Read: 28th December 2020 – 30th December 2020
Spoilers in review: No
Rep: black main character, latina side character, east asian (likely japanese-american) side character, south asian side character, sapphic minor characters
CW: kidnapping, murder, memory manipulation
Kappa Rho Nu isn’t your average sorority. Their parties are notorious. Their fundraisers are known for being Westerly College’s most elaborate affairs. But beneath the veil of Greek life and prestige, the sisters of Kappu Rho Nu share a secret: they’re a coven of witches. For Vivi Deveraux, being one of Kappa Rho Nu’s Ravens means getting a chance to redefine herself. For Scarlett Winters, a bonafide Raven and daughter of a legacy Raven, pledge this year means living up to her mother’s impossible expectations of becoming Kappa Rho Nu’s next president. Scarlett knows she’d be the perfect candidate — that is, if she didn’t have one human-sized skeleton in her closet…. When Vivi and Scarlett are paired as big and little for initiation, they find themselves sinking into the sinister world of blood oaths and betrayals.
Overall, I enjoyed reading this book! It was a fun time, and when the plot kicks in in earnest in the second half it was very compelling! I did have some issues with this book, however, and these issues have made this review harder to write than I usually find them to be. They require a bit of unpacking.
Something that I really liked about this book was its magic system. It’s based heavily on tarot cards. Each witch has an affinity for a different ‘suit’, meaning that they’ll have a natural strength in different kinds of spells. For example, some witches are skilled at glamours and illusions, while others are skilled in manipulating the elements. In addition to this the coven regularly pools their magic together so that they’re all able to perform minor spells across all suits regardless of their natural affinity. This was a neat way of showing that they really are stronger together! However, it’s mentioned early on in a throwaway line that all girls have magic within them, but many of them don’t have strong enough magic to be able to do anything with it. As a genderqueer reader, this raised some questions in my mind. Namely: what exactly was meant by ‘girls’? Where do non-cis people fit into this? Why is witchcraft being limited to one gender in the first place?
The handling of representation in this book is a mixed bag. One of the two pov characters, Scarlett, is Black. The authors also made a point of describing all the characters, even if they were white, which I think is something that more authors should do. Whiteness shouldn’t be the assumed default, and I liked that in this book it was treated as a physical descriptor that merits mentioning just like anything else! But I don’t think that the handling of any of the non-white characters ethnicities was done very well. Mei is described only as ‘Asian’, and my saying that she’s likely Japanese is through a guess based on her name alone. Sonali is described only as ‘South Asian’, at no point is the reader given any further information about which South Asian country she’s from, and which one she’s from would’ve likely had a huge impact on her background and on her approach to magic. Except if Sonali is anything to go by, it appears that the approach to magic is exactly the same in every culture all across the world. I don’t buy that. The necessary depth just wasn’t there, and the diversity felt more like tokenism than it being actually genuine.
I really liked the strong focus on female friendship and sisterhood! I’ve never been a part of a sorority, they’re not a thing in the UK, so I haven’t had any personal experience with what it’s like to be part of a sorority and can’t speak for its realism in that regard. But these girls all genuinely love each other and would tear the world apart for each other, and it was such a lovely thing to see! I even liked seeing Scarlett warm up to and become close with Vivi after her initial dislike of her. Sometimes people just don’t like someone upon meeting them, without any real reason for it, and it was interesting to see them not be best friends right away. Not-quite-enemies to friends is a dynamic that doesn’t get explored very much, so it was cool to see it here!
There’s a scene near the end of the book that I really didn’t like. Boy drama is a barely tolerable plotline as it is. When the boy drama leads to characters doing things that are frankly out of character and putting each other in danger, it’s not even barely tolerable anymore. Maybe it’s the arospec in me, but I simply do not understand why the situation even happened, let alone how it got reacted to like it did. I can’t go into more detail without explaining the whole plot, so I’m just going to leave this point as the vague mess that it is, but if you’ve read this book already then you know what I’m talking about.
I rated this book four stars immediately upon finishing because I did enjoy it and wouldn’t actively discourage people from reading it if they’re interested in doing so! But it did have its issues, some of them serious, and these may understandably be a dealbreaker for some people. I’m unsure whether I’ll be picking up the sequel. This book works perfectly as a standalone, so I don’t feel any strong need to anyway.
I recieved an e-arc through Edelweiss in return for an honest review.
About The Authors
Kass Morgan is the New York Times bestselling author of The 100, which was the inspiration for the hit CW show of the same name, and Light Years. An editor of middle grade and young adult fiction at a larger publisher, Kass received a bachelor’s degree from Brown University and a master’s degree from Oxford University. She lives in New York City. Twitter and Instagram: @kassmorganbooks
Danielle Paige is the New York Times bestselling author of the Dorothy Must Die series and Stealing Snow, as well as an upcoming Fairy Godmother origin story series, and the graphic novel Mera: Tidebreaker for DC. In addition to writing young adult books, she works in the television industry, where she received a Writers Guild of America Award and was nominated for several Daytime Emmys. She is a graduate of Columbia University. Danielle lives in New York City. daniellepaigebooks.com Twitter: daniellempaige Instagram: daniellempaige
About The Blogger
El is a 21 year old university student from the UK who loves to read and loves talking about what they read. They particularly like to focus on books featuring lgbtq+ main characters.