The Witches of Moonshyne Manor by Bianca Marais

Five witches live in Moonshyne Manor, a house on the edge of town, when an angry mob and some dark omens let the cat out of the bag that the men in town plan on condemning their home since they’ve been defaulting on payments and also, because everyone hates them because they’re witches. They’re only hope is Ruby, who has mysteriously been away and is about to return, and also the daughter of the mayor, who is 12 and is on Tiktok.

The book switches between the perspectives of the different women, and the book is peppered with little spells between chapters. The tone is very light and trying to be both funny and woke.

I did not love this one. It feels really uneven and cartoonish. Its set up and plot was like something from a straight to DVD family movie from the 90’s, with it’s evil developer and the hip young person teaching the older ladies about technology, and those kooky old ladies living it up even though they’re really old, how cute…, (one of these characters feels heavily based on Blanche from Golden Girls). There’s a deadline looming and no real tension or urgency, and by trying to have every woke trope in the book, it’s relentlessly unfunny and clunky. For example, the men in town want to knock the house down and build “Men’s World” a theme park for men. There is zero subtlety here. I think it wanted to have a bit of those Hocus Pocus vibes while being politically correct, which would have worked really well, but it just misses the mark.

Secondly, there’s plenty of ageism in this book. The women are meant to be elderly. One of them is very promiscuous, so we’re meant to see that as the author letting us know that older people still have sex. This isn’t a newsflash. However, the author describes all the characters as being pretty down, crotchety, embittered by life and also we get too much description of their bodies and how many veins they have, all the sagging and wrinkles. Older people are not just their bodies. Describing the amount of varicose veins they have in place of developing characters is just lazy, bad writing. These women are meant to be in the same age range as Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda or Jane Goodall. Other older women like Lauren Bacall, Betty White and Audrey Hepburn also spring to mind. Beautiful, vibrant, positive women who have meaningful lives and who are positive in their later years, proactive and not a collection of veins and complaints. Not just their bodies. We’re told the witches in this book lose their magic a little with age. Well, go tell Dolly Parton she’s losing her magic with age and see what she says.

So, this one is a no from me.

Read It If: I see some people over on Goodreads who are loving this one, so this is one where I think personal taste is really going to come into play.

Thank you to the publisher for the ARC of this book for review.

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