The best books about witchy women to read in a cottage in the woods

Who am I?

I’ve loved folklore and fantasy literature since I was tiny, but I’ve also had a lifelong fascination with science, history, and the natural world. As a disabled mother of two, I’ve not (yet) had the opportunity to see as much of our world as I’d like, but I love building fantasy worlds and weaving within them stories that blend a grounded earthiness with the supernatural and metaphysical. My writing always begins with a single mental image, the seed of an idea that I explore and build around until I have a full-fledged story ready to commit to paper. I love stories that break the mould, take you somewhere unexpected, and then make you never want to leave.


I wrote...

A Curse of Ash and Embers

By Jo Spurrier,

Book cover of A Curse of Ash and Embers

What is my book about?

Two witches fought to the death—the cruel mistress and her rogue apprentice, fuelled by rage and a hunger for vengeance. 

When 16-year-old Elodie Forster is sent away to work as a maid, she finds herself in a ruined cottage, working for the survivor of that battle, the wounded, exhausted, and haunted young witch Aleida Blackbone. Sarcastic, short-tempered, and with patience hanging by a thread, Aleida is trying to break away from the evil path her old mistress trained her upon, and has misgivings about this arrangementbut with huge monsters roaming the woods, a demonic tree lurking in the orchard and an angry warlock demanding repayment of a debt, Aleida needs Elodie’s help, whether she likes it or not.

The books I picked & why

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Circe

By Madeline Miller,

Book cover of Circe

Why this book?

Circe is a retelling of the story of this legendary witch from ancient Greece, best known from Odysseus’ difficult journey home from the Trojan War. This tale is normally told from Odysseus’ point of view, but Miler flips the script to show us how Circe came to be alone on her island with only plants and animals for company. In her exile she has all the time in the world to hone the craft of her magic, until the fated meeting with Odysseus that changes the course of her immortal life. When I was young I loved reading myths and legends from around the world, and Circe took me back to those days with stories of the Titans, of Daedalus and the Minotaur, and Odysseus and his men. Circe, with its measured pace and poignant, evocative language, is soothing and engaging at the same time, perfect for a reader who needs a moment to slow down and breathe.


Wyrd Sisters

By Terry Pratchett,

Book cover of Wyrd Sisters

Why this book?

The OG witches of modern fantasy literature. I’ve put down Wyrd Sisters because it’s the first of Pratchett’s Witches books to feature the trio of Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, and Magrat Garlick, but I’d list the whole series if I could. If you haven’t read them, I envy you, because you get to experience this trio and their world for the first time. Granny Weatherwax is a good witch because she has to be, but if she were to go the other way there’s no doubt she would be the greatest evil witch the Discworld has ever known. She plays cards with Death, knows the power of stories, and, most importantly, understands that being Good and Right is not the same as being Nice. Pratchett’s Witches were formative reading for me, and paved the way for many beloved reads on our shelves today.


Uprooted

By Naomi Novik,

Book cover of Uprooted

Why this book?

This one hits a lot of buttons for me—folkloric fantasy, putting magic in the hands of ordinary folk, the not-special/disregarded girl who discovers her own kind of magic, the crotchety old teacher who has to meet Agnieska where she is, rather than forcing her to fit his mould. Add to that the otherworldly, non-human threat of the Woods and the deeply creepy terrors that emerge from it, and I’m a happy camper. This story departs from the rigid rules of a hard magic system for something more flexible and mystical, a better match for its fairytale roots than the hard-magic systems that have been popular for so long. This is a plot-driven rollercoaster of a story that barely gives you time to breathe, but that’s just the way I like it.


Wise Child

By Monica Furlong,

Book cover of Wise Child

Why this book?

This is a vintage read, but well worth your time if you can get your hands on it. It’s a gentle but immersive story, well suited to a rainy day when all you want to do is curl up with a blanket and a book. Set in early Christian Britain, it’s the story of a misfit child taken in by the village witch, and chronicles her path in learning the slow craft of herbs and magic, until she is inducted into the ranks of those who work magic, serving the people and the land. When you’re looking for something a little more grounded and restorative, without heavy violence and unburdened by overwrought romance, this is the one for you.


Stardust

By Neil Gaiman,

Book cover of Stardust

Why this book?

A modern fairytale, by the master storyteller Neil Gaiman, with one of my favourite evil witches. In Victorian England, Tristan Thorn sees a star fall and impulsively promises to bring it to the young woman who spurns his love. But he must cross into the world of Faerie to find his prize, and the star is not some cold, dead thing, but a living, breathing girl. Most of the story deals with Tristan and Yvain, the fallen star, but my favourite parts are those with the Witch Queen pursuing them, hunting after Yvain’s heart because eating it will restore her youth. She’s just so deliciously evil (and deliciously played by Michelle Pfeiffer in the movie from 2007). An absolutely classic tale of adventure, romance, and magic, an unforgettable read.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in witches, decision making, and heroes?

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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