I’ve always loved books about witches. Always. Witches have been a fascination of mine from a young age, and I constantly find myself picking up new stories with witchy protagonists, particularly of the young adult variety. Thanks to NetGalley and Wednesday Books, I now have another on my list. Spells Trouble showcases the start of a new series from mother-daughter writing partners PC and Kristin Cast. I had the opportunity to dive into this new young adult release, the first novel in the brand new Sisters of Salem series. Twin witches, magical trees and otherworldly entities? All elements that are right up my alley.
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Spells Trouble Synopsis
Hunter and Mercy Goode are twin sisters, the closest two people can be. They share friends, birthday parties, spells… you know, the usual. Being teenage witches will do that for you. On their sixteenth birthday, the girls are preparing to take their rightful places in the witching world. A ritual guided by their mother Abigail, the sisters must choose the goddess-or in Hunters’ case god- that they’ll be devoting themselves to, and who’s power will flow through them.
The ritual begins on the right track-however something rapidly goes very, unexplainably wrong. Something dark and demonic is unleashed, and Hunter and Mercy suffer a tragic loss. A dark presence is making itself known in Goodeville Illinois, and the sisters will need to discover not only the cause but find a way to stop it before their whole world is destroyed. With the help of their friends, significant others and the family cat-who isn’t as feline as folks seem to believe-they’ll find out more about their family’s history and themselves than they bargained for.
Spells Trouble: Time for Homework and Saving the World
I actually felt that Spells Trouble was a pretty fun start to the Sisters of Salem series as a whole. It delved into some darker subject matter at times, but kept an overall lighthearted narrative. Hunter and Mercy are compelling characters in that they’re written as true individuals despite their twin status. They have separate characteristics, traits that shine through as their own. Hunter in particular felt very relatable to this former teenager; shy, introverted and unaware of her own strength. She sticks to the sidelines while Mercy – the confident, comfortable in her skin sister – takes center stage. Having spent much of my high school life beside a louder, more charismatic best friend, this aspect gave the novel that much more realism.
The added element of sexuality, and young adults feeling pressured about the way they’re meant to act and feel was another characteristic that was expertly woven throughout the novel. Both Hunter and Mercy experience varying aspects of this; Hunter with her own sexuality and Mercy with what it means to share your body with another person at a young age, and the consequences that can follow that sort of massive decision in one’s life.
Mercy had no idea why, but she had a sudden urge to pull away from him.
That said, there was a slightly disjointed way of storytelling in Spells Trouble that I couldn’t quite put my finger on while learning about the sisters of Salem. I believe that introductory novels in a series are always the most difficult to write; there are all sorts of characters, back stories, and even entire worlds that need to be established. Does the author give an encyclopedia’s worth of details, or do they hold back most of the juicy elements? Are all of the characters fully fleshed out, or just their main cast? And foremost, what aspects of the story will the readers react the best and worst to?
These are all considerations, even for experienced authors such as PC and Kristen Cast, who have been publishing gripping YA content for several years now.
I loved the overarching story and lore of Spells Trouble, but I would have preferred if additional time had been spent on aspects of grief and its effects on a sisterly dynamic. This – along with a couple of other serious elements – felt a little glazed over. And the sort of dramatic character shift that Hunter experiences at the end of the novel was abrupt. This was done in order to lead into the next books in the series of course, but I would have appreciated a slower and steadier race to the finish line with it. Also reading American teens using British curses when speaking colloquially in an American accent sounded quite strange in my head, a character trait that I’m hoping it toned down slightly in later books.
Despite some missteps with the pacing and some character choices, I genuinely enjoyed myself while reading Spells Trouble. The magical aspects of the story were nicely interwoven into the plot and the witchy leads, as were the varying types of witches that exist – be they a green witch, kitchen witch or otherwise. I’m sure most young girls have imagined what kinds of spells they’d be good at casting if they had magical powers. It’s lovely cover art is just an added bonus for us lovers of beautiful book covers.
The story left me with a deep curiosity to learn more about the Goode sisters and Salem – the small glimpse into the other worlds that exist outside of their own reality is a fascinating one that I’m hoping is explored in depth in later sequels. I’m rooting for Hunter and Mercy, and I expect that their adventures will give their readers a true feeling of escape. I’ll be keeping an eye out for the next instalment of the Sister of Salem series, anxiously waiting to see how things turn out for these magical twins. Spells Trouble drops May 25th!