Toil & Trouble ★★★★☆

36426163An incredibly beautiful and diverse anthology about witches, women, love and mischief. With stories that ranged from modern-day to historical to magical realism, there’s a little something for everyone in Toil & Trouble.

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.

Toil & Trouble had me at queer witches. Honestly. I was in a super witchy mood when I requested this one and I was not disappointed. I was so intrigued by the varying stories and I love so many authors that contributed to this anthology that I knew I had to have it.

Each story was different in its own right, each unique and stellar and magical. I, obviously, loved some more than others. But that’s to be expected. You can’t love everything, after all. And trust me, I’ve tried. I’m a Hufflepuff.

I don’t want to go into details about each story–we’ll just be here for days–but as a collection, Toil & Trouble accomplishes something so rarely seen that it’s magical in its own right.

Each story, individually, has its own merits. Some are lyrical and imaginative, others are deep and personal, dark and wonderful at the same time. It’s hard to review an anthology, to be honest, but it’s an experience worth the admission price.

I’ll be extra honest here–I’ve never been a fan of anthologies in the past. Oh, sure, I’ve tried. But it was so hard for me to get invested in a series of short stories, especially if I didn’t know the authors going into it. But I took a chance on Toil & Trouble and I’m glad I did.

Grab this book, add it to your TBR list, especially now as we slowly enter Halloween season. It’s the perfect book to sip a pumpkin spice latte or apple cider to while sitting all cozied up inside.

By J. M. Tuckerman

J.M.Tuckerman is a neurodivergent writer with a big education. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults, an MA in Writing, and a BA in Writing Arts (specializing in Creative Writing, New Media Writing, and Publication; concentrating in New Media Production), which she somehow managed to earn despite her three very loud and large dogs. Jessica was lucky enough to intern at Quirk Books and Picador, USA while earning her master’s degrees. Her service dog, Ringo, is very proud of all that she has accomplished and hopes to be on a back cover of a published book with her very soon. An avid reader, writer, and lover of young adult and middle-grade literature, Jessica’s bookshelf is overflowing with hardbacks, paperbacks, and a million half-filled notebooks. She is a proud fur-mommy to two lab/st-bernard littermates, a retriever-mix service dog, and one orange little hobgoblin cat, all of whom have made very audible appearances on the Booked All Night podcast.

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