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Book Recommendation: The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches

A warm and uplifting novel about an isolated witch whose opportunity to embrace a quirky new family — and a new love — changes the course of her life.

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 combined power doesn’t draw attention.

This book came up in my recommended read list several times, and I ignored it. Possibly because "warm and uplifting" often translates to pablum in my cynical worldview and the name "Mika Moon" seemed to confirm it. But then, it was reviewed in an article about "witch books" that turned the genre on its ear, and I decided to take a chance. So, if your inclination to dismiss the book runs along those cynical lines of my initial impression, IGNORE IT.

First, I just need to say it. The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches might be the most charming book I've read this year. It is NOT insipid, because it has a new twist on witchcraft and the found family trope while harkening back to classic spinster governess tales, such as Jane Eyre.

The story follows Mika, a witch raised by a succession of nannies and tutors after being brought to England from India by an older witch. The time period is roughly contemporary. Given the historical persecution of witches, modern witches form a loose society that limits mingling with fellow witches and hiding their identity. To protect herself as an adult, Mika never stays in one place too long. Needless to say, she feels isolated and alone. She compensates by making witchy videos on social media.

An unlikely group of non-witches (an elderly gay couple, a down-to-earth cook, and a grumpy Irish librarian) tasked with raising three orphaned witchlings see Mika's video and hire her as a governess so their young charges learn proper magic. Mayhem, hijinks, soul-searching, romance, and some plot twists you never saw coming (but are perfectly logical) give birth to a real family and changes the witch world as Mika knows it.

It has a diverse cast of characters and an enchanting cottage set in the English countryside that makes me green with jealousy. The book brings in just enough of the real world, such as social media and same-sex relationships among characters, to make it believable without preaching. Mika is a genuinely likeable but flawed character. Most people can relate to her sense of loneliness, and her lack of connection to others is palpable. I loved her sense of humor. The other main characters have great depth as well. When it comes to found family tropes, The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches covers all the bases and turns the trope on its ear.

Reviews teetered between being bored by the extent of the witchy content and wishing there was more magic. If I'm Goldilocks, I think she hit it just right. It's clear that the author knows her herbs and Sabbats. She also knows just how far to take the fantasy magic.

If you love magic, witches, and a bit of romance, this book is the perfect indulgence for your October reading pleasure.

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