Book Reviews

Review: The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna

This sweet contemporary fantasy romance is exactly my cup of tea – it’s cosy, funny, and full of love.

Book: The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna

Publication date: 23rd August 2022

Ownership: Proof copy sent free of charge by Hodder & Stoughton. All opinions my own.

Content warnings: death, including death of parents (prior to book); childhood neglect.

As one of the few witches in Britain, Mika Moon knows she has to hide her magic, keep her head down, and stay away from other witches so their powers don’t mingle and draw attention. And as an orphan who lost her parents at a young age and was raised by strangers, she’s used to being alone and she follows the rules…with one exception: an online account, where she posts videos pretending to be a witch. She thinks no one will take it seriously.

But someone does. An unexpected message arrives, begging her to travel to the remote and mysterious Nowhere House to teach three young witches how to control their magic. It breaks all of the rules, but Mika goes anyway, and is immediately tangled up in the lives and secrets of not only her three charges, but also an absent archaeologist, a retired actor, two long-suffering caretakers, and…Jamie. The handsome and prickly librarian of Nowhere House would do anything to protect the children, and as far as he’s concerned, a stranger like Mika is a threat. An irritatingly appealing threat.

As Mika begins to find her place at Nowhere House, the thought of belonging somewhere begins to feel like a real possibility. But magic isn’t the only danger in the world, and when a threat comes knocking at their door, Mika will need to decide whether to risk everything to protect a found family she didn’t know she was looking for….

The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches is one of those books that I almost don’t want to write a review for, because I just want to press it into peoples’ hands and just say ‘read it, don’t ask questions’. This is going to be a hot contender for top book of the year for me – it’s so sweet and comforting, with a current of really pithy wit and some serious themes of healing and acceptance, and it was a total delight to read. It’s a hot chocolate book for sure!

The marketing has been pitching it as Practical Magic meets The House in the Cerulean Sea, and honestly, it’s way more spot on than I was expecting, particularly the latter comparison. Those who loved TJ Klune’s soft, warm story of finding acceptance will be delighted in how Irregular Witches plays with similar themes – the two books are pretty different on the whole, but the loveliness of the children and the discovery of how to build a life for oneself will resonate with fans of Cerulean Sea. Each of the characters here may have darkness in their backstories, may be hurt and hiding a part of themself from the world, but there’s so much warmth and genuine care for others in each of them that reading about their journeys feels very comforting.

All of the characters are wonderful – they’re all a bit strange, and shouldn’t work as a group, but they really do. Mika is a wonderful heroine, one who could so easily have fallen into ‘manic pixie dream girl’ territory, but who instead feels like a warm, slightly weird friend. I loved her right away, with her balance of practicality and whimsy, and her sunshiny nature concealing years of hurt. Also easy to fall for is love interest Jamie, a prickly librarian who would do anything to protect and support his charges. The kids are well-written and funny (and they feel the ages they are too!) and the other staff on the estate are just as engaging, my favourites being fabulous actor Ian (definitely not McKellen, oh no, of course not) and his down-to-earth husband Ken.

The magic is almost secondary to the character development here, and yet I loved how it was depicted. Mika’s frustrations with the solitary life of a witch are valid, but they don’t diminish the joy she gets from actually doing her witchcraft. I enjoyed every scrap of description of her making her teas, and all the little things like the anti-dog-hair spell (I could really use an anti-cat-hair one!). I also loved seeing her have to work out how to teach the children, who have much wilder magic than she’s used to using, how to control their magic without dampening their creativity and enjoyment. I was a little worried when I opened this book up and saw it was set in the modern day, but rest assured there’s more than enough magic, even if they have mobile phones too.

This book is, honestly, delightful – so cosy, witty, and heartfelt. I’m pretty sure it’s either the kind of thing where you know already if you’re interested or not, and if it does sound like you might like it even a bit, I’m willing to bet you’ll end up loving it as much as me. Five out of five cats!

One thought on “Review: The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s