I don’t know about you but I’m always drawn towards stories about witches. Nothing too fantastical, of course. I prefer more of a contemporary urban setting. And the book that I’m going to talk about today ticks all of my boxes. The Coven is a hard book to define. Is it a thriller? A fantasy? Maybe even a dystopian? I honestly don’t know because it’s ALL of those things. It’s genre-bending in such an interesting way which really worked for me. So yeah, let’s talk about The Coven by Lizzie Fry!
(Please note: I’m trialling a slightly different review format to create more balance so let me know what you think!)
Many thanks to Little, Brown Book Group and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
The Coven by Lizzie Fry
Date of Publication: 25th February 2021
Genre: Sci-Fi & Fantasy
Format: eBook (448 pages)
“Let me repeat myself, so we can be very clear. Women are not the enemy. We must protect them from themselves, just as much as we must protect ourselves.”
Imagine a world in which witchcraft is real. In which mothers hand down power to their daughters, power that is used harmlessly and peacefully.
Then imagine that the US President is a populist demagogue who decides that all witches must be imprisoned for their own safety, as well as the safety of those around them – creating a world in which to be female is one step away from being criminal…
As witches across the world are rounded up, one young woman discovers a power she did not know she had. It’s a dangerous force and it puts her top of the list in a global witch hunt.
But she – and the women around her – won’t give in easily. Not while all of women’s power is under threat.
First of all, this book reminded me of a lot of things I’ve loved in the past. It gave me Dan Brown vibes with the time-sensitive problem and the travel across multiple countries. There were certain things that reminded me of Buffy – the kick ass female characters, the fight scenes against the “big bad” and so on. And also a little bit of Children of Blood and Bone. I guess because magic is outlawed in both and those who possess magical abilities are essentially culled. So it wasn’t difficult to enjoy The Coven.
One of the most recurrent thoughts that I had while reading was that this would make a great film. It’s fast paced and constantly thrilling. And I’m fairly certain that this is deliberate because Fry is actually a screenwriter!
The Good Stuff
Okay, so here’s what I enjoyed about The Coven:
- Diverse cast of characters covering a wide range of gender identities, sexualities, races and disabilities
- Fast paced with LOTS of action
- Found family
- Gentle romance woven into the story that wasn’t overbearing
- Tackles big themes like power dynamics, feminism and inequality
- Really interesting to think about the big picture – how genocide has been used to purge certain groups throughout history and what that would look like in our time.
- Dystopian elements not farfetched as witch hunts have happened before!
The Not-So-Good Stuff
While I really enjoyed reading The Coven, I did have note down a few things that didn’t work or sit right with me.
- The use of racial slurs against indigenous people made me feel very uncomfortable. I suspect they were used to highlight the bigotry of the character but I don’t feel that they were necessary.
- At times, the story felt a bit too long-winded and certain things flew right over my head, leaving me confused. I often felt that I was missing a piece of the puzzle. This was especially the case in figuring out the relationship between Tansey and the Scourge. (I still have no idea.)
- One final gripe that I had was that one of the main characters is frequently referred to as “rogue sentinel” or “cowboy” throughout. At one point, they start referring to him by his surname and that confused the hell out of me. In hindsight, it feels like maybe a technique to dehumanise or other him since he is the odd one out. But at the time, it was a little bit irritating.
Overall, I really enjoyed reading The Coven and highly recommend it. If a fast paced witchy thriller sounds like something you’d enjoy, pick up a copy ASAP. It’s out in the UK tomorrow (February 25th) from all good book retailers including Bookshop.org*.
Witchy thrillers? Yay or nay? Let me know in the comments!