Francesca Flores’s The Witch and the Vampire is a queer Rapunzel retelling where a witch and a vampire who trust no one but themselves must journey together through a cursed forest with danger at every turn.
Ava and Kaye used to be best friends. Until one night two years ago, vampires broke through the magical barrier protecting their town, and in the ensuing attack, Kaye’s mother was killed, and Ava was turned into a vampire. Since then, Ava has been trapped in her house. Her mother Eugenia needs her: Ava still has her witch powers, and Eugenia must take them in order to hide that she’s a vampire as well. Desperate to escape her confinement and stop her mother’s plans to destroy the town, Ava must break out, flee to the forest, and seek help from the vampires who live there. When there is another attack, she sees her opportunity and escapes.
Kaye, now at the end of her training as a Flame witch, is ready to fulfill her duty of killing any vampires that threaten the town, including Ava. On the night that Ava escapes, Kaye follows her and convinces her to travel together into the forest, while secretly planning to turn her in. Ava agrees, hoping to rekindle their old friendship, and the romantic feelings she’d started to have for Kaye before that terrible night.
But with monstrous trees that devour humans whole, vampires who attack from above, and Ava’s stepfather tracking her, the woods are full of danger. As they travel deeper into the forest, Kaye questions everything she thought she knew. The two are each other’s greatest threat-and also their only hope, if they want to make it through the forest unscathed.
This is a fantasy novel so there weren’t any triggers listed but these are the potentially sensitive topics I observed:
- Animal Death
- Child Abuse
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There are possible **SPOILERS** beyond this point!
Thank you to Net Galley for the ARC!
I wanted to love this book and there were parts that I did really love, but many parts that made this one hard to read.
I think the premise is so awesome! I love how Flores sets this retelling of Rapunzel in a fantasy world that has all sorts of magic in it with Witches and Vampires. The world was cool and many aspects of the magic and the forest intrigued me. The Flame Witches and Root Witches are so cool! Their powers are very interesting and some I’ve not seen witches do before! The women in this story are more powerful than the men in this story which was interesting and definitely appealing to me! It’s not often that I’ve seen that in a fantasy novel.
I really loved how this is a sapphic retelling of one of my favorite fairytales. I also liked how the two main characters were different of ethnicities. The mother, Eugenia, was my favorite character. She was the most dynamic character in the book, in my opinion.
The pace of this book was either very slow or too fast. On either point, there was more telling than showing what was going on. It dragged when she was world-building and I had to re-read to enjoy any parts with action because there was too much information dumping during some of the fights. It was confusing and disorienting. There was just too much telling when I wanted to be shown! Often, Flores would repeat herself and the characters would say the exact same things or tell us the information we already learned from the other. I wanted to see more of their unique powers and understand how they worked better but it was explained in hindsight or during the fight where they are using them. The forest was another aspect that intrigued me and I wished there was more about the magic there. The second half of the book was better for me than the first.
The romance aspect of this novel was definitely lacking. There was not a real distinction between Kaye’s and Ava’s voices so I would forget who was talking. They shared many character traits, as well. Their chemistry felt very superficial because every significant moment they had, which is the basis for their forbidden love, was information dumped on us instead of actually seeing it. Any time they did show affection or were thinking about the other, it was always about their looks and less about their true personalities. The burn is SLOW and I don’t hate slow-burn books but they’re holding hands on the cover… Where is the love at?! I get that it’s a YA book but there are full vivid descriptions of murdering, both, humans and vampires by trees and people alike. I wanted more about their relationship together but I don’t think it really happened. I don’t understand. I’ve read non-romance books where the main characters show more genuine affection to each other.
Would I recommend this book? Sure. It is interesting and I’ve never read a Rapunzel retelling before. I just wish there was more editing and reviewing by the author’s team to polish this book into shining. If you’re someone who likes Retellings and Fantasy novels, it’s worth a shot. I just wouldn’t go into this book expecting an epic romance story.
Genre & Tropes
- Slow Burn Romance
- Lovers in Denial