My Reading Brain

Payback's a Witch

By: Lana Harper
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Series: The Witches of Thistle Grove (#1)
Summary: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina meets The L Word in this fresh, sizzling rom-com by Lana Harper.

Emmy Harlow is a witch but not a very powerful one—in part because she hasn't been home to the magical town of Thistle Grove in years. Her self-imposed exile has a lot to do with a complicated family history and a desire to forge her own way in the world, and only the very tiniest bit to do with Gareth Blackmoore, heir to the most powerful magical family in town and casual breaker of hearts and destroyer of dreams.

But when a spellcasting tournament that her family serves as arbiters for approaches, it turns out the pull of tradition (or the truly impressive parental guilt trip that comes with it) is strong enough to bring Emmy back. She's determined to do her familial duty; spend some quality time with her best friend, Linden Thorn; and get back to her real life in Chicago.

On her first night home, Emmy runs into Talia Avramov—an all-around badass adept in the darker magical arts—who is fresh off a bad breakup . . . with Gareth Blackmoore. Talia had let herself be charmed, only to discover that Gareth was also seeing Linden—unbeknownst to either of them. And now she and Linden want revenge. Only one question stands: Is Emmy in?

But most concerning of all: Why can't she stop thinking about the terrifyingly competent, devastatingly gorgeous, wickedly charming Talia Avramov?

Review: The focus of the story is on three families' heirs competing in magic skill-testing for honor and glory, with a fourth house nerd serving as the referee. I’ve already forgotten the name of the competition, so let’s call it the Tri-Witch Tournament. Each family vies for the title and prize of a huge ruler in their town. Contestants must take on magical challenges to prove their worth. In the end, only one family will win.

The author attempts too many things in this book. An unrealistic fantasy with a flimsy plot straight out of Harry Potter; and a sapphic love story that focuses too much on mediocre men. Harper’s first adult novel shows both a struggle with tone and character development. Emmy appears very unsympathetic: she’s childish, selfish, and petty that no real woman would. If this plot was set in high school, it might be fun, but I can’t believe three grown adults would waste their time plotting revenge on a guy whose worst sin was being a mildly shitty boyfriend.

I also found the dialogue to be very YA, and I didn’t find it to be a good thing. The constant use of social media slang and forced banter between characters made me cringe. I don't like it when authors use hashtags and internet acronyms in their writing, especially when they swear a lot to make up for the immature language.

Despite the charming setting and theme of family love, the romance, villains, and resolution disappointed me.