On its publication date, I’m sharing my review of the phenomenal Witches Steeped in Gold by Ciannon Smart. This book is simply one of the best fantasies I’ve ever read. I loved everything I heard about it and luckily for me, the amazing Hot Key Books sent me an ARC in exchange for an honest review. It ended up being one of my favourite reads of 2020.
Divided by their order. United by their vengeance.
Iraya has spent her life in a cell, but every day brings her closer to freedom – and vengeance.
Jazmyne is the Queen’s daughter, but unlike her sister before her, she has no intention of dying to strengthen her mother’s power.
Sworn enemies, these two witches enter a precarious alliance to take down a mutual threat. But power is intoxicating, revenge is a bloody pursuit, and nothing is certain – except the lengths they will go to win this game.
TW: torture, death, murder, emotional abuse, mind control
It is no exaggeration to say that this was one of my favourite books of last year. Smart has just crafted such a phenomenal, rich and utterly original fantasy that I cannot implore you enough to pick up.
I am never going to shut up about how brilliant this book is. This is pure excellence, just phenomenal in every single way. Smart has created a fantastic tale, which was one of the easiest five star ratings I’ve ever given out.
I loved how expansive the world felt, fleshed out with plenty of mythology and cultural touchstones that brought the pages completely to life. I’m a sucker for a strong history, magic system and political system and Smart hits every nail on its head. All three are so well developed and feel vividly imagined. The influence of Jamacian mythology on the world is keenly felt and was so intriguing. Smart’s love for this is so evident, making every tiny detail feel carefully selected and precisely depicted.
Possibly the biggest love of the story for me has to be the characters. I’m very much a character driven reader and both Iraya and Jazmyne are exceptional. They’re such complex, flawed and three dimensional figures with voices that cast a spell over me. I fell in love with them completely, particularly with their complexity and nuance. Smart completely smashes the dichotomy of good and evil, hero and villain and instead opts to tell a story that’s more rooted in morally gray territory. Motivations are understandable, however horrible their consequences may be and I really liked how it was hard to distinguish who fell into each role. These characters are so much more than those restrictive labels. They are living, breathing and all too human. They’re trying to do the best for both themselves and the people they hold dear in a world filled with darkness, duplicity and twisted ideologies.
Smart’s storytelling is so exquisitely crafted. Every word feels loving chosen and carefully placed in order to fully immerse you in this emotional rollercoaster, filled with betrayal and intrigue. I cannot tell you how much I am just genuinely obsessed with this book. The writing just felt so beautifully moving and layered with so much depth and warmth to it. It’s extremely compelling and felt like such a great change from the cliche filled stories you sometimes find within YA fantasy. The ending was incredible, but also quite a sting in the tale, leaving me desperately wanting to dissect every aspect of the book and to be able to dive right back into this wonderful world for the next chapter in this story.
Witches Steeped in Gold is a book that has left a mark on my heart. It’s one of those books that I just cannot stop thinking about and Smart is an author that has burst onto the scene and stolen my entire heart. If this is not already on your TBR, please correct that mistake now.