Witches of Salem get a modern makeover in ‘These Witches Don’t Burn’

Book cover art.

Book cover art.

Katrina Sanville, Arts Writer

“These Witches Don’t Burn” is about a witch named Hannah who lives with her coven in the Witch City itself—Salem, Mass. When tragedy strikes her coven, Hannah must seek out some friends, both old and new, to save everything that she loves. I must acknowledge that this book does contain some triggers such as fires (home fires), breaking into homes, and death. It also contains religious bigotry, poisoning and drugging, medical content and hospitals, and car accidents. Sterling does not portray these triggers in an extremely graphic way. However, each reader can tolerate or not tolerate a trigger differently. So please keep this in mind for your own reading.

The pace in the beginning of this book is rather slow. However, once I got to the eighth chapter or so, it was able to grab my full attention and not let go until the end. After the eighth chapter, I found it impossible to put the book down. Sterling’s character development was great. Most of the characters were very lovable, even with their flaws. The world-building that Sterling had done was also phenomenal. I enjoyed how Sterling took a setting (Salem) that I know, and a lot of you may know, and added her own world of magic. I loved her Boston and Massachusetts references. For example, she even included references to schools like Salem State and UMass Boston. These references were nice little Easter eggs to come across throughout the novel.

The magical world created by Sterling had been intriguing to me from the start. In the book, there are three types of witches. There are the normal people who are known as “Regs” (short for Regulars) by the witches and the witch hunters. Then, in the witch world, there are three types of witches. There are the Elementals, which are witches that can control all the elements, as the name implies. This is the category that Hannah and her coven fall into. Moving on, there are the Casters, which are traditional spell-casters, and Blood Witches. Blood Witches have a history of being evil due to their ability to harvest people’s blood and harm them. However, they can also use their powers for good and healing. Sterling combined real-life Wiccan and Pagan practices with magic that she created herself. This can be interesting for anyone who finds learning about alternative religions intriguing.

Furthermore, three of the four main characters were LGBTQ+, and many of the side characters were as well. These sexualities were not the main focus of the characters and their development. This type of representation felt refreshing to me, as LGBTQ+ books often make it painfully clear that they have LGBTQ+ romances and characters.

Now, if love triangles are not exactly your thing, I would suggest avoiding this book. Hannah, Veronica, and Morgan seem to have a love triangle that develops over time. Hannah’s relationship with Veronica—although it being more friendly than romantic—was able to pull Hannah away from Morgan many times throughout the book.

One thing that I do wish that there had been more of was diversity amongst the main characters. However, according to my research, Savannah, one of the secondary characters, is African American. This representation isn’t ideal, but better than a lot of other young adult novels, as there is a significant lack of diversity in this genre of novels.

The plot twist at the end of the novel was shocking, but the pacing had been rather fast. Sterling reveals the witch hunter’s identity with almost less than fifty pages left. Then Hannah goes to find them, and then the book concludes. If there had been twenty or so more pages, the ending could have been paced out much better.

Overall, “These Witches Won’t Burn” had been a fun, action-packed novel perfect for the Halloween season. I would recommend this to anyone in search of a gripping action novel. I would especially recommend it if you’re a fan of shows like “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” “Charmed,’” or “American Horror Story: Coven.” This is also great for those looking to integrate more LGBTQ+ literature into their bookshelves.