I loved Claribel Ortega’s Ghost Squad, and was so excited to see a new books from her come out! This book reads slightly older, but still has an appealing mix of friendship, danger and magic.
by Claribel A. Ortega
Read from library copy.
The biggest milestone for 12-year-old witchlings in the contemporary-feeling magical town of Ravenskill is being assigned to a coven at the Black Moon ceremony. Seven Salazar and her best friend Poppy have long dreamed of being in Hyacinth Coven. But on the fateful evening, only Poppy makes it into Hyacinth Coven, while Seven and two other girls are left-over Spares, doomed to have stunted magical powers and be left out of mainstream society for the rest of their lives.
Without even consulting the two other girls – rich Valley Pepperhorn, who’s tormented Seven her whole life, and timid new girl Thorn Laroux – Seven invokes the Impossible Task, so that she and the other two girls can be granted full coven status and be allowed to keep using their magical powers. But that leaves three girls with rudimentary magic skills who don’t know or trust each other to hunt down the fearsome Nightbeast that’s terrorizing Ravenskill and the nearby towns.
The premise here felt a little bit flawed at first – why and how would a society decide to fail its young people out of the magical system even if they were competent magic users? Why three children every year? Did this make sense at some point in the past, or was it originally envisioned as a way to create a servant class? But as I read, it seemed more and more that discovering the injustice in a system that was so familiar that Seven had never thought to question it before was the point.
Besides this issue, the story was fantastic. I loved Seven’s supportive parents and her giant baby brother, Beefy. I enjoyed that the town was run by the Gran and the Uncle instead of a mayor, and that life in Ravenskill is filled with details both contemporary and magically whimsical (like toad racing), drawing the reader into it. Seven’s struggles with friendship felt true to life, as she struggles to maintain her friendship with Poppy after they end up in different life situations, and has to learn to get along with and appreciate people she never would have chosen to associate with on her own. Meanwhile, the plot is twisty and dangerous enough to make for an exciting read that stops just short of being too terrifying. I’m look forward to reading many more books by Claribel Ortega! Dare I hope for more in this world?