*I received a free ARC of this book, with thanks to the author, Harper360 UK and Anne Cater of Random Things Blog Tours. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: A coven of modern-day witches. A magical heist-gone-wrong. A looming threat.
Five octogenarian witches gather as an angry mob threatens to demolish Moonshyne Manor. All eyes turn to the witch in charge, Queenie, who confesses they’ve fallen far behind on their mortgage payments. Still, there’s hope, since the imminent return of Ruby—one of the sisterhood who’s been gone for thirty-three years—will surely be their salvation.
But the mob is only the start of their troubles. One man is hellbent on avenging his family for the theft of a legacy he claims was rightfully his. In an act of desperation, Queenie makes a bargain with an evil far more powerful than anything they’ve ever faced. Then things take a turn for the worse when Ruby’s homecoming reveals a seemingly insurmountable obstacle instead of the solution to all their problems.
The witches are determined to save their home and themselves, but their aging powers are no match for increasingly malicious threats. Thankfully, they get a bit of help from Persephone, a feisty TikToker eager to smash the patriarchy. As the deadline to save the manor approaches, fractures among the sisterhood are revealed, and long-held secrets are exposed, culminating in a fiery confrontation with their enemies.
Funny, tender and uplifting, the novel explores the formidable power that can be discovered in aging, found family and unlikely friendships. Marais’ clever prose offers as much laughter as insight, delving deeply into feminism, identity and power dynamics while stirring up intrigue and drama through secrets, lies and sex. Heartbreaking and heart-mending, it will make you grateful for the amazing women in your life.
It took me a little while to get going with this story, as you initially meet each of the five elderly witches as a moment of impending crisis is upon them, and so I found it a little tricky to keep them straight in my mind at first, but I soon found myself falling in love with Moonshyne Manor and its endearingly quirky occupants.
There are actually six witches, sisters, at Moonshyne Manor, but Ruby is mysteriously absent at the start of the book and it soon becomes clear that something momentous happened 33 years earlier which caused her to leave, and that the future of the manor and each sister depends on what happens when Ruby returns. Bianca Marais cleverly drip-feeds the clues to these mysteries to us as the story progresses, keeping the bulk of it back for a big climactic reveal, and I admit that this did keep me thoroughly on the hook! What happened to Tabby and Magnus? Where is Ruby and why is Ursula so upset about it? Where is the magical artefact they stole on the disastrous heist night and how can Queenie possibly save the day without it?
I would have been hooked anyway though, to be honest, as the characters really grew on me quickly and I love that they each have their own distinct ‘flavour’ of magic – Ivy with her plants; Queenie with her machines and gadgets; Ursula and her visions; Jezebel and her *cough* namesake-implied magic; Tabby (and Widget) and her affinity with animals, and Ruby with her shape- and identity-shifting ability. Throw in a modern young feminist, a tragic love affair, the ferryman of the dead collecting his due, and a whole family of grudge-bearing witch-hating men and you get a story packed with emotion, drama and intrigue.
There are numerous themes here too – the old and old-fashioned alongside the young and internet-savvy; the importance of trust and communication; the intersectionality of memory and identity with how others perceive us and how we perceive ourselves; a strong feminist thread (men don’t really come out well from this story!) and a clear message about the gender fluidity of both love and sense of self. And binding the whole lot together is the concept of sisterhood – the bickering and support, the differences and similarities, the bonding and breaking.
I’ve seen comparisons to Hocus Pocus, Practical Magic and The Witches of Eastwick, among other pop culture portrayals of family and magic/witches, and I can definitely see aspects of those stories and characters here but this is also a fresh story exploring those old themes with new characters and perspectives. Plus, as an added bonus, you get recipes, spells and crafting guides thrown in for each of the witches’ specialities throughout, so you can ‘play along at home’ if you wish and make a little magic of your own via cocktails and candles.
By the time I got to the end of the book, I was so unwilling to leave Moonshyne Manor and its witches that I found my mind constantly drifting back to them while doing other things… even when I had moved on to my next read. For me, that is definitely a sign that the book’s magic captivated me, and I would love to read more about Persephone, Moonshyne Manor and everyone else in future – I feel like know and miss them all!
Turning her back on the ominous view, Ursula heads for the calendar to mark off another mostly sleepless night. It seems impossible that after so many of them—night upon night, strung up after each other seemingly endlessly—only two remain until Ruby’s return, upon which Ursula will discover her fate.– Bianca Marais, The Witches of Moonshyne Manor
Either Ruby knows or she doesn’t.
Bianca Marais is the author of the beloved Hum If You Don’t Know the Words and If You Want to Make God Laugh (Putnam, 2017 and 2019). She teaches at the University of
Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies where she was awarded an Excellence in
Teaching Award for Creative Writing in 2021.
A believer in the power of storytelling in advancing social justice, Marais runs the Eunice Ngogodo Own Voices Initiative to empower young Black women in Africa to write and publish their own stories, and is constantly fundraising to assist grandmothers in Soweto with caring for children who have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS. In 2020, Marais started the popular podcast, The Shit No One Tells You About Writing, which is aimed at helping merging writers become published.
PURCHASE LINK: the Witches of Moonshyne Manor ON AMAZON
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3 thoughts on “Blog Tour: The Witches of Moonshyne Manor – Bianca Marais”
Thanks for the blog tour support x
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My absolute pleasure, Anne! Thanks for having me 🙂 x