Bianca Marais creates a feminist witch story for the 21st century in The Witches of Moonshyne Manor. It’s about a group of 80-something witches trying to reverse events from thirty years ago. And they’re also trying to save their property from being bought by a bunch of misogynistic younger men. You’ll enjoy this book if you like a story with strong characters and clear lines between good and evil.
Marais introduces us to six women, five who are cisgender and one who’s transgender. Yes, they are of advanced age. But being witches keeps them younger than the typical 80-something woman. Still, they struggle with the changes happening in our world, especially technology. So Marais also includes a teenage girl in her cast of characters. Someone has to pull the witches into the 21st century!
Moonshyne Manor is a distillery with unique formulas crafted by its owners. One witch, in particular, named Ivy, is an expert at plant-related magic. She grows the mystical elements in the cocktails, teas, and beauty products the Manor sells. But the witches are running a deficit and struggling to keep up with their mortgage. Queenie, who manages the household, keeps the difficulties a secret.
There’s also a compelling and central storyline about the transgender witch. Her magical efforts to fully inhabit the gender she identifies with creating plenty of drama and mystery.
This is a 2022-style story. It has a liberal perspective and affirms the natural diversity among the characters. If this appeals to you, then this story from Marais will have you laughing in pleasure.
As for the story, Marais paces the drama well and includes terrific twists. She uses the plot to advance the character’s personalities and foibles. The male characters, however, are just cookie-cutter villains. We never know them well enough to care about the motives behind their evil deeds.
As a reviewer in my later 50s, I hope that in 25 years, I’ll be as funny and fierce as these ladies. They’re far from perfect, but Marais treats them respectfully and kindly. She portrays them as women with agency, including sexually. I could read many more books about Moonshyne and its inhabitants.
This is a perfect choice if you’re looking for a Halloween-appropriate without much gore and horror. But it would help if you appreciated sideways social commentary.
Pair with the Sisterhood of New Amsterdam series by Craig Shaefer, another tale of witches who cooperate, except when they don’t.