The pain of the inevitable.
That is what Rachel Griffin addresses throughout her moving debut The Nature of Witches. A tragic tale of inevitable feelings like grief, loss, and insecurity. Yet also an empowering tale of a girl that rediscovers hope, love and most of all herself.
In an America ravaged by an unpredictable climate – one where heatwaves appear in winter, and tornadoes form far from water – the ancient magic of witches is humanity’s last-ditch effort to survive the catastrophic environmental changes they have caused. Clara Densmore is a rarity in this world, a witch unencumbered by the seasonal dwindling of a witch’s power. Rather, her power peaks all year round, merging and adapting from Spring all the way to Winter. And that makes her the last hope her world has, even if it costs her everything.
Littered throughout the novel like leaves on the path during Autumn, simple and thought-provoking epigraphs hint at the emotional turmoil and physical dangers Clara encounters in each chapter, preparing us for a captivating storm of pain and affection for a character that only wants to belong. At no single point does Griffin relent on opportunities for character growth. Clara begins the story as a seed, trapped inside her own shell of grief and low self-esteem, only to break free and grow into a beautiful blue iris. The Nature of Witches, while commenting on the state of our climate, is ultimately her story and Griffin delivers just that.
Yet, I found myself feeling at a loss, despaired by the characters I could have also known.
Throughout the urban fantasy tale, numerous characters appear and go. Some stay whilst others materialise out of the air and swiftly return there. Though, Clara is such a complex, riveting character – I believe that this came at the sacrifice of deeply-developed secondary characters like her best friends, love interests, and teachers.
While this did sadden me, Griffin restored my affection for her debut through the sheer detail that snuck its way into every sentence. From botany to meteorology, every instance of life or climate mentioned was well-researched and animated in the text. Cumulonimbus clouds, the formation of hail, the language of flowers, and many other environment details were used to mould a world inside the story that was an exact replica of our own. The only exception being the witches’ magic, which even then worked in harmony with real science to avoid fogging the setting and political commentary altogether.
I devoured every word
I have to admit, I did not think that I would enjoy this book as much as I did. The first few pages were slightly jarring for me as someone that prefers third-person narrators over first-person, but as I read on, Clara’s voice clung on to me and I found myself flipping page after page to stay with it. And Griffin’s imagery was so calm and enticing – before I could stop myself, I was already 100 pages in. I was craving to see more of Clara overcoming the weather, Clara overcoming her trauma, and most of all to see her overcoming her fear of intimacy. I devoured every word as she bloomed to the possibility of love towards herself and others.
Written by a woman that adores our natural world, it comes as no surprise to me that the standalone The Nature of Witches is a New York Times Bestseller and is rated no less than 4 stars on Goodreads. With admiration and anticipation, I look forward for what Griffin will bring to our bookstores next.
Featured image courtesy of Cora-Laine Moynihan via wetransfer.com. Permission for use granted to Impact by owner. No changes made to these images.
In-article image courtesy of Cora-Laine Moynihan via wetransfer.com. Permission for use granted to Impact by owner. No changes made to these images.
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