The Buried and the Bound Book Review
Updated: Jul 20
Welcome back to another Coffee, Book, and Candle review! I came across The Buried and the Bound by Rochelle Hassan when fellow bookstagrammer Sydney posted her review. I knew then I had to read this book.
Genre: Contemporary YA Fantasy
Category: Cozy Read
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RATING: 3.75/5 Stars
Plot: 4/5 stars
Characters: 3/5 stars
World: 4/5 stars
As the only hedgewitch in Blackthorn, Massachusetts―an uncommonly magical place―Aziza El-Amin has bargained with wood nymphs, rescued palm-sized fairies from house cats, banished flesh-eating shadows from the local park. But when a dark entity awakens in the forest outside of town, eroding the invisible boundary between the human world and fairyland, run-of-the-mill fae mischief turns into outright aggression, and the danger―to herself and others―becomes too great for her to handle alone.
Leo Merritt is no stranger to magical catastrophes. On his sixteenth birthday, a dormant curse kicked in and ripped away all his memories of his true love. A miserable year has passed since then. He's road-tripped up and down the East Coast looking for a way to get his memories back and hit one dead end after another. He doesn't even know his true love's name, but he feels the absence in his life, and it's haunting.
Desperate for answers, he makes a pact with Aziza: he’ll provide much-needed backup on her nightly patrols, and in exchange, she’ll help him break the curse.
When the creature in the woods sets its sights on them, their survival depends on the aid of a mysterious young necromancer they’re not certain they can trust. But they’ll have to work together to eradicate the new threat and take back their hometown... even if it forces them to uncover deeply buried secrets and make devastating sacrifices.
Much of this story feels original while staying true to old-fashioned fairytales, and I had so much fun reading it. The mystery, magic, and format (short chapters with alternating POVs) keep the reader engaged. It was hard to put down. I'd glance at a chapter's page count and recite the age-old phrase, "Just one more chapter," only to repeat the cycle until I found myself jerking awake after falling asleep mid-chapter.
It’s about family, belonging, choice, identity, secrets, and power—abusing it, having it taken away, the way it can corrupt, and how people handle it differently. It also touches on differences and prejudice, and speaks to toxic and abusive family dynamics, inaccessibility, and systemic issues faced by the homeless.
My only complaint is that it didn't have the best editing job; sometimes the wording was repetitive or felt off, or the author told rather than showed. But at least those moments held entertaining information and storytelling to make up for it. It didn't put me off so much that I couldn't finish the story, and I will definitely keep up with this trilogy as it progresses.
Aziza descends from a line of Lebanese witches. Her parents immigrated to Blackthorn, Massachusetts, and died shortly after she was born, leaving her to be raised by her grandfather. Living an ocean away from her family's homeland, with only her grandfather, Aziza understandably feels a disconnect. But she'd rather focus on Blackthorn, the home she's always known, which needs her now more than ever.
That was how you made a place your home: you put work into it. You carved out a role for yourself. You made yourself belong even if you weren't sure you did.
Between her family hailing from a distant land and the ways her magic makes her different from others, Aziza is used to people thinking her odd. She's grown accustomed to a loner lifestyle, and she tells herself she's fine with it. She doesn't need any friends. But after convincing Aziza to team up for nightly patrols and the search for a way to break his curse, Leo is determined to solidify a friendship—after all, he feels lonely and overwhelmed too.
Curse or no curse, you don't just give up on true love.
Desperate and consumed by his goal to break the curse, Leo gets tunnel vision to the point of shutting others out. He's supposed to be a golden-boy jock who's lost his way, but he's nerdy, witty, romantic, and protective of his little sister Hazel and of Aziza. He is the mother hen of the group, trying (and failing) to talk sense into them when they want to run headlong into danger. But of course he’d do the same for any of them.
Although he isn't mentioned in the synopsis (why?!), the story opens in Tristian's POV as he begrudgingly carries out orders from his master—a mysterious being he bonded with in exchange for a magical favor at the end of his service. Like Leo, Tristian is a romantic and fiercely protective—even of those who have treated him poorly, which landed him in his unfortunate situation. He has sad, kicked-puppy energy, and I constantly wanted to scoop him into a hug.
"Afraid" was a permanent part of his being, fused into his body like an extra limb.
I liked each of the characters and appreciated their growth. I enjoyed the diverse representation (a plus-sized character, people of color, LGBT+, ASL), but I didn't feel especially connected to any of them, which is why this book barely missed the four-star rating.
The story kicks off just before the winter holidays on the northeast coast of the US. We follow the characters across a snowy town, dark forest, chilly beaches, secret tunnels, and otherworldly realms as they deal with all sorts of magical mayhem. I highly enjoyed the vibes, as well as the magic system.
In this world, a witch's powers depend on their type of craft. Aziza's family members have interesting powers, but hers is rare among witches.
Hedgewitches were born where they were needed––in uncommonly magical places, places where the veil was thin. [...] In making her a hedgewitch, Blackthorn had given her purpose. It had given her a way to put down roots.
As a hedgewitch, Aziza tends to the border between realms, keeping them separate and protecting the denizens of each realm from one another. This is hard work that drains her, even more so now that something is damaging the veil faster than usual. The same goes for her grandfather, but I won't spoil anything by telling you about his craft.
The Buried and the Bound is a gorgeous story with a dark, cold atmosphere; haunting visuals; and tough themes. Hassan weaves magic, heartbreak, and hope into every aspect of the story, adding a dash of humor and romance to keep things light and enjoyable.
I would highly recommend this book (especially around the winter holidays) to fantasy readers who enjoy:
🌿faeries and spirits
🌿bargains and curses
🌿witches and magic
🌿lovers who would go through hell for each other