I received this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Witch Wood by Melanie Karsak
Series: The Harvesting #2.5
on October 1, 2015
Source: the author
Buy on Amazon
Harm none, and be ready for zombies.
In the little town of Brighton, Amelia’s practice of Wicca makes her an outcast in school and the subject of disdain at home. But Amelia can’t change what she is. Knowing how to use herbs, see auras, and create spells comes naturally to her. Only Madame Knightly, the ancient matriarch and owner of Witch Wood Estate to whom Amelia plays caretaker, doesn’t seem to mind her conjoining. In fact, the library in the crumbling old mansion is full of old books and oddities.
However, when modern treatments fail to make a dent in the flu outbreak sweeping the globe, those who once ridiculed her white witchcraft turn to Amelia for help. While her eucalyptus tinctures prove no more effective than western medicine, her spell-casting is another matter. The residents of Brighton soon depend on the very magic they once ridiculed to save their lives.
** Witch Wood is a tie-in novella that complements The Harvesting Series. It can be read as a stand-alone or as Book 2.5 in the series **
Melanie Karsak is one of those authors that I just can’t get enough of. So when I dove into Witch Wood, my only complaint is that it ended. It can, theoretically, be read as a standalone novella. There are characters who are independent from the Harvesting series, so you’ll enjoy this story as its own entity. BUT… as you approach the end of the story, you’ll get more out of it if you’ve read the previous books. This is where I tell you that you NEED to read The Harvesting series, because they’re all AWESOME!
Earlier this year, Melanie and a group of authors published a series of novellas in The Falling in Deep Collection. Witch Wood is now the first book in The Witching Hour Collection. A whole collection of witchy novellas, and this was the perfect way to start them off! If you haven’t noticed from the synopsis, Witch Wood isn’t just about witchcraft. There are also plenty of my personal favorite monster: ZOMBIES! Melanie packs a lot of excitement into a small number of pages. Right from page one the creep factor is notched up and within minutes I was sucked deep into the story. This is a one-sitting read!
The aura around Mrs. Delaney had faded from vibrant green to dull, sludge-colored green-brown as the last class of the day wore down to its end. Despite the fact she was still standing at the blackboard lecturing, a patient smile on her face, her energy told another tale: she was about to drop. She turned and jotted some notes on the board. I noticed that the chalk tray had left a white line of chalk across the back of her black skirt in a none-too-flattering spot. I hoped the boys wouldn’t notice.
“Witch,” a whisper came from behind me. “Amelia…hey, witchy woman.”
Nate must have gotten bored. Instead of just texting like everyone else, he was about to launch into his tired barrage. I ignored him, hoping it would dissuade him, but pretending he didn’t exist rarely phased him. He was the glowing center of his own universe. Other people’s perceptions didn’t matter to him.
“Ah-meel-ya,” he chanted. “Witch, why don’t you let me put some sex in your hex.”
I looked at Zoey who was sitting beside me in the next row and rolled my eyes.
I was so over with this day. With half the class out sick, Nate—hipster extraordinaire and total douche—was running low on girls to hit on. Jenna and Sam, who sat behind Zoey and me, usually acted as a buffer. For some reason I never understood, they both liked Nate’s attention. But they were both absent. If I didn’t know it would come back on me tenfold, I’d cast a spell to silence his disgusting mouth. But I was a good witch, Glinda without the bubble, and I had no business casting hexes.
“Rhyming? I didn’t know you were that smart, Nate,” Zoey, who was less patient than me, shot back.
“Logan, you smell fish?” Nate whispered to Logan who sat beside him. “Zoey, close your legs.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I glanced at Logan. A newcomer, Logan had moved to Brighton at the beginning of the year. I could see him and the soft purple and indigo glow that always surrounded him.
Logan shifted uncomfortably then frowned at Nate. “Don’t be a dick. Sorry, Zoey. Nate doesn’t have any manners.”
Nate laughed. “Whatever. Oh, Edward Cullen, you’re such a gentleman,” Nate teased him. “Like Zoey and Amelia even matter.”
Since he first started school, Logan had always lingered on the outskirts of Nate’s tribe. It seemed that he wasn’t actually a jerk like Nate and his friends. And then there was the other thing about him that set him apart. He was an A student, too busy actually paying attention to what Mrs. Delaney had to say in class to be a jerk. And today, Mrs. Delaney’s lecture focused on Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
I scanned around the classroom. Of the less than a dozen students in class, half of them were on their phones. Mrs. Delaney was explaining—mainly to the board at this point—the meaning of the witches’ chant in the play.
“Hey, Amelia, can you brew me a love potion to get Jenna to suck me off?” Nate whispered.
“Could you be any more disrespectful?” Logan chided just as Mrs. Delaney, who’d finally had enough, turned and faced the class.
“In the back…shush. Now, someone tell me, which goddess is said to have been insulted by this play? Anyone actually paying attention? Which goddess cursed Shakespeare’s work?”
I glanced back at Logan through my long, wheat-colored hair. Most days we would race to be the first to answer but not today. The last thing I wanted to do was draw more attention to the fact that I knew about witchcraft. While I’d been practicing Wicca since I was thirteen, the year I stumbled across a used copy of Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner by Scott Cunningham in a used bookstore, I’d always been different. Being Wiccan meant promoting peace, protecting my environment, and feeling at one with the Great Mother. The idiot behind me, however, didn’t know the difference between a devil worshipper—which I was not—and Samantha from Bewitched. And I wasn’t in the mood to explain to him that I only performed good magic, earth and healing magic.
“Zoey?” Mrs. Delaney called.
“Sorry, Mrs. D. I zoned.”
“Of course. Amelia?”
“I…” I began, then glanced up at her. Mrs. Delaney was, by far, my favorite teacher. In the ninth grade, she’d introduced me to Madame Knightly, the owner of Witch Wood Estate, whom I took care of three nights a week and on weekends. I was eternally grateful for the job. I’d already stashed away enough cash to pay for my first year of college. Just the week before, I’d gotten my invite to Claddagh-Basel College for an admission interview. It was really happening. I was going to study Psychology at one of the best schools in the country. And all that had happened because Mrs. Delaney, who kept crystals on her desk and wore a medicine bag around her neck, had seen something in me that the others had ignored. “Hecate,” I said then. “Hecate is the dark goddess named in the play. The editor’s notes said that Shakespeare got the Weird Sisters’ chant from a real witch and that Hecate cursed the play because of it. Some productions remove Hecate just to get rid of the jinx.”
“Exactly. Well done,” she said with a smile then glanced up at the clock. My eyes followed hers.
Thank the Goddess, the day was done.
“All right, class. Please review King’s essay on the use of symbolism in the play and compose a two-page summary.”
“You’re kidding, right? School’s gonna be closed next week,” Brant, a football player, grumbled from the front row—where his coach had mandated he sit.
“Are you really asking me that?” Mrs. Delaney replied, frowning at him. I could see her aura growing even darker, sadder. She really needed to get out of here. “Thus far, they haven’t announced a closure for Monday. Yes, we’re the last school in the county still open. But still, read, write. It won’t hurt you.”
A moment later, the bell rang.
“Whatever,” Brant grumbled under his breath then headed out the door.
“Let’s get out of here,” Zoey said. Rising, she stuffed her book into her backpack.
Nate pushed past. “Sorry,” he said as he pretended to trip, banging his crotch against Zoey’s butt.
“Screw you, Nate. Do that again, and I’ll have Amelia cast a spell to rot it off,” Zoey warned him.
I couldn’t help but laugh.
“Freaks,” Nate said, glaring from Zoey to me, but I couldn’t help but see the look of fear cross his eyes. He wasn’t sure if I could really do something like that. In the end, it was better that he didn’t know I would never, ever practice dark magic. Harm none and do as you will, that is the motto of Wiccans. I wasn’t looking for trouble to come back to me.
I dug into my bag. “Almost forgot,” I said, handing Zoey as small, amber-colored vial.
“What’s this?” she asked, looking at the bottle.
“Eucalyptus and rosemary oil,” I replied. “Put it in your bath or on a cloth to inhale it. It helps keep your respiratory system clear. Should help ward off the cold going around.”
“Thanks,” she said, opening the bottle to take a sniff. “Ooh, my nose is burning.” She giggled.
Logan walked up behind Zoey and me. “Hey, Amelia…you’re organizing the Halloween dance?” he asked.
His dark hair fell over his black-rimmed glasses. He pushed it back then paused to arrange his scarf inside his heavy winter pea coat. For autumn, it was terribly cold and the reports of flu were already out of control. No wonder he was bundled up. His honey-colored eyes crinkled in the corners when he smiled at me. My knees went soft.
“Uh, yeah. We’ve just started planning. We’re still working on a theme.”
“Ms. Flynn says I need another extracurricular. Mind if I help?”
“If you want,” I replied, trying to play it cool when inside I was screaming like a tween at a Justin Bieber concert. “The next meeting is Tuesday at six. We meet down at Studio,” I said, referring to the local coffee bar where Zoey worked. When I wasn’t at Witch Wood, I spent all my time there, especially when Mom was at work. The last thing I wanted was to be penned up at home with my stepdad, Larry.
“Great. I’ll be there,” he replied then looked at the vial Zoey was holding. “So, a white witch? For real?” he asked.
I nodded. “Yeah, I know, it’s weird, but, it’s just, you know…” I said, trailing off. It’s just what, Amelia? You’re a witch. Own it.
Logan raised an eyebrow at me.
“Yes, I’m a white witch. I do healing and stuff. All-natural lifestyle. That kind of thing.”
“Dude?” Nate called to Logan from the door.
Logan grinned at me. “You do protection spells? I need one. My sister got that flu. She was puking all night, and I hate being sick.”
“I do,” I said then arched an eyebrow at him. “You really want me to—“
“Go for it. Please.”
“Okay then. This will just take a minute.” I closed my eyes, inhaled deeply, and then tried to envision the energy field, the aura, surrounding him. I envisioned white light passing from me to him, surrounding him with a glowing white energy that would protect him. With my mind’s eye, I inscribed this light with a protection rune that glowed with glimmering blue light. In my mind, I chanted:
“Goddess Mother, may this light protect him from all harm.
May this light keep away all illness.
May this light keep him safe from darkness.
May this light bring him peace.
So mote it be.
With thanks, I pray thee.”
I exhaled then opened my eyes. I could still see the white light shimmering all around him. “Done,” I said then smiled.
Logan grinned. “That easy? Cool. I feel much safer now. Thanks, Amelia. See you next week,” he said then headed toward the door.
“What were you doing?” Nate asked Logan.
Logan shrugged off the question, not answering, and they headed down the hall.
“God, I’m crushing on him so hard right now. That was awesome. You should have seen how he was looking at you. Lu-st!” she said, emphasizing the last word in sing-song. “But I don’t get it. Why in the hell does he hang around with Nate?” Zoey asked as she pulled her long black and mermaid blue tresses out of the back of her jacket. They tumbled down her back to her waist.
“Their parents are connected or something,” I replied. “Brianna and Brian said their dads work together. And he’s new. He doesn’t know better yet. You heard him call Nate out. He’s not like them.”
“Well, he’s definitely into you,” Zoey said as we moved toward the door.
“Na. I’m just a curiosity.”
“Did you even register what just happened? All guys secretly dig the weird girls, but I think Logan actually likes you.”
“You think?” My heart slammed in my chest.
“Guess you’ll find out Tuesday.”
“So mote it be,” I said with a wink.