Raven is cursed. Cursed to never love, to never feel joy or belonging. She will never have a family, a wife, or children. She is alone, and will always be alone. She is a shadowhunter, bound to serve the witch queen, Morgan la Fay, the same queen who cursed her bloodline over three hundred years ago and bound Raven’s soul into slavery. Hazel is a young woman living in Salem, oblivious to the gifts of her bloodline, to the inheritance of magic given to her by generations of women. But when Hazel and Raven meet, something passes between them older than magic, more powerful than curses, and they’re going to need every bit of the strength they find in one another if they want to save the world.
Sarah is a puritan woman, a good and faithful daughter to her father, a loyal sister to her brother, and an obedient wife to her husband. The last thing she is is a witch. Charged with the crime of witchcraft, she is thrown into the local jail and is horrified to discover she is not alone. Friends, neighbors, and the woman she loves have also been confined … and soon will hang. Ayotunde is a slave, owned by Sarah’s father until his death and then by Sarah’s brother. She has raised Sarah since childhood and loves her not as a sister or a friend, but as a woman ought not to love another.
When Ayotunde sees her beloved Sarah in the same cell, destined for the same fate, she does the unthinkable and uses magic to send Sarah to another place and another time to save her life, and in so doing threatens to destroy the past and the present altogether as demons, witches, love, and magic collide.
This story is written by two authors, and it shows. While the writing doesn’t always flow smoothly from one section to the next, I must say I enjoy that we get to see each character twice. Once through their own eyes, and once through the eyes of those around them. Raven is a stoic, strong, and solitary woman. She’s powerful, fast, and endures the flirtations of the witch queen with the same bland acceptance of a victim to a bully she knows she can’t fight. Upsetting the witch queen would only go badly for her, so Raven smiles, nods, and accepts it. It’s old hat, to her, and she’s convinced she no longer feels anything … until she meets Hazel. Hazel who is honest, innocent, and wants Raven not as a toy, but as a friend and lover.
Hazel isn’t strong in the way Raven is. She doesn’t see herself as being particularly lovely or clever or anything. Hazel just thinks of herself as normal, for all that she is descended from a powerful line of witches and her powers have just started to awaken. She’s more interested in saving Raven and saving the world than being a the potential heir of an ancient lineage. When Raven won’t, and can’t, fight for herself, Hazel will. And when Raven is afraid to feel, afraid that after so long she doesn’t know how to trust, how to accept, or how to risk being hurt, Hazel is the one to help show her how.
Sarah and Ayotunde have a different dynamic. Their love is almost as old as they are. From an early age, they were dearest friends and confidants. Though they had been separated as Sarah was married away and Ayotunde left behind, they were never far from one another’s thoughts, and when Sarah is brought forward through time to the modern world, her first thoughts are about the poor women left behind to suffer, and her beloved Ayotunde who gave so much to save her.
These two had the sweeter of the romances, and when they were reunited — using Voodoo and the help of Marie Laveau, there’s a heartfelt reunion and a powerful, soft declaration of love:
“I rather never see you then you be beholden.”
“Oh, my Ayotunde.” Sarah stared into her troubled eyes. “And I would rather choose to be beholden.”
There’s an emphasis on love, on sacrifice, but also on trust. On giving the person you love the chance to not only love you back, but to have your back. When Raven would pull away, unwilling to cause harm to Hazel (or to her own heart), Hazel fights back with all she has. Not magic, not fists, not even cleverness. Just love, and honesty, and her own heart:
“Don’t write us off before we have a chance. Don’t take a curse from several hundred years ago and allow it to dictate what’s happening between us. Don’t let black magic determine your fate. Give me a chance. Give yourself a chance.”
The romances are the stronger part of this book; the plotting felt a little haphazard. There are a lot of ideas, and a lot of hand-waving to cover areas where the paint isn’t quite dry. I would have liked a little more world building, a little bit more of an idea of how everything fit together and why this world was put together the way it was. But, all that said, it still offered some interesting looks at witchcraft. This book is well set up for a sequel, and I’d be curious to see what more the authors have in them. Personally, I’d say read this for the romance more than the paranormal. That’s where the true strength lies.