Let’s face it – witch stories are great. Don’t hesitate to disagree, but I bet you wouldn’t be reading this article right now if you didn’t like at least some witch tales. Fortunately for the witch-loving readers among us, there is a growing trend to publish books featuring witches and other magical beings.
Last Saturday at New York Comic Con, I had the pleasure of discovering four of these books through the “Total Eclipse of the Witch” panel. Phoebe Cramer, editor at Publishers Weekly Magazine, led the discussion with Rachel Griffin (The nature of witches), Ann Aguirre (Witch please), Rebecca Mock (co-creator of Magic of salt with Hope Larson) and Scarlett St. Clair (King of battle and blood).
My interest was piqued when Cramer brought up the stereotypical idea that all witches are women. Indeed, if you were to ask an average child to describe a witch, you would likely hear of an ancient woman who cackles and stirs her cauldron or flies away on a broomstick. (The words “green skin,” “warts,” and “ugly” might also feature prominently, but I digress.)
This idea of a witch equal to woman appears in Harry potter and Fantastic beasts, although witches and wizards have no other magical differences. In two of the books discussed in Saturday’s panel, the term witch applied only to women, though none of the others had different names for the male and female versions of witches.
In Witch please, people are either witches or socialites (known as Muggles in the vernacular that most of us know), but being a witch has nothing to do with gender and everything to do with genetic. If anyone has magic, he belongs to the category of witches; otherwise, they are trivial.
Likewise, in The nature of witches, every magical person is a witch. However, magic does not pass from parent to child. In this world, a person born on a solstice or an equinox is a witch, having a particular type of magic determined by the season … unless she is an Everwitch. Once in a generation, a lucky child is born an Everwitch with the ability to wield the magic of any season. (A wise reader will notice that I didn’t say whether it’s luck or bad luck. I’m just saying.)
There are only two witches in Magic of salt; the Salt Witch and the Sugar Witch. Both are women, but neither are humans. Vonceil, the human protagonist has her work cut out for her when she tries to convince a witch that human affairs are even worth it.
Scarlett St. Clair designed King of battle and blood to be a journey of women taking back their power. Before this story began, men were troubled by the great power held by women. Not only were women the only ones with magic, there were no gods, just goddesses. The king decided to undermine the witches by spreading stories that witches caused plague and stole food. His offer of help was nothing more or less than a witch hunt. The recovery journey then begins with the start of the book.
Whatever your taste for literary witches, there is something for everyone between these four books. Are you looking for a magic school? The nature of witches has one. Maybe you’re in the mood for a good vampire story. If so, you will find one in King of battle and blood. If your taste is for the sweet and the funny, you’ll want to read Witch please. Look at Magic of salt if you are a fan of graphic novels or want a story set in the post-war land.
If you are looking for a witchcraft story that you can start right away, you will have the choice between The nature of witches, Witch please, and Magic of salt. King of battle and blood is not available until November 30, although it is available for pre-order now. I’ll be done with the first three by then. If you will excuse me, I have some reading to do.