Modern witchcraft blends with ancient Celtic mythology in an epic clash of witches and gods, perfect for fans of V.E. Schwab's Shades of Magic trilogy and CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA.
Seventeen-year-old Dayna Walsh is struggling to cope with her somatic OCD; the aftermath of being outed as bisexual in her conservative Irish town; and the return of her long-absent mother, who barely seems like a parent. But all that really matters to her is ascending and finally, finally becoming a full witch-plans that are complicated when another coven, rumored to have a sordid history with black magic, arrives in town with premonitions of death. Dayna immediately finds herself at odds with the bewitchingly frustrating Meiner King, the granddaughter of their coven leader.
And then a witch turns up murdered at a local sacred site, along with the blood symbol of the Butcher of Manchester-an infamous serial killer whose trail has long gone cold. The killer's motives are enmeshed in a complex web of witches and gods, and Dayna and Meiner soon find themselves at the center of it all. If they don't stop the Butcher, one of them will be next.
With razor-sharp prose and achingly real characters, E. Latimer crafts a sweeping, mesmerizing story of dark magic and brutal mythology set against a backdrop of contemporary Ireland that's impossible to put down.
|Publisher:||Little, Brown Books for Young Readers|
|Product dimensions:||6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 2.30(d)|
|Age Range:||14 - 18 Years|
About the Author
E. Latimer lives on Vancouver Island with her husband, one small, destructive child and a cat name Muse. Her first novel, The Strange and Deadly Portraits of Bryony Gray, was published by Tundra Books. She can usually be found camped out in a coffee shop or the local library. When she's not writing, talking about writing, or daydreaming about writing, she makes vlogs with the Word Nerds, drinks too much tea, and reads excessively.
Read an Excerpt
The best way to hunt a witch was to look for patterns of three.
Three stones set into a wild, overgrown path. Three chimneys sending twisting ribbons of smoke into a clear sky. Three gates before the inner sanctuary — each more heavily spelled than the last. Find the house of threes, and you'd find the coven.
Dubh had traveled for days. In fact, he'd almost driven past the place. His tourist map was filled with colorful pins at every stopover — Kiss the Blarney Stone! Visit the Irish National Heritage Park! — but this miserable little village didn't warrant a mention. He'd blown past the welcome sign without a glance, almost continuing into County Wexford. Almost. Something had pulled at his insides as he'd reached the village limits, tugging painfully at his guts. He'd turned the rental car around and followed the sensation down a rambling back road that twisted endlessly through green fields, leading him to this driveway in the woods. And there it was. A farmhouse with three crooked chimneys, windows shuttered against the dark forest.
The witch hunter watched the house. There was something unnatural about how still he was, the type of stillness reserved for death, or very deep water. He set his back to one of the oak trees lining the driveway, an ashy cigarette hanging between two fingers. The ember burned orange in the darkness, sending its own thin spiral of smoke trickling up. At his feet, spent filters scattered the ground.
He knew why he'd been called. There were too many witches here for one small town. They were gathering.
In his pocket his cell phone buzzed violently, and Dubh shut his eyes. He raised the cigarette to his lips and took a drag. In, burning his lungs, filling his insides with fire. Out, tipping his head back, blowing smoke onto the breeze. He knew who was on the phone.
It rang again.
His brothers were in town. Soon they'd be rejoined. After years of faded recollections and fuzzy, half-dreamed memories, he hadn't been sure they were real. And yet he did not wish to speak with them before it was time.
Eventually the phone went silent.
Dubh watched the house. Minutes passed. Flies buzzed around his head with the smoke, and his left arm ached. When he glanced down, four long scratches trailed along his forearm.
The women had all felt the same until now, a fleeting enjoyment. They'd stirred feelings in him, fire and righteousness. The way they stared at him, dark eyes, pale faces. Their hair caught in his fingers, their screams in his ears.
This morning had been enough to sate him temporarily, but he was never fully satisfied. He hadn't known what he was looking for. Hadn't remembered.
There was a little witch in every woman, but not every woman was a witch.
This would be different. The power rolled off this house in waves. It raised the hairs on the back of his neck and sent goose bumps up both arms.
These witches would give him the first real fight in years.
He ran his tongue along the inside of his teeth, feeling the jagged edge of his right canine.
Not yet. He'd attend to the others first. His sword was ready; Witchkiller would taste blood again.
In a few weeks he'd return. Push his way through the middle gate, the one with the black iron that curved into sharp fangs at the top. Something to look forward to, to make the days go by faster.
He always saved the best for last.CHAPTER 2
It was two o'clock in the afternoon, in the middle of a particularly monotonous lecture on particle physics, and Dayna Walsh was about to have a panic attack.
It started the same way it always did. Some small shift in the air around her. Subtle, but enough to make her breath catch. Suddenly it was all she could think about.
Her chest tightened, and Dayna curled her fingers around the edge of the desk, leaning forward, concentrating furiously on the front of the room. A muscle twitched in her jaw, and she scowled at the whiteboard. Of course it would happen in the middle of class.
The OCD could get especially bad at school. With nothing to draw her out of her own head it was easy to get caught in the obsessive spiral. To zero in on her breath, how it entered and left her body.
Mr. McCabe's voice droned on, the marker squeaking across the surface of the whiteboard. Morgan Brennan's acrylic nails clicked sharply on her phone as she shot off text after text. Dayna's ex, Samuel, leaned over his desk beside her, dark hair falling over his eyes.
One breath in. Two. Three. Shit. Stop counting.
Dayna wrapped her fingers around the pendant on her necklace, letting the points of St. Brigid's cross dig into her palm. The conversation with her father this morning had kicked it off, so if she ended up having a massive panic attack in the middle of the classroom, she had the reverend to thank for it.
Not here. Not here. Not here.
Her mind kept swinging wildly, from what he'd said earlier — your mother's back in town, she's finally coming home from camp — to her breathing. If she could just fixate on something else, like the second hand inching across the white clock face, or the cringe-inducing marker shriek on the board ...
It was no good; her mind kept looping back.
Now she was forcing each breath, drawing it in, pushing it out. It felt unnatural. Wrong. Her chest ached, and the low buzz of panic surged, twisting her stomach.
Fiona Walsh had been at church camp for years, Dayna didn't even remember what she looked like.
Even the mere thought of Camp Blood of the Lamb made her pulse stutter, and she shifted in her chair, trying to force herself to think of something, anything else.
In front of her, Mia Blake brushed dark hair over her shoulder, and Dayna made herself focus on the way her hair fell in waves halfway down her back. Her own hair was only the tiniest bit wavy. Maybe she should curl it ...
God, this was stupid. And it wasn't working.
She smoothed a hand over the base of her throat, breaths coming short and fast.
There was a soft hiss from beside her, and she glanced over. Sam was leaning sideways in his desk, a scrap of paper in one hand. She could make out his blocky writing from there.
Someone forget to tell Mr. M it's the last day?
She grimaced at him, nodding. Every other teacher played games or watched movies the last day before summer, and Mr. McCabe decided on a lecture.
Sam tucked the note into his desk and glanced over at her again, brow furrowed. "You look pale," he whispered. "You all right?" Most definitely not all right. "I'm fine."
The classroom dimmed suddenly, as if the sun had moved behind the clouds. But darker.
Dayna frowned, turning for the window. Beyond the green stretch of schoolyard the sky was speckled with black. It blotted out half the sun, a cloud of ... what were they, bugs?
Murmurs started up around the classroom. Everyone was staring now.
"What is that?" Morgan Brennan shot out of her seat, her phone hitting the desktop with a thud. A second later someone cried, "Birds. They're birds!"
As if the revelation had cleared her vision, she saw them. Flock was the wrong word for this, there were too many. It was an approaching storm cloud, casting the school into shadow.
Nobody moved as the birds drew nearer.
She could make out more every second. A blur of coal-black feathers and wickedly sharp talons.
They were impossibly close.
The muffled screams of the birds reached through the windows the second before it happened, and someone had the sense to yell, "Get down!" There was a rapid thud, thud, thud as feathery bodies hit the windows.
Shock rooted Dayna to the spot. She felt each impact through the soles of her feet.
The sound of shattering glass jerked her awake, and she dove for the desk as a blur of smoke-colored feathers hurtled toward her. She scraped the heels of her hands on the carpet, hardly registering the pain. From there she could see Morgan's legs, hear her screams. Students were falling, birds clawing their faces, wicked talons tangled in hair extensions, tearing at designer T-shirts and hoodies, bloodying faces.
Something hit her desk with a thud, and Dayna scrambled back. Her elbow smashed into the chair leg with a bone-jarring crack, and she gasped, blinking tears away as a bird glanced off the desktop beside her.
This was a nightmare, some bizarre dream. She'd wake up any second now.
Samuel was there suddenly, his arm warm against Dayna's skin, his back to the chaos as he tried to shield her. His eyes were wide, one hand clutched over his mouth. He gripped her arm, and she didn't pull away.
Something crashed to the floor behind Dayna, and she jumped, nearly knocking Samuel over.
A crow lay on the carpet.
Although ... not a crow, she realized. It was too big. A raven.
The bird struggled, wings flapping, beak open in distress. A jagged piece of glass was embedded in its chest, glittering under the fluorescent lights. Beady black eyes blinked at Dayna. It seemed impossible they should focus on her, but they locked on her face and stayed there, shining with a kind of intelligence that made her stomach squirm. Its chest heaved once and then fell still.
A second later the classroom went abruptly silent. Some of the students had fled, other stayed huddled under their desks. Most of the ravens seemed to be dead or dying.
Dayna edged her way out to stare at the bird, her heart drumming hard against her rib cage.
The raven's eyes had never moved from her face. Like it had been fixated on her right up until the moment of its death. Her hand shook as she let it drift toward the raven's chest, over the glass embedded there.
It looked peaceful in death, and strangely elegant. Long and sleek with coal-black feathers. The way it had looked at her ... as if it meant to say something but hadn't had the chance.
Tears prickled the backs of her eyes. She knew Sam was watching, but she clasped her hands in the air over the bird anyway. Pulling them back, spreading them in a T-shape before her heart. The sign of the battle sword.
Ravens belonged to the Morrigan, and a witch could not allow their souls to pass this way, panicked and alone.
Dayna stayed beside the raven, curling her knees to her chest, blinking back tears. Her throat felt tight, and she wasn't sure if the tears choking her were over the shock of what had happened, or the sight of the dead bird at her feet.
At least she hadn't thought of her breathing this entire time.
She had to force down the hysterical laugh that threatened to bubble up.
The classroom was growing steadily colder now, the wind rushed in past the broken windows, and the teacher was rounding up the remaining students, ushering them out into the hall.
A thought kept coming back to her, and as strange as it was, she couldn't shake it.
What did the ravens want?CHAPTER 3
"So the sergeant is there now? Or did they send animal control?"
Reagan Etomi's voice came from the passenger seat, a little fuzzy through the speakerphone, but Dayna could still hear the amusement in her best friend's voice.
"Or what passes for animal control in this town," she replied, easing up on the gas as she turned the corner.
"So ... two guys and a butterfly net?"
Dayna snorted. "Hey, by the way, you know Morgan Brennan?"
"Like, Bible study Morgan?" Reagan's voice was scornful. "The one who read your journal and spread your sexuality all over the school Morgan?"
"That's the one." Dayna grinned. "Is it awful to enjoy the fact that she got her face all slashed up?"
"Hell no, that's just karma. You're allowed to enjoy that."
Dayna smiled. Even though her hands were still shaking on the wheel, and she kept seeing flashes of black feathers every time she blinked, she could feel her shoulders relaxing.
"But you know what the others will say, right?" Reagan's voice grew serious. "It's definitely an omen. You're a witch. There's no way they crash into your classroom and it's a coincidence."
She sighed. Another uncanny habit of Reagan's: saying exactly what she was thinking. "I know."
"We can do a reading. But you'll have to stop by Sage Widow, the aunties are out of tea. Bronagh says you should pick some up on the way."
Dayna groaned. "Fine. I'll grab it on my way."
It wasn't that she minded the errand. It was that she'd have to go by the church on the way there.
The Church of the Blood of the Lamb was her father's territory, and it wasn't just because he was the reverend there, but that he seemed present in the very structure of the building. It was constructed of blocky gray stone and loomed above every building in the village. Its lines were perfectly straight, and the stained-glass windows of the tower were done in muted purples and blues.
This was a no-nonsense building. It did not tolerate revelry or foolishness.
It made her wonder what camp was like, if it had the same somber, prison-like feeling.
The idea made her feel slightly nauseous.
There was a billboard at the bottom of the church lawn. Every week someone arranged it to spell a different message. Today it said, Try Jesus. If you don't like him, the devil will take you back.
It wasn't the billboard that made her nervous though; it was the crowd gathering around it. The people at the bottom of the slope held an assortment of cardboard signs. One woman in a long, flower-patterned dress held a sign that proclaimed, Repent Pagans! Another wore a makeshift sandwich board with red marker across the front: Thou Shalt Not Suffer a Witch to Live, Exodus 22:18.
"Um, listen, I gotta go." Dayna jammed her foot down on the gas, alarm prickling through her.
There was a pause on the other end, and then Reagan said slowly, "You're sure you're fine? You're not driving like a maniac, right?"
"I'm fine. Listen I'll see you soon, okay? Bye." She waited for Reagan's grumble of affirmation and then hung up, before easing off the gas pedal. It should be disturbing that Reagan knew her this well, but she was used to it.
Anyway, the sign was probably nothing to worry about. Even though it shook her, she knew it had nothing to do with her coven. Judging by the slogans, they were going after Metaphysical Gifts, the store on Main Street that touted itself as a "Pagan gift shop."
Over the years, her father's church had begun to stray into strange territory. Likely they no longer qualified as Catholic. As far as she could see, they did what the reverend told them to. Picketing, protesting, ruining people's lives and businesses ...
They couldn't be going after Sage Widow.
The very idea made her tighten her grip on the wheel, anger sparking in her chest. They couldn't, she wouldn't let them.
Thankfully there was no one there when she pulled into the parking lot, no mad-eyed worshippers with angry cardboard signs.
Sage Widow was her second favorite place in town. It had started out as a tea shop and slowly, over the years, morphed into something more. Something exciting.
Of course, there was no Witches Only sign, and it was visited by a fair number of patchouli-burning hippies and vegan soccer moms from the next town, but this was the only place with the ingredients for most every- day potions, so Dayna knew a good number of the clientele at least had witchy tendencies. It was a small, dimly lit shop that often smelled strongly of basil, and the sign over the door hung slightly crooked, but there was a special sort of magic despite this. Or perhaps because of it.
The bell jangled as Dayna pushed her way into the low-light interior. Instantly she was hit by a wall of fragrance, a mixture of herbs and incense so strong it made her eyes water. Margery, the woman behind the desk, gave her a cursory wave as she came in, eyes fixed on the TV.
Dayna moved farther into the shop, past shelves of talismans and teas, wooden symbols and stacks of pewter bowls. As she made her way under the wooden sign hanging above the aisle — Herbs & Oils to Bewitch the Senses! — her cell phone chimed.
She grimaced down at the screen. It was Samuel.
Hey, I'm still shaken up about that weird crow thing. Are you okay? We should get a coffee. Tomorrow?
She sighed and shoved the phone back into her pocket. That was all she needed right now, on top of everything.
It had been three months since they'd broken up. Since she'd insisted she needed her space because of the rumors flying around the school. She didn't know how to talk to him now, how to deal with the shame that flared up and made her stumble over her words.
One day no one knew a thing, and the next, the entire school was whispering: Dayna Walsh is a lesbian. Dayna Walsh is bisexual.
No one seemed to know or care which one it was, just that she was hiding a secret that must be discussed, picked apart, delivered to anyone who didn't know.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Witches of Ash and Ruin"
Copyright © 2020 E. Latimer.
Excerpted by permission of Disney Book Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Everyone get ready because I’m going to be throwing this book left and right at everyone!! Witches of Ash and Ruin was honestly everything that I wanted in a book about witches and ancient celtic mythology. No one tell American horror story : Coven but…this book gave me e v e r y t h i n g I’ve ever wanted in a story about a coven of witches. It was also the perfect mixture of murder mystery and spookiness! I want to first talk about the overall spookiness level of this book – it was um how do you say, spooktacular! If you want a spooky October read this year absolutely add this to your TBR. Between The Butchers murders and the witchcraft/dark magic this book had the hairs on my arms standing a couple times. There was even one scene that had me looking over my shoulder while I was reading alone at night! I haven’t read anything that creeped me out in a very long time (or ever? I can’t remember) so for fans of mystery and spookiness I absolutely recommend this book! If it wasn’t for the current state of the world this would have been such a fast read for me regardless of how long this book actually is to be honest with you. The characters!!!!!! Gosh I love them all so much…even Cora and The King Witch. The characters in this story are all refreshing and complexly their own person. Dayna my little sunflower witch she deserves so much *insert crying emoji* Meiner effing King…Where do I start with her?! what a freaking badass!! Daynas bestfriend Reagan- everyone needs a best friend like Reagan! I love that she was so -on her side- I’ve read so many books where the best friend is usually an annoying problem (which I absolutely hate that cause I would be nothing without my best friend) Cora Cora Cora all im going to say is – now thats a complex character. Bronagh, Yemi, Faye, Brenna – I love the family bond between all of them and regardless of being background characters they didn’t feel pushed to the side. Harriet mcfreaking King…wow what do I even say about her without giving too much away?! I love the notorious King Witch! All I’m going to say is she gives me the creeps and I love her. Then theres Sam who honestly I have no idea where his life is headed but I really hope he supports Dayna in her future endeavors or we’re gonna fight. and I can’t forget Daynas parents – The reverend and Fiona. I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about the revered but I know his whole ~church camp~ thing freaks me out it reminds me of those crazy church cult stories its hella freaky and Fiona is one of those people that I would not want to be alone in a house with she would probably silently stand behind me in the kitchen and give me a heart attack one I turn around. I really feel like the author took her time with these characters to make sure the reader could feel out each personality and really add depth to the story. The Butcher – This is the horrible witch killing villain i’ve been waiting for. I felt like his chapters really added that ‘horror’ factor to this book. I don’t want to give away much but just know as a villain he’s cold, ruthless and terrifying! Despite this book having about 75 chapters I really felt like it was well put together and the pace of this book was not slow for a second! 75 chapters of pure genius honestly. I didn’t have any issues with the writing style and I actually really liked the way it was done and how there was more than one point of view. (Meiner was probably my favorite just saying) This was a really fun rea
Disclaimer: I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you to Fantastic Flying Book Club, Netgalley, and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for this free copy. All quotes in this review are taken from the Advanced Reader Copy and may change in final publication. There was a little witch in every woman, but not every woman was a witch. Something about this quote really stuck with me, and I just really loved it. Now, was that my favorite part of the book? Still not sure yet, but it really, really stuck with me. I will say that this book got me a little bit confused in the beginning. I feel like I was a little lost at some parts, but then I was able to get it together. I think I was just getting some parts mixed up and I feel like I had to reread some things to make sure I was understanding correctly. I’m still really freaking pissed off that Dayna was outed as bisexual though. I absolutely hate it when people are outed before they are ready, and then really bad circumstances end up happening to them that they weren’t even prepared to handle or deserve. That’s one of my biggest pet peeves in this novel and I hate that outing is used as a plot device in books. Sure it’s a source of drama but it’s painful, even if that person is a fictional character. Other than that, I thought it was a pretty good book!
This book had a little but of everything! It was like witchcraft with some true crime mixed in. I also loved the authors contribution to help stop the stigma of mental health. It's rare that to see it done so well. For some reason I couldn't seem to connect well enough with the characters and that's why I didn't give it a five star review.
I received a digital ARC of Witches of Ash and Ruin by E. Latimer in exchange for an honest review. In Witches of Ash and Ruin by E. Latimer, everything seems to be happening to Dayna at once. Someone at school told the whole town that she is bisexual, her mother is finally coming home from the church rehabilitation camp Dayna’s father sent her to years ago, the stress of everything is triggering her OCD, and another coven of witches has come to town – one headed by the witch Dayna’s own coven banished for performing dark magic. Beyond that personal chaos, a famous serial killer has started targeting witches in Dayna’s town, heralding the beginning of a cycle of murder and the return of an ancient evil. As the two covens are forced to work together, Dayna clashes with Meiner, presumptive heir to the other coven, growing every closer both to each other and to solving the mystery behind the murders. Witches of Ash and Ruin was a quick, compelling read. Although technically a story about witches, gods, and murder, the weight given to Dayna’s personal life and the challenges inherent therein for a 17-year-old (homophobic father, absent mother, OCD) grounds the more fantastical elements of the story effectively, making Dayna and her world feel very real. She’s working towards ascending from a witchling to a full witch and joining her coven as a full member, but she’s also trying to maintain a friendship with her ex-boyfriend and keep her very religious, anti-witch father from finding out what she is up to and potentially sending her away. I enjoyed Dayna’s romance with Meiner, who interests and irritates Dayna in equal measure. The story is set in Ireland and touches on Irish mythology in interesting ways. The story is perfectly set up for a sequel or even an extended series, one that I hope will be coming soon.
This book was received as an ARC from Disney Book Group - Freeform in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own. My favorite books of all time are all about witches and gods and then throw in the drama of a seventeen year old girl struggling with Obsessive compulsive disorder and being accused of her bisexuality escaping from reality and I was hooked. The bravery and fight Dayna took in her involvement with the dark magic of witches and gods, you can't help but to get addicted. I know our teen book club will love this book. We will consider adding this title to our YA collection at our library. This is why we give this book 5 stars.
I'm a huge Victoria Schwab fan, and A Discovery of Witches is one of my favorite series (the TV version is also fabulous), so it seems like I was destined to read this book. With Dayna having an unstable home life and an extremely traumatic experience with her father after being outed as bisexual, I loved how her coven is a found family full of love and support for her. The older witches in her coven also serve as positive role models for the witchlings in the smaller coven. Celtic mythology isn't something I'm familiar with, so I enjoyed learning more about it and how the author weaves it into her story. Ireland as a setting is always a plus. With both bisexual and gay characters, representation is also a strong point. Multiple POVs aren't a problem for me as long as they serve a purpose; however, one of these disappears by the end of the book, and I was left wondering what happens to this character. There are a lot of moving parts to this story, and several aren't addressed at the end. Something that puzzled me was Dayna forgetting to mention that she learns a crucial piece of information regarding the murders - something that could have potentially stopped another one. Preventing further killings is the primary reason the covens come together, so that was a hard pill to swallow. Overall, this is an interesting read with some intriguing characters and strong themes of family, but I'd hoped for more questions to be answered by the end. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.