironed out.

The Honey Witch is published by Orbit and is out now in hardback, ebook and audiobook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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