Source: Harlequin Teen– I received a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Edition: ebook, 405 Pages
Genre: Paranormal Fantasy Anthology
Purchase: Amazon / Book Depository / Barnes & Noble
Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
A young adult fiction anthology of 15 stories featuring contemporary, historical, and futuristic stories featuring witchy heroines who are diverse in race, class, sexuality, religion, geography, and era.
Are you a good witch or a bad witch?
Glinda the Good Witch. Elphaba the Wicked Witch. Willow. Sabrina. Gemma Doyle. The Mayfair Witches. Ursula the Sea Witch. Morgan le Fey. The three weird sisters from Macbeth.
History tells us women accused of witchcraft were often outsiders: educated, independent, unmarried, unwilling to fall in line with traditional societal expectations.
Bold. Powerful. Rebellious.
A bruja’s traditional love spell has unexpected results. A witch’s healing hands begin to take life instead of giving it when she ignores her attraction to a fellow witch. In a terrifying future, women are captured by a cabal of men crying witchcraft and the one true witch among them must fight to free them all. In a desolate past, three orphaned sisters prophesize for a murderous king. Somewhere in the present, a teen girl just wants to kiss a boy without causing a hurricane.
From good witches to bad witches, to witches who are a bit of both, this is an anthology of diverse witchy tales from a collection of diverse, feminist authors. The collective strength of women working together—magically or mundanely–has long frightened society, to the point that women’s rights are challenged, legislated against, and denied all over the world. Toil & Trouble delves deep into the truly diverse mythology of witchcraft from many cultures and feminist points of view, to create modern and unique tales of witchery that have yet to be explored.
This year I’ve been doing something I never do, which is to read books that fit the current season and one of the first one I decided to tackle this October was Toil & Trouble! I love reading about witches and magic because there are so many ways you can explore those topics, and this anthology provides a fun little diverse read.
Like all anthologies, this has some hits and misses in it, and since there are so many stories I’ll only focus on those that stand out for whatever reason. The One Who Stayed by Nova Ren Suma, is true to her style and has that signature eerie yet almost ethereal style. I love how twisty her stories are and how even if you see the major twist coming she’ll definitely get you with the delivery and unique character voices. Daughters of Baba Yaga by Brenna Yovanoff is a witchcraft that is on the edgier side with one openly larger than life character who can work over people in sly ways and one that is all teeth. I totally dig angry stories like this and it just worked. Death in the Sawtooths by Lindsay Smith is more of an urban fantasy type story and I would read the hell out of a longer series if it existed. It has a really cool magic system and a pretty stellar MC to follow. Only one of the stories included in this anthology fell below 3 stars, which was The Moonapple Menagerie by Shveta Thakror. It wasn’t’ bad per se, I just didn’t mesh with it for some reason. I thought the imagery was great and I really loved the South-Asian influence on the story, but I just felt somewhat bored by the overall idea I suppose.
Many of the other stories were enjoyable and fairly varied in nature too. There is plenty of romance to be had, a few that run on intense emotions, and some that dip into horror as well. In addition to that, there is some great diversity in terms of characters and cultures represented. There is some great LGBTQA representation (lesbian, bisexual, and trans to be exact), and some great racial diversity (latina, south Asian, black, & native American).
Overall Toil & Trouble was a fun read with a great variety to choose from, and certainly more than a few authors I”m interested in checking out the backlists of.