Cover of The Buried and the Bound, featuring a young woman standing between two seated male figures with their backs to her

About the Book

Title: The Buried and the Bound (The Buried and the Bound #1)
Published: 2023

Cover Story: Not a Graphic Novel
BFF Charm: Mixed Bag
Talky Talk: Real Talk (With Faeries)
Bonus Factor: Scooby Gang
Factor: Open Ending
Relationship Status: I’ll Be In My Rocking Chair

Cover Story: Not a Graphic Novel

I know there are many (too many?) illustrated covers of YA prose novels out there, but for some reason this cover makes me think this is going to be a graphic novel, not a prose one. It’s really well done, and the characters are spot-on. The title gets a little lost, but that’s neither here nor there. Just know, going in, that the only images in the story are the ones your own imagination might provide.

The Deal: 

Aziza El-Amin is one of two witches in the city of Blackthorn (the other being her grandfather). As Blackthorn’s hedgewitch, she’s in charge of ensuring the boundary between the real world and Elphame, the faerie realm, stays closed, or returning things to their proper sides when they stray. The boundary is usually pretty calm, but something—or someone—is making it a lot more troublesome, which is dangerous for humans and fae alike.

Tristan barely remembers what it was like to be an ordinary teenage boy. His bond with the hag is all-encompassing, horrifying, and painful. As her bondservant, he must do her bidding—or else. He has a good reason, though, to keep fighting.

Leo Merrit doesn’t remember things, either, but that’s thanks to a curse that hit the day he turned sixteen, erasing all memories of and involving his true love. He knows he’s cursed, though, and will do pretty much anything to get his memories back. Including putting his life on the line to help Aziza, even though she’d rather keep to her coven of one.

Through unusual circumstances, these three unlikely comrades will end up working together—and making discoveries they never expected to.

BFF Charm: Mixed Bag

Brown paper bag filled with various BFF charms

Aziza, Tristan, and Leo all have qualities both good and bad, as all people tend to do. Were I their age, I would have very different feelings about each of them: 

Aziza I would think was too cool for me, thanks to her aloof nature and tendency to be a loner. But I’d really want to be her friend, even with all the rumors of “strangeness” floating around school about her. The fact she’s a real witch with real magical gifts who could tell me about creatures and things that I thought were just fantasy would make our friendship that much cooler.

Tristan I’d be wary of—and honestly probably feel pity for—because of how haunted he seemed. I’d want to take him home and give him a good meal and some warm clothes, but I’d also be afraid that he’d disappear in the middle of the night, never to be seen again.

And Leo—oh, Leo—who’s described through Aziza’s POV as “tall, with curly hair, a baggy Star Wars hoodie under his coat, and an expression that said, very plainly, Oh shit,” and is a generous, caring, truly kind individual, would be my No. 1 crush. Regardless of the fact that I would clearly not be his true love, I would pine all day every day for him. Secretly, of course. While masquerading as his good buddy.

Swoonworthy Scale: 5

Leo and Tristan, both, are pining for someone they lost (🙃), but a lot of what’s documented is one-sided, memories, or vague feelings, which colors the swoon with a sepia-like filter. It’s all very melancholy and sad, but it’s obvious that the feelings were beautiful things, once upon a time. 

Talky Talk: Real Talk (With Faeries)

Bear with me, for a moment, while I go on a bit of a tangent. I’m a big fan of the true-crime procedural Criminal Minds. I watched every season pretty much as it aired and as much as it horrified me that all of the stories were loosely based on real incidents I couldn’t look away. (That’s about the extent of my true crime interest, though, weirdly.) So when I found out that Paramount+ was bringing it back for new episodes, I was super excited. Sitting down to watch the first one, I was shocked to hear one of the main characters swear. (We’re talking the F word, so, you know, a real swear.) It shocked me for a moment—enough that I texted my mom, “Rossi just swore!”—but I quickly got over that and realized It makes more, realistic, sense that they would! (They deal with some really fucked-up stuff!)

The Buried and the Bound is like a streaming version of a YA novel. There are multiple instances in which the characters swear—but it never comes off as sensational. It makes sense in the context of the story, and for the characters themselves. (They’re teenagers. Teenagers use curse words.) Hassan nails the way these characters would really act and sound. (You know, if real teenagers had to deal with fantastical, life-threatening, magical situations.)

Bonus Factor: Scooby Gang

Daphne, Velma, Shaggy, Fred, and Scooby from Scooby-Doo

The Buried and the Bound has shades of found family—one of my all-time favorite tropes—to it, with the initially hesitant team-up of Aziza, Leo, and Tristan. On the surface, they shouldn’t have gotten along. And, truth be told, Aziza and Tristan don’t for much of the book, but Leo is ever a bringer-of-people-together. By the end of the novel, the three have figured each other out and make for an impressive (mostly) cohesive unit.

Factor: Open Ending

An empty road cuts through a field under a blue sky and goes into the far distance

The Buried and the Bound doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, but the story wraps up with quite a few plot strings that are left a little loosely tied. (Like, where is Meryl?) I could see there being more adventures in Coven Blackthorn’s future, but if we don’t get sequels to their story, I’ll be content knowing that they can obviously handle themselves, whatever comes.

(Goodreads and Amazon both say this is a #1, so fingers crossed we’ll get more!)

Relationship Status: I’ll Be In My Rocking Chair

While I like to pretend that I am still youthful, Book, you left me with the uncomfortable reminder that I am getting older and older, and I’m no longer really able to jump into adventure without a care for the consequences. As much as I enjoyed reading your story—which I really did, don’t get me wrong—it was clear that rather than being part of the action, I’d be more helpful waiting at home with the first-aid kit and cups of hot tea. I’m coming to terms with that.

Literary Matchmaking

Scout’s Honor

Lily Anderson’s Scout’s Honor also features a main character who’s tasked with protecting the city she lives from paranormal threats.

Cemetery Boys

Aiden Thomas’s Cemetery Boys also deals with lost loves and weighty familial expectations (of the magical sort).

Labyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas #1)

Zoraida Córdova’s Labyrinth Lost sees the main characters on a quest to defeat evil in and out of the fae realm.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Roaring Brook Press, but got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. The Buried and the Bound is available now.

Mandy (she/her) is a manager at a tech company who lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, son, and dogs. She loves superheroes and pretty much any show or movie with “Star” in the name.