Review By Karly

A beloved home is under threat of being demolished by the very townspeople who have turned to the inhabitants (five octogenarian witches) for help throughout various times of need. Bianca Marais’ The Witches of Moonshyne Manor explores relationships of all kinds with the manor as a silent witness to the powerful women who call it home.

Favourite Quote:

“It sounds like the house is one of your best friends,” Persephone ventures.

“Oh, she’s more than that,” Queenie says, misty-eyed reaching out and rubbing the wall as though it were a nervous mare. 

“She’s been a mother and a father, a best friend, and a fairy godmother all rolled into one.”  

Goodreads Synopsis: 

Five octogenarian witches gather as an angry mob threatens to demolish Moonshyne Manor. All eyes turn to the witch in charge, Queenie, who confesses they’ve fallen far behind on their mortgage payments. Still, there’s hope, since the imminent return of Ruby—one of the sisterhood who’s been gone for thirty-three years—will surely be their salvation.

But the mob is only the start of their troubles. One man is hellbent on avenging his family for the theft of a legacy he claims was rightfully his. In an act of desperation, Queenie makes a bargain with an evil far more powerful than anything they’ve ever faced. Then things take a turn for the worse when Ruby’s homecoming reveals a seemingly insurmountable obstacle instead of the solution to all their problems.

The witches are determined to save their home and themselves, but their aging powers are no match for increasingly malicious threats. Thankfully, they get a bit of help from Persephone, a feisty TikToker eager to smash the patriarchy. As the deadline to save the manor approaches, fractures among the sisterhood are revealed, and long-held secrets are exposed, culminating in a fiery confrontation with their enemies.

Funny, tender and uplifting, the novel explores the formidable power that can be discovered in aging, found family and unlikely friendships. Marais’ clever prose offers as much laughter as insight, delving deeply into feminism, identity and power dynamics while stirring up intrigue and drama through secrets, lies and sex. Heartbreaking and heart-mending, it will make you grateful for the amazing women in your life.

Even though magic and fantasy are part of Bianca Marais latest book, The Witches of Moonshyne Manor, what the book does well is use the genre of fantasy as a support to center real world issues  – gender identity, sexuality, prejudice and racism, debt, illness, and regret. 

As the five main witches struggle with the looming prospect of their family home being demolished, and coming to terms with their recently returned friend Ruby’s dementia, the magical world is also on their doorstep demanding payment. Throughout the book, Marais allows each of her main characters – Queenie, Jezebel, Ivy, Tabitha, and Ursula to have their own voice and bring their own perspective to the story. As I read, I felt like a confidante for each of these women, privy to their innermost thoughts. The pacing of the book is thoughtful, which allows for the use of multiple POVs without becoming overwhelming or confusing. 

The combination of Queenie, Jezebel Ivy, Tabitha, Ursula, Ruby, and Persephone (the 15-year-old feminist determined to take down the patriarchy and see the witches home saved), allow for both heartwarming and humorous moments throughout the story – reminding us that even during struggle we can laugh and be hopeful. 

Thank you, HarperCollins Canada for the ARC in return for an honest review.