The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna – ARC Review!

As one of the few witches in Britain, Mika Moon knows she has to hide her magic, keep her head down, and stay away from other witches so their powers don’t mingle and draw attention. And as an orphan who lost her parents at a young age and was raised by strangers, she’s used to being alone and she follows the rules…with one exception: an online account, where she posts videos “pretending” to be a witch. She thinks no one will take it seriously.

But someone does. An unexpected message arrives, begging her to travel to the remote and mysterious Nowhere House to teach three young witches how to control their magic. It breaks all of the rules, but Mika goes anyway, and is immediately tangled up in the lives and secrets of not only her three charges, but also an absent archaeologist, a retired actor, two long-suffering caretakers, and…Jamie. The handsome and prickly librarian of Nowhere House would do anything to protect the children, and as far as he’s concerned, a stranger like Mika is a threat. An irritatingly appealing threat.

As Mika begins to find her place at Nowhere House, the thought of belonging somewhere begins to feel like a real possibility. But magic isn’t the only danger in the world, and when a threat comes knocking at their door, Mika will need to decide whether to risk everything to protect a found family she didn’t know she was looking for….

Mika Moon is a witch. Something she has had to hide all her life. An orphan whose parents died when she was a baby, and raised by strangers, Mika is no stranger to having to hide who she is, protect herself and her fellow witches. Her one outlet is a youtube channel where she post videos pretending to be a witch, thinking no one will actually believe it’s true. That is until she gets a mysterious message in her inbox ‘Witch wanted’, and even more vague and strange answers to her questions. So Mika does what anyone would do, she goes to the house and tries to find out what is going on. What she finds is a strange place, with an even stranger group of people inhabiting it, including three young witches. Mika knows that that much power in one place can surely only cause trouble, but she quickly gets sucked in to helping the children learn to harness and control their power. The more time she spends there, the more in love with falls with everyone, not least the prickly and scowly librarian Jamie, but Mika has a lot of scars from her past, some not quite healed over, and all it will take is one little lie for the life she has built to come tumbling back down.

“You’re a gift from the gods, Mika Moon.’ ‘Don’t get soppy yet, Ian Kubo-Hawthorn,’ she replied. ‘This is either going to be the miracle you hoped for or it’s going to an absolute fucking disaster.”

Mika was such a fantastic character. We start the book falling into her easy charm, wit and smiles, but the more time we spend with her, the more we realise just how lonely her life is. Thanks to rules set by the ‘head witch’ of the UK, witches are only allowed to meet at certain times and places, certainly not live together, so Mika has spent her life flitting from place to place, never setting down roots, never making friends because she knows it would never be true while she is keeping such a big thing from them. But then comes Nowhere House and the inhabitants that not only know she’s a witch, they love her for it. It’s easy to see why she gets drawn to this place, this life she never imagined herself having, and it was both sad and heartwarming seeing her second guessing herself, thinking that surely they would get bored of her at some point and then slowly coming to realise this might just be where she fits.

“An absent archaeologist, a housekeeper, a librarian, a gardener, a retired actor, and three unlikely witches. As backstories went, it was one of the weirdest Mika had ever heard.”

As for side characters we meet a few of Mika’s witchy friends, including Primrose, the head witch and woman who was in charge of raising Mika as a child. But the true stars of this story are the inhabitants of Nowhere House. Ian, the ex dramatic actor who likes to meddle in things he shouldn’t, Ken, his long suffering husband and gardener for Nowhere House, Lucie the housekeeper who ended up there after a failed marriage, Jamie the librarian and only real parent the children have ever known, and the children. Rosetta, Terracotta & Altamira, all three with tragic backstories who were brought to Nowhere House as babies and have been raised by the quirky bunch of people who live there. The children absolutely made this story what it was, they added humour, heartbreak as well as love.

“Her eyes very round, seven-year old Altamira said with perfect gravity, ‘That was some excellent Mary Poppins shit right there.”

You know those stories that when you’re reading them, feel like you’re getting enveloped in one big massive hug? That’s what this book is like. It’s hilarious, heartwarming, but also incredibly sad in parts, and the thing I loved most about it was seeing Mika develop all the different relationships, seeing her finally be accepted for what she is, not having to hide her witchiness. If you’re a fan of the found family trope this is 100% the book for you. It is one big happy family, but every family has their cracks, and so does this one. The big threat throughout the story is if Primrose found out about these three witches being raised together, she would demand they be split up to lessen the danger. Mika knows what she is doing is dangerous, but she’s also not willing to take these children from the only lives and love that they have, especially knowing how hard it is to grow up alone. Some take their time trusting her, others are just instantly in awe of her power, but I loved seeing her worm her way into each and every life in the house.

“You’ve decided now is the time to protect me? Really? Why?’ ‘Because you’ve been protecting us since you got here,’ said Terracotta. ‘Because we want you to be safe,’ said Altamira. ‘Because we love you,’ said Rosetta. Jamie shrugged as if to say, Yes that.”

The romance in this book was delicious and slowburn and just *chefs kiss.* Jamie, at first doesn’t want Mika to come at all, let alone trust her with teaching the children they have spent so long trying to keep safe. He can’t get used to her quirkiness, her charm, her smile, the way she seems to be slowly worming her way into belonging at Nowhere House. Mika also isn’t quick to trust, but she finds it hard to not get drawn in to a life she has never had before, one filled with family and love. They both have their trauma, both have pasts they would rather forget, but what draws them together is their love for the children, their need to protect them and everyone else who lives at Nowhere House. There’s plenty of snark, of surprised longing and it definitely gets a little steamy towards the end, but I loved seeing their relationship develop alongside all the others Mika makes.

“Im afraid I’ll never leave a mark on anybody.’ It was quiet for so long that Mika wished she could take the too-reckless, too-honest words back, but then she heard him, rough and uneven and so quiet she almost missed it: ‘It’s a little late for that, I’m afraid.”

If you enjoy fast reads, I polished this one off in an afternoon, filled with found family, quirky and lovable characters, magic and romance then you need to add this to your TBR asap. Mandanna’s writing style, the wit and snark and quirkiness ensure that you never want to put the story down, and there are plenty of emotional moments thrown in to ensure you get invested in the story and characters. I can totally see why it’s been compared to The House in the Cerulean Sea, but this story stands on it’s own two feet, and I am incredibly excited to see what the author has in store for us next.

7 replies »

  1. Fabulous review, Becky! The more I hear about this book the more I want to get my hands on it asap. I love books that feel like giant hugs and this one definitely sounds like it’ll deliver on that in a big way (especially since everyone who has reviewed it says the same about it). I can’t wait to read it! 😍

    Liked by 1 person

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