Cover of Witches Steeped in Gold, featuring two Black women wearing gold jewelry in front of a green background

About the Book

Title: Witches Steeped in Gold (Witches Steeped in Gold #1)
Published: 2021
Series: Witches Steeped in Gold
Swoonworthy Scale: 5

Cover Story: Fierce and Fabulous
BFF Charms: Nay x2
Talky Talk: Lost in Translation
Bonus Factor: Black Girl Magic
Anti-Bonus Factor: Awful Adults
Relationship Status: Missed Connection

Content Warning: Witches Steeped in Gold features themes of indentured servitude/slavery, death, and violence.

Cover Story: Fierce and Fabulous

Both of the women on this cover are stunning, both in their striking looks and the power they convey in their facial expressions. The colors, too—the deep greens juxtaposed with the bright gold—conveys power and strength in addition to just looking really cool. The floating heads are a bit strange, but I’m not going to say that too loud lest one or both of these characters come after me.

The Deal: 

Jazmyne is the heir to the throne of Aiyca, and the daughter of the most powerful magic wielder in the country. Ira is the daughter of the former rulers of the country—rulers who were forced out of power a decade prior, thanks to Jazmyne’s mother—and another powerful magic user. They both want what’s best for their country, and their people, but their peoples have long been adversaries, and Jazmyne’s status as heir to the throne makes her part of Ira’s plan of vengeance.

The two must work together to reach their goals, but neither is sure of exactly what those goals mean for them in the end.

BFF Charms: Nay x2

2 BFF charms that say "denied"

Both Jazmyne and Ira are confident young women with passion and power aplenty. But they’re also both extremely single-minded and neither of them is all that worried about the people they’ll need to step on on their way to achieving their goals. They wouldn’t make for very good friends, especially because I’d be continually worried that they were only in the friendship to use me for something. And I’m not that useful, so I doubt they’d bother with me for long.

Swoonworthy Scale: 5

There are definitely moments of chemistry in Witches Steeped in Gold, but, again, Jazmyne and Ira both have agendas that keep them from really having time for other people. I did love the enemistry between Ira and her love interest, but she never gave in to any of her “heated feelings,” which left me feeling unsatisfied. And Ira’s love interest kinda just seems like her wanting to shock her mother into actually acting like a mother? You know, dating the bad guy to cause a reaction rather than because you actually like the guy.

Talky Talk: Lost in Translation

I really wanted to like this book. I loved the idea of a Jamaican-inspired tale of intrigue and revenge and had high hopes for the story going in. But this was a real struggle to get through. Now, I’m no expert, but I’ve read a lot of fantasy inspired by a wide variety of regional myths. I definitely have experience with having to learn new terms, parse unfamiliar customs, and decipher complex themes. I can’t remember another time that I’ve had as much trouble following along with a story. Smart offers few context clues—and when they are offered, they often come way too late—too many of the unfamiliar terms, forcing readers to look for definitions outside of the book, breaking concentration and making the reading experience very fractured. (I attempted to utilize my Kindle app’s dictionary so many times and rarely got a satisfactory answer.)

Much of my confusion might be that I’m unfamiliar with Jamaican slang, and I fully own up to that. But any fantasy book in which the author creates a new world/culture—even if it’s based on something from the real world—should at least try to help the reader understand. (My kingdom for a glossary!) Smart also occasionally threw in $20 words that felt so out of place and often weren’t used correctly. Which had me scratching my head even more.

I hope the final version of Witches Steeped in Gold has worked out some of these issues because the general plot is strong. The pacing left a little to be desired, as the story is slow to really get going, but Smart’s obviously got a really brilliant imagination and there’s a lot of promise here.

Bonus Factor: Black Girl Magic

Rochelle, a Black teen witch in The Craft

I am SO here for stories about strong Black young women making the world bow down to them, rather than the other way around.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Awful Adults

Boxtrolls characters

Jazmyne’s obviously learned some of her less admirable qualities from her mother, who is the worst kind of ruler: one who will do everything “in the name of the greater good” but who really’s only out to keep herself in power.

Relationship Status: Missed Connection

We didn’t click, Book, although I had high hopes for us. Sometimes things just don’t work out as we plan, and although it’s a bummer, I think we’ll both be OK going our separate ways in the long run.

Literary Matchmaking

Witches Steeped in Gold (Witches Steeped in Gold #1)

Celebrate more Black Girl Magic and #ownvoices with Roseanne A. Brown’s A Song of Wraiths and Ruin

Witches Steeped in Gold (Witches Steeped in Gold #1)

Namina Forna’s The Gilded Ones

Akata Witch (Akata Witch #1)

And Nnedi Okorafor’s Akata Witch.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from HarperTeen, but got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. Witches Steeped in Gold is available now.

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