Two years ago, mermaids were the new-and-hot trend in YA. The years before that, there were werewolves and vampires and other “creatures” making their way into paranormal YA. Without question, this year is the year of witches making a huge appearance in YA fiction. It looks like every major publisher has at least one witch novel on their lists, if not more than one, some of which are from fresh voices and others are continuations of series that include witches in them. Kimberly touched on this trend last year in her science fiction and fantasy preview, but I thought it would be worth delving into even deeper, as more books pop up featuring witches.
Witches are kind of a neat phenomenon in fiction for a couple of reasons. First, they aren’t paranormal. Rather than being magical because of their physical shape, witches are — for the most part — magical despite taking what appears to be a human shape. Second, they fit nicely into the horror genre without necessarily being seen as a horror trope or a foundation of horror novels. Readers, especially teens, love witches because of how they’re symbolic of the occult, which is perennially popular.
But witches don’t have to be relegated to one kind of story, either, which is part of what makes them interesting to write about. As much as they’re a part of horror, they’re also a part of fantasy, science fiction, and maybe most commonly, they’re recognizable in fairy tales. Witches are also historical, though in YA lit, there’s a surprisingly few number of novels that tackle witches from that perspective.
In other words, witches are expansive, rather than limited to one sort of story.
Here’s a roundup of recent and forthcoming YA titles featuring witches. All of the titles are out this year, except in the cases where the book is a continuation of a series (I’ve noted those). I should note that some of these titles, the witch element isn’t necessarily what the book is entirely about. In some cases, the witch aspect plays a more subtle role.
All descriptions are from WorldCat unless otherwise noted.
A Breath of Frost by Alyxandra Harvey: When three cousins in 1814 London discover their magical powers and family lineage of witchcraft, they accidentally open the gates to the underworld allowing the spirits of dark witches known as the Greymalkin Sisters to hunt and kill young debutante witches for their powers. Available now.
Half Bad by Sally Green: In modern-day England, where witches live alongside humans, Nathan, son of a White witch and the most powerful Black witch, must escape captivity before his seventeenth birthday and receive the gifts that will determine his future. Available March 4.
Hexed by Michelle Krys: Popular cheerleader Indigo Blackwood, sixteen, finds her perfect life threatened when Bishop, a tattooed, leather-clad stranger, tells her the family Bible just stolen from the attic of her mother’s occult shop could mean the end to all witches, including, he says, Indigo herself. Available June 10.
Conversion by Katherine Howe: It’s senior year at St. Joan’s Academy, and school is a pressure cooker. College applications, the battle for valedictorian, deciphering boys’ texts: through it all, Colleen Rowley and her friends are expected to keep it together. Until they can’t. First Clara Rutherford starts having loud, uncontrollable tics in the middle of class. More students and stranger symptoms follow: seizures, body vibration, violent coughing fits. The media descends on Danvers, MA, as school officials, angry parents and the board of health scramble to find something, or someone, to blame. Pollution? Stress? Or are the girls faking? But Colleen—who’s been reading The Crucible for extra credit—comes to realize what nobody else has: Danvers was once Salem Village, where another group of girls suffered from a similarly bizarre epidemic three centuries ago. Available July 1 (description via Edelweiss).
House of Ivy & Sorrow by Natalie Whipple: Seventeen-year-old Josephine Hemlock has spent her life hiding the fact that she’s a witch–but when the mysterious Curse that killed her mother returns, she might not be able to keep her magical and normal lives separate. Available April 15.
The Wizard’s Promise by Cassandra Rose Clarke: Hanna has spent her life hearing about the adventures of her namesake Ananna, the lady pirate, and assassin Naji. She dreams of the same adventures, but little does she know she is about to tumble into one of her own. Hanna is apprenticed to a taciturn fisherman called Kolur, and, during a day of storms and darkness, are swept wildly off course. In this strange new land, Kolur hires a stranger to join the crew and, rather than heading home, sets a course for the dangerous island of Jadanvar. As Hanna meets a secretive merboy, and learns that Kolur has a deadly past, she soon realizes that wishing for adventures is a dangerous game – because those wishes might come true. Available May 6.
Salt & Storm by Kendal Kulper: Sixteen-year-old Avery Roe wants to take her rightful place as the sea witch of Prince Island. When she foresees her own murder, a harpoon boy named Tane promises to help her change her fate and keep her island safe and prosperous, but salvation will require an unexpected sacrifice. Available September. No official cover has been released yet.
Stolen Songbird by Danielle Jensen: For five centuries, a witch’s curse has bound the trolls to their city beneath the ruins of Forsaken Mountain. Time enough for their dark and nefarious magic to fade from human memory and into myth. But a prophesy has been spoken of a union with the power to set the trolls free, and when Cécile de Troyes is kidnapped and taken beneath the mountain, she learns there is far more to the myth of the trolls than she could have imagined. Cécile has only one thing on her mind after she is brought to Trollus: escape. Only the trolls are clever, fast, and inhumanly strong. She will have to bide her time, wait for the perfect opportunity. But something unexpected happens while she’s waiting – she begins to fall for the enigmatic troll prince to whom she has been bonded and married. She begins to make friends. And she begins to see that she may be the only hope for the half-bloods – part troll, part human creatures who are slaves to the full-blooded trolls. There is a rebellion brewing. And her prince, Tristan, the future king, is its secret leader. As Cécile becomes involved in the intricate political games of Trollus, she becomes more than a farmer’s daughter. She becomes a princess, the hope of a people, and a witch with magic powerful enough to change Trollus forever. Available April 1. Description via Edelweiss.
The Witch is Back by Brittany Geragotelis: After leading her coven into battle against the Parrishables, teenaged witch Hadley Bishop is looking forward to a relaxing, love-filled summer with boyfriend Asher, until his ex-girlfriend, Brooklyn, shows up and a power struggle ensues. Available now. This is the third book in a series, which begins with What the Spell, followed by Life’s A Witch.
Red Queen by Christopher Pike: Heading off for a weekend in Las Vegas with her friends, Jessie Ralle has only one worry—how to make it through the road trip in the same car with her Ex, Jimmy Kelter. The guy who broke her heart five months ago when he dumped her for no reason. The guy who’s finally ready to tell her why he did it, because he wants her back. But what Jessie doesn’t realize is that Jimmy is the least of her problems. In Las Vegas she meets Russ, a mesmerizing stranger who shows her how to gamble, and who never seems to lose. Curious, Jessie wants to know his secret, and in response, alone in his hotel room, he teaches her a game that opens a door to another reality. To Witch World. Suddenly Jessie discovers that she’s stumbled into a world where some people can do the impossible, and others may not even be human. Are there really witches? Is she one of them? Available August 19. This book was originally published as Witch World, but it’s getting a new cover and title treatment.
Sisters’ Fate by Jessica Spotswood: A fever ravages New London, but with the Brotherhood sending suspected witches straight to the gallows, the Sisters are powerless against the disease. They can’t help without revealing their powers—as Cate learns when a potent display of magic turns her into the most wanted witch in all of New England. To make matters worse, Cate has been erased from the memory of her beloved Finn. While she’s torn between protecting him from further attacks and encouraging him to fall for her all over again, she’s certain she can never forgive Maura’s betrayal. And now that Tess’s visions have taken a deadly turn, the prophecy that one Cahill sister will murder another looms ever closer to its fulfillment. This is the third book in a series that begins with Born Wicked and continues with Star Cursed. Sisters’ Fate will be available August 14. Description via Goodreads.
Steadfast by Claudia Gray: Nadia must stop the evil sorceress Elizabeth before she lures the One Beneath to Captive’s Sound, destroying the town and everyone Nadia holds dear at the same time. Steadfast is the sequel to Spellcaster and will be available March 4.
Seduction by Molly Cochran: There’s not yet an official description nor cover for this book yet, but it’s the third in a series that begins with Legacy and Poison. Seduction will be available December 4.
As much fun as it is to preview a trend, I think it’s also worthwhile to point to some backlist titles that feature witches in some capacity. Here’s a look at some older YA featuring witches to satisfy eager readers. This is far from comprehensive (I didn’t include James Patterson’s “Witch and Wizard” series, for example), so feel free to share other titles in the comments — both those which are older and those which may be coming out soon.
A Kiss in Time by Alex Flinn: Sixteen-year-old Princess Talia persuades seventeen-year-old Jack, the modern-day American who kissed her awake after a 300-year sleep, to take her to his Miami home, where she hopes to win his love before the witch who cursed her can spirit her away.
Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins (series): When Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, she is exiled to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.
Stolen by Vivian Vande Velde: A girl finds herself running through the forest at the edge of a village with no memory of anything, even her own name, and later learns that she might be twelve-year-old Isabelle, believed to be stolen by a witch six years before.
Once A Witch by Carolyn MacCullough (series): Born into a family of witches, seventeen-year-old Tamsin is raised believing that she alone lacks a magical “Talent,” but when her beautiful and powerful sister is taken by an age-old rival of the family in an attempt to change the balance of power, Tamsin discovers her true destiny.
“Tiffany Aching” series by Terry Pratchett
Witch Child by Celia Rees: In 1659, fourteen-year-old Mary Newbury keeps a journal of her voyage from England to the New World and her experiences living as a witch in a community of Puritans near Salem, Massachusetts.
Persistence of Memory by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes: Diagnosed with schizophrenia as a child, sixteen-year-old Erin has spent half of her life in therapy and on drugs, but now must face the possibility of weird things in the real world, including shapeshifting friends and her “alter,” a centuries-old vampire.
The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan: On remote Rollrock Island, men go to sea to make their livings–and to catch their wives. The witch Misskaella knows the way of drawing a girl from the heart of a seal, of luring the beauty out of the beast. And for a price a man may buy himself a lovely sea-wife. He may have and hold and keep her. And he will tell himself that he is her master. But from his first look into those wide, questioning, liquid eyes, he will be just as transformed as she. He will be equally ensnared. And the witch will have her true payment.
Bewitching Season by Marissa Doyle (series): In 1837, as seventeen-year-old twins, Persephone and Penelope, are starting their first London Season they find that their beloved governess, who has taught them everything they know about magic, has disappeared.
The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab: Sixteen-year-old Lexi, who lives on an enchanted moor at the edge of the village of Near, must solve the mystery when, the day after a mysterious boy appears in town, children start disappearing.