A person can tell you anything, but bones—those tell the truth: A Review of Toil & Trouble: 15 Tales of Women & Witchcraft

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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.

I originally thought about reviewing this story by story, but they’re all so magical and wonderful that each one would end up needing its own page-long review. I will go ahead and say my ARC did have Tristina Wright’s story included, and that won’t be in the finished hardcover. So big props to editors and Harlequin for not giving voices to abusers.

This anthology is so important in so many different ways. There are own voices stories, there are stories with queer rep, Latinx rep, Asian rep…there are so many good things in this anthology, making it absolutely PERFECT for upcoming spooky-time reads.

The quote from the review title came from one of my favorite stories, A Death in the Sawtooths by Lindsay Smith. So many various “types” of witches are covered. Sawtooths features a necromancer of sorts, who just wants to do her job of settling a body’s last affairs in peace. The only story I wasn’t as fond of as the others was Moonapple Menagerie by Shveta Thakrar. There wasn’t anything “wrong” with it at all, I just found myself losing interest and not really feeling invested in the characters. It felt to me more like a story that should be a novella, with these great characters and a story that definitely had more to it than what could fit in a short story format.

As a heads up, one story, The One Who Stayed by Nova Ren Suma does deal with the aftermath of sexual assault. There’s nothing graphically described, but it is a theme in this story, and how the girls who survived form a coven.

A great, diverse anthology with some very important themes, I give Toil & Trouble 4.5 out of 5 brooms.

A huge thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin Teen for providing the ARC of this wonderful anthology!

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