Thank you so much to TBR and Beyond for organizing this blog tour and providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review!
Every fifty years, a cult claims twelve men to murder in a small Texas town. Can one girl end the cycle of violence – and save the boy who broke her heart?
San Solano, Texas is a quaint town known for its charm, hospitality, and history of murder. Twice now, twelve men have been brutally killed, and no one knows who did it. A shadowy witch? A copy-cat killer? Or a man-hating murderess? Eighteen-year-old Natalie Colter is sure that the rumors about her great-great-grandmother’s cult of wronged women are just gossip, but that doesn’t stop the true crime writers and dark tourism bloggers from capitalizing on the town’s reputation. It’s an urban legend that’s hard to ignore, and it gets harder when Nat learns that the sisterhood is real, and magical. And they want her to join.
The more Nat learns of the Wardens’ supernatural history, the more she wonders about the real culprits behind the town’s ritualistic murders. Are the Wardens protecting San Solano from even darker forces? As the anniversary of the murders draws near, the town grows restless. Residents start getting “claimed” as this year’s planned victims, including Levi Langford, the boy whose kiss haunted Nat for a year.
Nat knows that no one is safe. Can she and the sisterhood stop the true evil from claiming their town?*
*Summary from Goodreads
- Title: The Bitterwine Oath
- Author: Hannah West
- Publisher: Holiday House
- Genre: YA, Mystery/Thriller
- Targeted Age Range: Young Adult
- Representation: Latina side character, Black side character
- Trigger Warnings: Mentions of parental and family abuse, cults, murder, mentions of parental death, blood, animal sacrifice (on-page), mentions of molestation, mentions of incest
- Rating: ★★★★☆
In 1921, Malachi Rivers and her friends Dorothy Hawkins, Johanna Mead and Lillian Packard, performed a powerful spell seeking revenge on the twelve men who had wronged and abused the girls and their families. What started out as harmless magic turned into a bloody massacre on the church grounds. The four young women were put on trail and eventually acquitted. Now, fifty years after the copy-cat massacre of 1971, the small town of San Solano waits with bated breath for the anniversary and the inevitable “claiming” of twelve men in the town. Natalie Colter, great great granddaughter of Malachi Rivers, now finds herself more involved with this town’s dark history than ever before when she finds out the truth about her family history and the Wardens, the secret group of women who have dedicated their lives to protecting the town. Can Natalie, along with the Wardens stop this terrible curse from occurring again?
I was drawn to The Bitterwine Oath right away, based on the description. I love books that have magical elements, and books with a gothic feel which was definitely the vibe that I got from the summary. I was really looking forward to it and had pretty high expectations, and luckily those expectations were met! Truthfully, I had a really hard time putting this book down once I started it! Really, I would’ve read it all in one sitting had I not started it late at night and gotten thoroughly freaked out which made me decide to stop for the night and continue it the next day.
I found the book to be incredibly atmospheric and I loved the writing style. I was instantly drawn into this world and was fully captivated by it, at times I felt like I was under its spell since I didn’t want to put it down. The writing was very descriptive and captivating. It was easy for me to picture the town of San Solano and what was happening in the story. The writing made visualizing the story so easy; I felt like I was watching this movie in my mind while reading and I think that works so well for this kind of story. I think that any book that involves magic needs to be written in a way that makes it easy for the reader to really picture all of the magical elements and how they fit into the story. For me, The Bitterwine Oath does that extremely well.
Something that I think worked particularly well was the way that the town’s past was woven into the present day story. Having the story centered around Natalie, Malachi’s great great granddaughter added a sense of urgency to the story because not only was she trying to put a stop to this claiming that happens every year, she was also trying to learn more about the secrets of her family’s past that were hidden from her. And Natalie isn’t the only one whose family has been directly impacted by the 1921 massacre, many of her friends and other members of her social circle are descendants of Dorothy, Johanna and Lillian. Having so many of the characters be directly involved with the town’s history made the story come full circle and raised the stakes for all involved.
One thing that made me a bit uncomfortable was how the massacres happened in the town church. While I’m not Baptist, I am religious so it didn’t really sit well with me, nor did the Warden’s having like an underground meeting place in a hidden basement of the church. This is more of a me issue than it is a book issue though. This aspect of the story didn’t negatively affect my enjoyment of the book, nor did it change my rating of the book but it was something that made me feel a little uncomfortable so if you are religious and plan to read the book prepare yourself for that.
Overall, I thought that The Bitterwine Oath was a very atmospheric and gripping read. Perfect for fans of things like The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, the CW Nancy Drew series, and murder mysteries.
About the Author
Hannah West is the author of young adult books including The Nissera Chronicles series and The Bitterwine Oath. She’s been writing fantasy since kindergarten, when she penned her first tale about a princess who ran away and lived at the top of a flagpole with two loaves of bread. But it wasn’t until she studied abroad in Orléans, France during college that the premise for her first novel materialized. The fairy tale castles, the snowy winter days, and a Disney princess pencil that arrived in a care package from her parents provided the inspiration that allowed her to wrangle all her untold and unfinished stories into a novel.
Hannah currently lives in the Dallas area with her husband and their two rambunctious rescue dogs.