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List Witch

23 Best Witch Books

 

Art by Yoshitaka Amano

Women through the ages have been burned or beloved as witches, seen as everything from green-skinned child-eating cacklers to protectors with near god(goddess?)-like powers.

 

23
The Raven Boys
by Maggie Stiefvater – 2012
Book 1 of 4 in the Raven Cycle

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue never sees them—until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks to her.

His name is Gansey, a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul whose emotions range from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She doesn’t believe in true love, and never thought this would be a problem. But as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

“A book with cross-appeal to lovers of fantasy, horse stories, romance, and action-adventure, this seems to have a shot at being a YA blockbuster.”
—Booklist (starred review)

22
White Is for Witching
by Helen Oyeyemi – 2009

There’s something strange about the Silver family house in the closed-off town of Dover, England. Grand and cavernous, with hidden passages and buried secrets, it’s been home to four generations of Silver women—Anna, Jennifer, Lily, and now Miranda, who has lived in the house with her twin brother, Eliot, ever since their father converted it to a bed-and-breakfast. The Silver women have always had a strong connection, a pull over one another that reaches across time and space, and when Lily, Miranda’s mother, passes away suddenly while on a trip abroad, Miranda begins suffering strange ailments. An eating disorder starves her. She begins hearing voices. When she brings a friend home, Dover’s hostility toward outsiders physically manifests within the four walls of the Silver house, and the lives of everyone inside are irrevocably changed.

This book isn’t for everyone. I recommend checking out the “Look Inside” feature in amazon.com and see if you like the style or not.

“Profoundly chilling… a slow-building neo-Gothic that will leave persevering readers breathless.”
—The Boston Globe

21
Labyrinth Lost
by Zoraida Cordova – 2016
Book 1 of 3 in the Broklyn Brujas series

An NPR Best Young Adult Book of 2016

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic.

At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she’s not sure she can trust, but who may be Alex’s only chance at saving her family.

“A brilliant brown-girl-in-Brooklyn update on Alice in Wonderland and Dante’s Inferno. Very creepy, very magical, very necessary.”
―Daniel José Older, author of Shadowshaper

20
The Bone Witch
by Rin Chupeco – 2017
Book 1 of 3 in the Bone Witch series

Tea can raise the dead, but resurrection comes at a price…

When Tea accidentally resurrects her brother, Fox, from the dead, she learns she is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy means that she’s a bone witch, a title that makes her feared and ostracized by her community. But Tea finds solace and guidance with an older, wiser bone witch, who takes Tea and her brother to another land for training.

In her new home, Tea puts all her energy into becoming an asha, one who can wield elemental magic. But dark forces are approaching quickly, and in the face of danger, Tea will have to overcome her obstacles and make a powerful choice.

“Mesmerizing. Chupeco does a magnificent job of balancing an intimate narrative perspective with sweeping worldbuilding, crafting her tale within a multicultural melting pot of influences as she presses toward a powerful cliffhanger.”
―Publishers Weekly (starred review)

19
How to Hang a Witch
by Adriana Mather – 2016
Book 1 of 2 in the How to Hang a Witch series

Salem, Massachusetts, is the site of the infamous witch trials and the new home of Samantha Mather. Recently transplanted from New York City, Sam and her stepmother are not exactly welcomed with open arms. Sam is the descendant of Cotton Mather, one of the men responsible for those trials—and almost immediately, she becomes the enemy of a group of girls who call themselves the Descendants. And guess who their ancestors were?

If dealing with that weren’t enough, Sam also comes face to face with a real, live (well, technically dead) ghost. A handsome, angry ghost who wants Sam to stop touching his stuff. But soon Sam discovers she is at the center of a centuries-old curse affecting anyone with ties to the trials. Sam must come to terms with the ghost and find a way to work with the Descendants to stop a deadly cycle that has been going on since the first accused witch was hanged. If any town should have learned its lesson, it’s Salem. But history may be about to repeat itself.

“It’s like Mean Girls meets history class in the best possible way.”
—Seventeen Magazine

18
Cauchemar
by Alexandra Grigorescu – 2015

Cauchemar tells the story of twenty-year-old Hannah, who finds herself living alone on the edge of a Louisiana swamp after her adopted mother and protector dies. Hannah falls in love with Callum, an easy-going boat captain and part-time musician, but after her mysterious birth mother, outcast as a witch and rumored to commune with the dead, comes back into Hannah’s life, she must confront what she’s been hiding from—the deadly spirits that haunt the swamp, the dark secrets of her past, and the nascent gift she possesses.

“Grigorescu grabs readers with a sense of foreboding at the start and builds intense tension as she leads them into a haunting place where the lines between dream and reality, living and dead, blur and hypnotize.”
—Publishers Weekly

17
Witches on the Road Tonight
by Sheri Holman – 2011

As a child growing up in Depression-era rural Virginia, Eddie Alley’s quiet life is rooted in the rumors of his mother’s witchcraft. But when he’s visited by a writer and glamorous photographer researching American folklore for the WPA, the spell of his mother’s unorthodox life is violently disrupted, and Eddie is inspired to pursue a future beyond the confines of his dead-end town.

He leaves for New York and becomes a television horror-movie presenter beloved for his kitschy comedy. Though expert at softening terror for his young fans, Eddie cannot escape the guilty secrets of his own childhood. When he opens his family’s door to a homeless teenager working as an intern at the TV station, the boy’s presence not only awakens something in Eddie, but also in his twelve-year-old daughter, Wallis, who has begun to feel a strange kinship to her notorious grandmother. As the ghost stories of one generation infiltrate the next, Wallis and Eddie grapple with the sins of the past to repair their misguided attempts at loyalty and redemption.

“Undeniably impressive… explores the dark vein of magic that runs just beneath our real lives.”
—The New York Times Book Review

16
Daughter of Witches
by Patricia C. Wrede – 1983
Book 2 of 5 in the Lyra series

Drinn is not a safe place to be a witch. Ranira knows that better than most, for when she was just a child, the temple guards burned her parents at the stake for practicing magic. Now an indentured servant for a brutal innkeeper, she lives every day with the shame of her parents’ alleged crime.

There is no worse time to visit Drinn than during the Midwinter Festival, when the city gates are sealed so that no outsider can witness the temple’s secret rituals. And at Ranira’s inn, three guests have overstayed their welcome. Attempting to protect Ranira from her master’s cruelty, the three reveal their magical powers and attract the attention of the temple guards. Now, to save her new friends from certain death, Ranira must unleash the power that cost her parents their lives.

“High-style fantasy and adventure.”
—The New York Times

15
The Mists of Avalon
by Marion Zimmer Bradley – 1982
Book 1 of 7 in the Avalon series

In this book, we see the tumult and adventures of Camelot’s court through the eyes of the women who bolstered the king’s rise and schemed for his fall. From their childhoods through the ultimate fulfillment of their destinies, we follow these women and the diverse cast of characters that surrounds them as the great Arthurian epic unfolds.

As Morgaine and Gwenhwyfar struggle for control over the fate of Arthur’s kingdom, as the Knights of the Round Table take on their infamous quest, as Merlin and Viviane wield their magics for the future of Old Britain, the Isle of Avalon slips further into the impenetrable mists of memory, until the fissure between old and new worlds and old and new religions claims its most famous victim.

“[A] monumental reimagining of the Arthurian legends… Reading it is a deeply moving and at times uncanny experience… An impressive achievement.”
—The New York Times Book Review

14
The Hangman's Daughter
by Oliver Pötzsch – 2008
Book 1 of 7 in the A Hangman’s Daughter Tale series

Germany, 1660: When a dying boy is pulled from the river with a mark crudely tattooed on his shoulder, hangman Jakob Kuisl is called upon to investigate whether witchcraft is at play. So begins The Hangman’s Daughter—the historical thriller from German television screenwriter Oliver Pötzsch, a descendant of the Kuisls, a famous Bavarian executioner clan.

Magdalena, the clever and headstrong daughter of Bavarian hangman Jakob Kuisl, lives with her father outside the village walls and is destined to be married off to another hangman’s son—except that the town physician’s son is hopelessly in love with her. And her father’s wisdom and empathy are as unusual as his despised profession. It is 1659, the Thirty Years’ War has finally ended, and there hasn’t been a witchcraft mania in decades. But now, a drowning and gruesomely injured boy, tattooed with the mark of a witch, is pulled from a river and the villagers suspect the local midwife, Martha Stechlin.

Jakob Kuisl is charged with extracting a confession from her and torturing her until he gets one. Convinced she is innocent, he, Magdalena, and her would-be suitor to race against the clock to find the true killer. Approaching Walpurgisnacht, when witches are believed to dance in the forest and mate with the devil, another tattooed orphan is found dead and the town becomes frenzied. More than one person has spotted what looks like the devil—a man with a hand made only of bones. The hangman, his daughter, and the doctor’s son face a terrifying and very real enemy.

“Pötzsch, actually descended from a line of hangmen, delivers a fantastically fast-paced read.”
—Publishers Weekly

13
The Witch's Trinity
by Erika Mailman – 2007

When a severe famine strikes a small town in Germany in 1507, a friar arrives from a large city, claiming that the town is under the spell of witches in league with the devil. He brings with him a book called the Malleus Maleficarum—“The Witch’s Hammer”—a guide to gaining confessions of witchcraft, and promises to identify the guilty woman who has brought God’s anger upon the town, burn her, and restore bounty.

Güde Müller suffers stark and frightening visions: recently she has seen things that defy explanation. No one in the village know this, and Güde herself worries that perhaps her mind has begun to wander. Yet of one thing she is absolutely certain: she has become an object of scorn and a burden to her son’s wife. In these desperate times her daughter-in-law would prefer one less hungry mouth at the family table. As the friar turns his eye on each member of the tiny community, Güde dreads what her daughter-in-law might say to win his favor.

Then one terrible night Güde follows an unearthly voice and the scent of charred meat into the snow-filled woods. Come morning, she no longer knows if the horror she witnessed was real or imagined. She only knows that if the friar hears of it, she may be damned in this life as well as the next.

“A disturbingly effective historical novel.”
—Boston Globe

12
Practical Magic
by Alice Hoffman – 1995

For more than two hundred years, the Owens women have been blamed for everything that has gone wrong in their Massachusetts town. Gillian and Sally have endured that fate as well: as children, the sisters were forever outsiders, taunted, talked about, pointed at. Their elderly aunts almost seemed to encourage the whispers of witchery, with their musty house, their exotic concoctions, and their crowd of black cats. But all Gillian and Sally wanted was to escape. One will do so by marrying, the other by running away. But the bonds they share will bring them back—almost as if by magic…

“A beautiful, moving book about the power of love and the desires of the heart.”
—Denver Post

11
Like Water for Chocolate
by Laura Esquivel – 1989

This classic love story, leavened with plenty of magical realism, takes place on the De la Garza ranch, as the tyrannical owner, Mama Elena, chops onions at the kitchen table in her final days of pregnancy. While still in her mother’s womb, her daughter-to-be weeps so violently she causes an early labor, and little Tita slips out amid the spices and fixings for noodle soup. This early encounter with food soon becomes a way of life, and Tita grows up to be a master chef, using cooking to express herself and sharing recipes with readers along the way.

“A tall-tale, fairy-tale, soap-opera romance, Mexican cookbook and home-remedy handbook all rolled into one, Like Water For Chocolate is one tasty entree from first-time novelist Laura Esquivel.”
—San Francisco Chronicle

10
The Ocean at the End of the Lane
by Neil Gaiman – 2013

A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse where she once lived, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

“Poignant and heartbreaking, eloquent and frightening, impeccably rendered, it’s a fable that reminds us how our lives are shaped by childhood experiences, what we gain from them and the price we pay.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

9
The Witches of Eastwick
by John Updike – 1984

Toward the end of the Vietnam era, in a snug little Rhode Island seacoast town, wonderful powers have descended upon Alexandra, Jane, and Sukie, bewitching divorcées with sudden access to all that is female, fecund, and mysterious. Alexandra, a sculptor, summons thunderstorms; Jane, a cellist, floats on the air; and Sukie, the local gossip columnist, turns milk into cream. Their happy little coven takes on new, malignant life when a dark and moneyed stranger, Darryl Van Horne, refurbishes the long-derelict Lenox mansion and invites them in to play. Scandal flits through the darkening, crooked streets of Eastwick—and through the even darker fantasies of the town’s collective psyche.

“John Updike is the great genial sorcerer of American letters [and] The Witches of Eastwick [is one of his] most ambitious works… [A] comedy of the blackest sort.”
—The New York Times Book Review

8
Dance Upon the Air
by Nora Roberts – 2001
Book 1 of 3 in the Three Sisters Island series

When Nell Channing arrives on charming Three Sisters Island, she believes that she’s finally found refuge from her abusive husband—and from the terrifying life she fled so desperately eight months ago.

Careful to conceal her true identity, she takes a job as a cook at the local bookstore café and begins to explore her feelings for the island sheriff, Zack Todd. But there is a part of herself she can never reveal to him. One careless word, one misplaced confidence, and the new life she’s so carefully created could shatter completely.

Just as Nell starts to wonder if she’ll ever be able to break free of her fear, she realizes that the island suffers under a terrible curse—one that can only be broken by the descendants of the Three Sisters, the witches who settled the island back in 1692. And now, with the help of two other strong, gifted women—and the nightmares of the past haunting her every step—Nell must find the power to save her home, her love… and herself.

“It’s probably witchcraft that Roberts can turn out so many books and still create something that’s sexy and charming.”
—Publishers Weekly

7
The Witching Hour
by Anne Rice – 1990
Book 1 of 5 in the Lives of Mayfair Witches series

When Dr. Rowan Mayfair’s—a gifted neurosurgeon—estranged birth mother dies in New Orleans, she begins to learn about the old Southern family to which she belongs. To her surprise, this includes poetry, incest, murder, philosophy, and that the family that, over the ages, has been haunted by a powerful, dangerous, and seductive being.

“[A] strong story stamps itself onto the brain.”
—Kirkus Reviews

6
Wicked
by Gregory Maguire – 1995

Wicked is about a land where animals talk and strive to be treated like first-class citizens, Munchkinlanders seek the comfort of middle-class stability and the Tin Man becomes a victim of domestic violence. And then there is the little green-skinned girl named Elphaba, who will grow up to be the infamous Wicked Witch of the West, a smart, prickly, and misunderstood creature who challenges all our preconceived notions about the nature of good and evil.

Elphaba’s name comes from “L. Frank Baum,” the author of the Oz books.

This New York Times bestseller is the basis for the smash hit Tony Award-winning Broadway musical.

5
Conjure Wife
by Fritz Leiber – 1943

Ethnology professor Norman Saylor is shocked to discover that his wife, Tansy, has been putting his research on “Conjure Magic” into practice. She only wants to protect him from the other spell-casting faculty wives who would stop at nothing to advance their husbands’ careers. But Norman, as a man of science, demands she put an end to it. And when Tansy’s last charm is burned… Norman’s life starts falling apart.

First, Norman has a disastrous run-in with a former protégé. Then his student secretary accuses him of seducing her. He’s even passed over for a promotion that had been certain. Plus he’s become exceedingly accident-prone: from shaving to carpet tacks to letter openers, hazards are suddenly everywhere. At his wit’s end, he begins to worry that a dark presence is exploiting his fear of trucks (yes, trucks). But the worst is yet to come when Tansy takes his curse upon herself. Now, in order to save his wife, Norman must overcome his disbelief and embrace the dark magic he disdains.

Winner of the 1944 Retrospective Hugo Award

4
Akata Witch
by Nnedi Okorafor – 2011

Sunny Nwazue lives in Nigeria, but she was born in New York City. Her features are West African, but she’s albino. She’s a terrific athlete, but can’t go out into the sun to play soccer. There seems to be no place where she fits in. And then she discovers something amazing—she is a “free agent” with latent magical power. And she has a lot of catching up to do.

Soon she’s part of a quartet of magic students, studying the visible and invisible, learning to change reality. But as she’s finding her footing, Sunny and her friends are asked by the magical authorities to help track down a career criminal who knows magic, too. Will their training be enough to help them combat a threat whose powers greatly outnumber theirs?

“Okorafor’s imagination is stunning.”
—The New York Times Book Review

3
A Discovery of Witches
by Deborah Harkness – 2011
Book 1 of 3 in the All Souls Trilogy

Diana Bishop, a young scholar and a descendant of witches, discovers a long-lost and enchanted alchemical manuscript, Ashmole 782, deep in Oxford’s Bodleian Library. Its reappearance summons a fantastical underworld, which she navigates with her leading man, vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont.

“A thoroughly grown-up novel packed with gorgeous historical detail and a gutsy, brainy heroine to match… Harkness writes with thrilling gusto about the magical world.”
—Entertainment Weekly

2
The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.
by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland – 2017

The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. is brilliant, fast-paced, and told almost exclusively from the point of view of female characters. It will give you sore wrists because it’s a thick, heavy book, but you will not want to put it down.

An expert in ancient languages is hired by a mysterious government agency to translate some documents that suggest that magic actually once existed in the world. But the advance of science caused magic to disappear in 1851. However, the existence of a two-hundred-year-old witch and some fancy technology allow a limited amount of magic to occur in this world, and soon the language expert and others are being sent back in time to repair history. And, if they’re lucky, bring magic back to the world.

“Quantum physics, witchcraft, and multiple groups with conflicting agendas, playfully mixed with vernacular from several centuries and a dizzying number of acronyms, create a fascinating experiment in speculation and metafiction that never loses sight of the human foibles and affections of its cast.”
—Publishers Weekly

1
Wyrd Sisters
by Terry Pratchett – 1988
Book 6 of 40 in the Discworld series

Wyrd Sisters is the story of Granny Weatherwax, the most highly regarded non-leader a coven of non-social witches could ever have.

Generally, these loners don’t get involved in anything, much less royal intrigue. But then there are those times they can’t help it. As Granny Weatherwax is about to discover, though, it’s a lot harder to stir up trouble in the castle than some theatrical types would have you think… even when you’ve got a few unexpected spells up your sleeve.

Granny Weatherwax teams with two other witches—Nanny Ogg and Margat Garlick—as an unlikely alliance to save a prince and restore him to the throne of Lancre, in a tale that borrows—or is it parodies—some of William Shakespeare’s best-loved works.

As with many of his stories, Pratchett skewers common fantasy tropes while still having plenty of affection for his all-too-human characters.

Bonus Book!

!!!
Nyx
by D. M. Livingston – 2013

By far the best witch book ever written, hands down, and I say this with no hesitation whatsoever, is Nyx.

In this heartwarming fantasy-horror novel, Nyx, a sarcastic, mildly homicidal fairy, is hurled into Hell, but instead of damned souls and devils, she finds only a group of confused, young human witches.

It’s hate at first sight.

But Nyx and the witches, whose magical skills are not quite polished, must work together to survive the ravages of Hell, and then the demon-infested nightmare Earth has become.

The motley crew searches for the Keys of Iron, Flame, and Sorrow, which will (hopefully) close the Gates of Hell. However, the dark queen Morda, who opened the Gates by tricking Lucifer himself, takes a special interest in obliterating the bickering group.

That is, if they don’t obliterate each other first…

“[W]itty, always surprising blend of fantasy and the supernatural, all wrapped up with a lively sense of humor… The characters are… well drawn, the jokes… always genuinely funny, and while it isn’t the equal of, say, Terry Pratchett, it’s at least living in the same neighborhood.”
—Don D’amassa’s Horror Review

Please note that the fact that I wrote Nyx does not bias me in any way in saying that it is the most astonishing piece of literature yet created by human civilization.

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