The Bitterwine Oath

The Bitterwine Oath

by Hannah West
The Bitterwine Oath

The Bitterwine Oath

by Hannah West


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Every fifty years, a cult claims twelve men to murder in a small Texas town. Can one girl end the cycle of violence - and save the boy who broke her heart?

"A richly woven tale of magic and murder and vengeance. This book kept me up all night! One of the best stories I've read all year." - Shea Ernshaw, New York Times bestselling author of The Wicked Deep

San Solano, Texas, is a quaint town known for its charm, hospitality, and history of murder. Twice now, twelve men have been brutally killed, and no one knows who did it. A shadowy witch? A copycat killer? Or a man-hating murderess?

Eighteen-year-old Natalie Colter is sure that the rumors about her great-great-grandmother's cult of wronged women are just gossip, but that doesn't stop the true-crime writers and dark tourism bloggers from capitalizing on the town's reputation. It's an urban legend that's hard to ignore, and it gets harder when Nat learns that the sisterhood is real. And magical. And they want her to join.

The more Nat learns of the Wardens' supernatural history, the more she wonders about the real culprits behind the town's ritualistic murders. Are the Wardens protecting San Solano from even darker forces? There are shadows in the woods, bones on the outskirts of town, and questions Nat needs answered.

But everything becomes more urgent when people start getting "marked" as new victims—including Levi Langford, the boy whose kiss haunted Nat for a year. With Levi in danger, doing nothing would be harder than fighting back.

Nat knows that no one is safe. Can she and the sisterhood stop the true evil from claiming their town?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780823445479
Publisher: Holiday House
Publication date: 12/01/2020
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 1,132,932
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range: 14 - 17 Years

About the Author

Hannah West is a freelance writer with a French degree she wishes she had more occasion to use. Her debut novel, Kingdom of Ash and Briars, received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews and was named a Kirkus Best Book of the Year. She lives in Texas with her husband and their two rambunctious rescue dogs. Find her at or on Instagram @hannahwestya.

Read an Excerpt

Lillian Pickard

I did not regret befriending Malachi Rivers until the night we invoked her magic to seek revenge.

Four of us sat in a circle on the floor of an abandoned cabin in the Piney Woods, twine looped around our girlish wrists, binding us together. A grimoire lay open upon tender sprigs of herbs and bones of woodland creatures. Segments of text had been violently crossed out and revisions crammed into the margins.

Malachi Rivers was indeed that powerful; her edits and improvisations increased the potency of every charm, hex, curse, and conjuration.

Until that fateful night in the summer of 1921, our foursome, led by Malachi, had performed harmless magic for entertainment and empowerment. Dorothy Hawkins, Johanna Mead, and I revered Malachi’s magic and wanted to participate. While we were bound together, we could channel it. The powerless could become powerful.

We called ourselves "Pagans of the Pines" in a spirit of cheeky rebellion. The magic had been a girlhood game to me, the grimoire nothing more than a mass-produced, curious collectible pilfered from the parlor of my cosmopolitan aunt.
But everything changed that night. Childish rebellion turned to sinister retribution.

Dorothy, Johanna, and Malachi had endured trials I could not fathom. Malachi’s father was controlling and oppressive. Johanna Mead’s abusive father and uncle had beaten the boy she loved nearly to death out of a twisted sense of protectiveness. A lynch mob had murdered Dorothy Hawkins’s older brother over a false accusation that he had attempted to murder a white man. Her sharecropper father had lost his land, and the family relied on charity from their church to scrape by.

Now that Malachi had nearly mastered her magic of earth, bone, and blood, the three of them wanted to claim vengeance commensurate to their suffering.

We did not mean to kill. Malachi concocted a curse that would reveal the deep evil within the hearts of the men who had wronged them, so that society would no longer accept, respect, or enable their dark deeds. Malachi had spoken the curse over the Communion wine in the sanctuary of her father’s church. We watched her, witnessed her slender body rocking with power, her wrists and hands trembling. She dusted the wine with herbs, dipped her fingers into the chalice, and painted her mark on the white cloth of the Communion table—the mark we had created to represent the three elements from which she drew her power.

"The Devil’s supper," I recall her whispering in the candlelight.

We returned to our consecrated ground—the cabin nestled in a forgotten forest glade—to finish our work. We would use magic to lure the men to Communion at the witching hour. They would drink the cursed wine, and their darkness would be known to all.

But as soon as we split the flesh of our fingertips and dripped blood over our preparations, I felt Malachi’s magic spinning out of control, like a toy top whirling fast enough to lift off the ground and bounce about unpredictably. The other girls’ anger fueled it, giving it a will of its own.

I was afraid. I wanted to stop it. But our hands were already bound, and to break the bond before our work was complete would be far more dangerous than even the darkest conjuration.

I have undoubtedly lost many a reader already with my earnest talk of magic. But I have no other pen with which to write this biography.

Any tale about Malachi that excludes magic is not about Malachi at all.
Excerpt from Pagans of the Pines: The Untold Story of Malachi Rivers,

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