Toil and Trouble by Tess Sharpe | A Book Review

First of all, let me thank Netgalley and Harlequin Teen for the chance to read and review this book: Toil and Trouble, pre-release. As always, these thoughts are my own. This review is spoiler-free and no main plot points are revealed.

I give this story 3 stars.

Please note that this anthology contains stories by authors Tess Sharpe, Jessica Spotswood, Brandy Colbert, Zoraida Cordova, Andrea Cremer, Kate Hart, Emery Lord, Elizabeth May, Anna-Marie McLemore, Tehlor Kay Mejia, Lindsay Smith, Nova Ren Suma, Robin Talley, Shveta Thakrar, and Brenna Yovanoff.

Synopsis: A young adult fiction anthology of 15 stories featuring contemporary, historical, and futuristic stories featuring witchy heroines who are diverse in race, class, sexuality, religion, geography, and era.

Are you a good witch or a bad witch?

Glinda the Good Witch. Elphaba the Wicked Witch. Willow. Sabrina. Gemma Doyle. The Mayfair Witches. Ursula the Sea Witch. Morgan le Fey. The three weird sisters from Macbeth.

History tells us women accused of witchcraft were often outsiders: educated, independent, unmarried, unwilling to fall in line with traditional societal expectations.

Bold. Powerful. Rebellious.

A bruja’s traditional love spell has unexpected results. A witch’s healing hands begin to take life instead of giving it when she ignores her attraction to a fellow witch.
In a terrifying future, women are captured by a cabal of men crying witchcraft and the one true witch among them must fight to free them all. In a desolate past, three orphaned sisters prophesize for a murderous king. Somewhere in the present, a teen girl just wants to kiss a boy without causing a hurricane.

From good witches to bad witches, to witches who are a bit of both, this is an anthology of diverse witchy tales from a collection of diverse, feminist authors. The collective strength of women working together—magically or mundanely–has long frightened society, to the point that women’s rights are challenged, legislated against, and denied all over the world.

Toil & Trouble delves deep into the truly diverse mythology of witchcraft from many cultures and feminist points of view, to create modern and unique tales of witchery that have yet to be explored.

Anthologies

So I write short stories even though I used to dislike them. While reading these, that same feeling of dislike swept over me and I buckled down to try to decipher why exactly I didn’t love some of these.

And I figured it out.

I’m unfamiliar with most of these authors but I do know they write long-form novels. Maybe some of them dabble in short stories, or maybe they all are prolific short story writers and I just do it wrong. But I realized while reading these that several of these stories are just snippets of a story. There’s a definite beginning, but there’s no resolution. It’s not the snippet at the end of the story where your questions get answered. It’s just a picture in the middle, and I don’t like that. I don’t like not getting the answer to the singular question that is the story. Now, not all of the stories were this way– I’d say less than half were unfinished to my tastes.

Lessons Learned

What I took away from these stories, the ones I liked and the ones I didn’t were two things:

  1. Witches “don’t need no man”– because they are gay/lesbian
  2. Witches are good

Now, neither of these things were surprising to me and mostly in the stories they come off as cute or normal but it’s important you know that heading in. While I have a moral argument against the gay lifestyle, I didn’t feel like these stories shoved it down my throat. My favorite of the stories was Starsong by Tehlor Kay Meijia, and it was definitely queer. It was also darling.

I LOVED how this story had so much diverse ethnicity, but it wasn’t ALL Latinx or black. There were some white girls, too. And I liked that it didn’t seem to matter– it all felt natural.

All told, there were 15 stories in this anthology and this review on Goodreads goes through a bit of each of them. (Note: I don’t necessarily agree with the review, just that the writer does mention each story individually.)

Trigger Warnings for Toil and Trouble:

There are some difficult things talked about in this book, not limited to: death, bullying, rape, assault, and the occult.

It was difficult for me to rate this story since it was an anthology, and there were some stories I liked and some I did not. Honestly, I’m just going to leave it at three stars.
Check it out on Amazon:

Toil & Trouble: 15 Tales of Women & Witchcraft