The Nature of Witches Book Review
Updated: Oct 21, 2022
Rachel Griffin's debut novel has been on my list for a while thanks to its gorgeous covers—the hardback has a pretty plant pattern hidden beneath the lovely dust jacket—but also for the concept of witches fighting climate change. Since its release, The Nature of Witches garnered a ton of hype, and let me tell ya: it deserved it.
Genre: YA Fantasy / Dark Academia
Category: Cozy Read
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RATING: 5/5 Stars
Plot: 5/5 stars
Characters: 5/5 stars
World: 5/5 stars
Pairings: Hearty potato soup + black tea with honey
Our Earth is tired––let her rest.
The Nature of Witches follows Clara, a witch with a rare power attending the Eastern School of Solar Magic. Here, witches are trained to strengthen and control their seasonal magics to prepare them for the battle against Earth's deteriorating atmosphere. The witches are grouped by their type of magic, which is connected to one of the four seasons: spring, summer, autumn, and winter.
Then there are the rare Evers, with magic connected to all four seasons. But what’s interesting is that this connection not only manifests in the magic they wield, but in the way the changing of the seasons affects their personality.
Clara is an Everwitch with the weight of the world on her shoulders, as the staff and students at Eastern expect her to master her magic and be the big difference in helping restore the damage caused by humans’ overdevelopment of Earth. But her magic has done more harm than good, causing Clara to fear and hate the thing that makes her special.
I hate apologizing for who I am. Or maybe I just hate who I am. I'm not sure.
After an accident leaves yet another of Clara's loved ones dead, the academy brings in a new teacher and student from the Western school to help Clara train. It's rough going at first, as Clara does not trust or get along with them, but with a little help from old and new friends, Clara gains a deeper understanding of her magic and begins to respect and trust it.
Realizing you love someone is like noticing you have a sunburn––you don't know exactly when it happened, just that you were exposed for too long. So I minimize my exposure. To everyone.
If it weren't already apparent, this is a character-driven story that's heavy on training. It's about self-trust, vulnerability, appreciating your gifts, and stepping into your power. It reminded me a lot of Nesta's journey in A Court of Silver Flames (you can find my review for that book here).
I liked Clara and really felt for her. It was interesting to see how even though her powerful magic was always "in season" and at its peak, she didn't feel strong; she’s unable to latch onto who she is when each season brings a new version of herself, creating a vicious cycle of confusion and self-loss. Her journey from being a loner who hates her magic to someone who embraces her connections and power is beautiful. I love how she learned to be receptive to her magic and others rather than constantly hold everything and everyone back.
I also liked her teacher, Mr. Hart. He was everything a teacher should be—understanding, encouraging without being pushy, always honest with her, and willing to meet her where she was rather than force her to be at the level he wanted to see her at.
"Do you really want to live in fear of who you are for the rest of your life? Control doesn't come from avoiding the power you have, Clara; it comes from mastering it."
The new instructor assigned to her, however, I did not like. I get where he was coming from, and his methods admittedly worked, but he was such a jerk.
Then there are Clara's personal relationships: her ex and new love interest. I was under the impression this would be a sapphic book thanks to posts on booktok and was a little disappointed that while Clara did love a girl and still cared for her, much of the book is about her relationship with a man. That’s not to say I don’t like him—he is a sweetheart, and I love the way they communicated through flowers and how he helped her come into her power.
"A mess is something that needs to be cleaned up. You're not a mess. You're a force to be reckoned with. [...] You are the most magnificently disruptive thing that's ever entered my life."
I also had a deep respect for her ex; while she was obviously jealous and holding onto feelings for Clara, she was able to put it all aside to help her and still be a friend to her. She was also brutally honest at times, and I appreciate that in people.
Griffin has created a beautiful blend of real-life witches and her original magic system. It reflects how witches in our world are in tune with and care for the earth, and how they aim to make the world a better, more sustainable place. Her magic system highlights how we all have our own cycles of strength and rest, how we must respect that or risk burning out. Just like our planet, we have our limits.
I thought Clara's love interest's power was neat, and his work to help nature recover was a brilliant, romantic idea. I'd have a blast learning his methods in the school's greenhouses and fields.
If this setting were real, I would love to go to either of the Schools of Solar Magic. Their training sessions are badass, the immersion houses are like a gorgeous dream, and I would love attending the formals at the end of each season.
I loved reading this book during the Autumn Equinox, as this seasonal shift is important to Clara’s journey. It's a neat way to feel even more immersed in the story.
Clara's journey in The Nature of Witches is a reminder that no matter how dire things look, with a little faith and teamwork, there is still hope; any obstacle can be faced. The character growth, magical training sessions, and weather battles were a blast to read. This book holds a lot of wisdom, from the narration and dialogue to the quotes heading each chapter that relate to Clara's journey and wind up being part of her ending.
I would highly recommend this book to fantasy readers who enjoy character-driven plots, realistic contemporary settings, magic, dark academia, and/or self-discovery journeys.
The challenge is great, and we have a lot of work ahead of us. But we're in this together, and if there's anything I've learned this past year, it's that together is where the magic lies.
Have you read this book already? Let me know how you felt about it in the comments below or on one of our social media pages; you can always find us on Instagram or Twitter! Stay tuned to my review of Griffin's second novel, Wild is the Witch.