Small-town witch looks for her replacement.
The precise significance of Autumn’s residence in the village of Avening isn’t clear until the end, but it’s evident from the beginning that she loves her quirky town (the novel’s most appealing element) and all its mysteries. Located on an island in the Pacific Northwest, Avening is one of those idyllic spots with cozy bookstores and cafes—and, in this case, a rather high proportion of residents with special gifts: astral projection, mind-reading, invisibility, spell-casting, that sort of thing. Though individual abilities are generally kept secret, and the town seems like any other, all that magic lends the air a certain electricity. When a sister in the ancient coven of Jaen comes to tell Autumn it’s time to leave her post, she’s given a list of Avening residents from which she must choose a coven of 13 and a leader. Ellie seems an unlikely prospect. Withdrawn and sometimes invisible (literally) to the town, she is overtaken by a spell at the annual winter solstice party and loses the ability to speak, from that point on singing everything she needs to say. Ellie’s friend Stella has a more straightforward talent. The granddaughter of an Appalachian medicine woman, she keeps a fully stocked herb cellar and is attempting to catch lightning in a bottle. Ana has until now lived a life without magic, but she goes to Autumn for help when she begins an extramarital affair; she and her lover learn how to bend time and memory so as to extricate themselves from their messy situation. Piper, another candidate, is diagnosed with terminal cancer and begins traveling to a different dimension, where she might escape death.
A charming debut in the tradition of Practical Magic and The Witches of Eastwick.