by Cari Thomas

4 out of 5

Within the boroughs of London, nestled among its streets, hides another city, filled with magic.

Magic is the first sin. It must be bound.

Ever since Anna can remember, her aunt has warned her of the dangers of magic. She has taught her to fear how it twists and knots and turns into something dark and deadly.

It was, after all, magic that killed her parents and left her in her aunt’s care. It’s why she has been protected from the magical world and, in one year’s time, what little magic she has will be bound. She will join her aunt alongside the other Binders who believe magic is a sin not to be used, but denied. Only one more year and she will be free of the curse of magic, her aunt’s teachings and the disappointment of the little she is capable of.

Nothing – and no one – could change her mind before then. Could it?

Anna has grown up fearing her non-existent magic, waiting til the day it can be officially bound by the Binders. Her quiet world is thrown into disarray when proud witches Effie and Attis join her school.

I received a free copy from Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

This story follows 16 year old Anna. At school, she has spent years hiding from everybody's notice. She's about to start sixth form, and only has two more years to survive.
At home... she's from a family of witches from the Binder's sect. Her strict aunt has raised her, after both her parents died in a murder suicide when she was a baby. Her aunt has hammered home that her mother was seduced by magic and love, and neglected the ways of the Binders, which is why they died.
Magic is the first sin, and must not be used unless ordained by the Binders.

Growing up without friends or outside influence, Anna thinks this is the norm for witches.
Until an old family friend, Selene, and her daughter Effie, move to London.

Anna learns that some witches practise openly, and there are magic shops and venues dotted across London. The more Anna learns, the more her strict aunt comes across as a religious nut.

I loved the magical world that Thomas has created. It feels realistic, and has weaved historical elements into it, to make it completely authentic.
Despite being born to a witch family, Anna is a novice and completely clueless. It was fascinating to learn about the witchkind alongside her.

That being said, I did find the first half of the book to be very slow-moving. At first, it spends time on Anna's dreadful homelife (I thoroughly despised her aunt!), and helps build a base for the year that will change Anna's life.
Then Anna meets Effie and Attis, and with a couple of other witches at school, they start their own coven. The book slowly builds on the world of witches and magic, whilst Anna and the other outsiders get revenge on their high-school bullies.
I thought this section was very 'Mean Girls' meets 'The Craft'. There was a lot of teenage angst, which has its place in a YA book, but wasn't very compelling to read. Sometimes, it felt like filler, keeping us away from the main witchy mysteries.

The second half had much better pacing. All of the characters were established, and they started to unravel several mysteries, beginning with why Anna can't do magic, and what really happened to her parents.
Throughout the story, there is the constant question of whether Anna will agree to be bound, or not. I think it definitely shows the author's skill that, even when we knew the absolute worst of Anna's aunt, nothing was certain. Anna's changes in opinion feel believable and warranted, as various truths come out to play.
This book isn't afraid to get grim, with violence and domestic abuse.

It ends with a bang, and I can't wait to read the next book in the series.


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