Title: Fat Witch Summer
Publisher: Sword and Rose Press
Author: Lizzy Ives
Price: $29.99 / $16.99 / $9.99
Thrash — plus-size, magenta-haired, bookish and a bit of loner — is the only child of Protectrix Osmarra, a powerful and elegant witch with the Gift of Glamour. When Thrash unexpectedly develops her “knack,” indicating that she does have an inherent skill for magic, she hopes this will finally earn her mother’s acceptance. But Osmarra is determined to force Thrash to accept the Gift of Glamour, changing her magic, her appearance, her very self. Terrified, Thrash jumps at an offer from three other witches — Cresca, Em, and Saki — to travel across the Thirteen States to New Salem University to steal the Gifts they really want. But their secret trip soon turns into a national obsession, and the girls find themselves being chased by journalists, bounty hunters, and even the powerful witch known as The Justice. And the more the girls learn about the nature of the Gifts, and the true nature of their “knacks,” the less they trust the system that upholds magic in the Thirteen States ….
I admit that I am not one to normally read coming of age teen books. But the cover was cute and the premise sounded interesting. So I decided to give Fat Witch Summer a shot.
I am so glad that I did, because I had a blast reading this book. Fat Witch Summer is more than just a coming of age/road trip adventure. There is so much more going on, as the story addresses everything from government oppression and gender expectations to mental health and body positivity.
Every single one of the characters is fully, individually realized, with their own quirks, foibles, and fears. We get to see inside not only Thrash’s head, but also that of Cresca, Em, and Saki — and even Osmarra. Cresca is not as perfect and glamorous as she appears to outsiders. Em, as the only child of a powerful witch and an exiled mer prince, is basically royalty, but she is also smothered and isolated. Saki suffers from terrible anxiety and, even though her parents are letting her choose her own Gift, she has no idea what she wants.
I also loved the world created by Ives for these characters. The Thirteen States are clearly modeled after the United States, but there are striking differences. This is a matriarchal society, and the country has Founding Sisters, not Founding Fathers. Two of the states have majority indigenous populations and follow their own laws, different from those of the other eleven states. Goddess is honored instead of a (male) God, and, given the dating system, I would assume that Christ was female. And, instead of an Industrial Revolution, the country underwent a Magical Revolution.
Fat Witch Summer is a great read, filled with adventure, magic, and self-discovery. Highly recommended to fans of The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow, A Rival Most Vial by RK Ashwick, Spell Bound by FT Lukens, Cinder Ella by ST Lynn, and The Runaway Princess by S. Usher Evans.
[Reviewed by Rebecca Buchanan.]