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Restless Spirit

Witch of Wild Things

By Raquel Vasquez Gilliland 

19 Apr, 2024

Doing the WFC's Homework


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Raquel Vasquez Gilliland’s 2023 Witch of Wild Things is a modern fantasy romance novel.

Temple University budget cuts provide one department head with the opportunity to shed himself of a lover whose services he no longer requires. Thus, silversmith/adjunct Sage finds herself unemployed and forced to return to Cranberry, Virginia, and a family she has been avoiding for years.

But first! The tragic backstory!

Abandoned by their mother, the three Flores half-sisters — Sage, Teal, and Sky — were raised by their great-aunt Nadia. For reasons that no doubt made sense to Nadia at the time, Sage was the unfavorite, saddled with adult responsibility for Teal and Sky.

Sage did not accompany Teal and Sky on a hiking trip, having been ordered to stay home and clean Teal’s room. Thus, Sage was not there to stop her sisters from horsing around, which is why Sky fell to her death.

Teal blames Sage for Sky’s death, on the grounds that Sage should have been there to stop her two younger sisters from being idiots. Sky’s ghost also seems to have unfinished business with Sage; Sage is being haunted. All in all, Sage has good reason to avoid Teal1 and Nadia. Too bad that she can’t after being forced to return to Cranberry.

Each sister has (or in the case of Sky, had) their special supernatural gift. Teal can affect the weather, Sky had a knack with animals, and Sage controls plants. While the sisters try to keep their powers secret, Sage is known to have a knack for finding and nurturing plants. She finds a short-term job looking for heritage plants once she’s home in Cranberry again.

Sage finds herself working with her boss’s grandson Nate (a hottie) and with Tennessee Reyes (a super hottie). Sage resists romantic complications, fearing a repeat of her Temple University experience (dating your boss or co-worker, losing your job).

Moreover, she and Tenn already have a complicated relationship (something she knows and Tenn doesn’t). Tenn is obsessed with an online friend with whom he suddenly lost touch years ago. Sage was that friend, under a pseudonymous username. Tenn asks her to help him find the friend; she pretends to help while stymying the search.

In other news, Sky’s ghost enters the picture; she asks Sage to reconcile with Teal.

Sage’s plate is full.


Why should Sage pretend to help Tenn? She likes being around him. Yes, this bad decision will have consequences.

Teal knows (but tries to ignore) that it isn’t reasonable to blame Sage for Sky’s death. However, the alternative is for Teal to blame herself and since Sage has always been stuck with the shit jobs… 

Too many of the families in this novel seem to be trainwrecks in various plot-facilitating ways.

Back in the day I worked reviewing books for several publications. I had to read hundreds of paranormal romance/urban fantasy novels. Like this one. I was struck by the way that authors could use the same tropes and plots to different effect. In this case, I was struck by the way that the author of this book ignored tradition.

In many PR/UF novels, people with supernatural powers immediately discard every Enlightenment value in favour of joining self-declared aristocracies secretly running the world. The Flores sisters, on the other hand, are very low key about their abilities. In part this is because the Flores sisters are not white and for historical reasons don’t particularly trust white people, so revealing their powers is imprudent2. In part it is because the Flores family suspect that the old gods didn’t intend their bloodline’s abilities as gifts but as curses3. In part it is because the author isn’t interested in writing a story about supernatural power struggles.

A fair number of PR/UFs abound in what I would call abusive relationships (being a complete asshole is fine as long as one is the pack’s alpha male). In this book, abusive relationships are to be escaped or at least addressed, not due to an inescapable natural order. It turns out that assholes are just assholes, not God’s anointed.

Romance has at least one trope not always shared with PR/UF, which is happily ever after.” The author here does provide a path to the happily. The path depends in part on people talking to each other; sure, I accept magic, but frank discussion? 

The path to a happy ending also depends on SPOILER, a development which strained my suspension of belief almost as much as the above. True, there’s magic in the novel and the development was foreshadowed, but…

Even though I found it hard to believe in the happily ever after, I did enjoy reading this book. The characters were interesting, the plot went somewhere, and it’s a complete novel between two covers. Even watching familiar tropes treated in an unfamiliar way was rewarding.

Witch of Wild Things is available here (Amazon US), here (Amazon Canada), here (Amazon UK), here (Apple Books), here (Barnes & Noble), here (Chapters-Indigo), and here (Words Worth Books).

1: Another good reason to avoid Teal is that when provoked, she can be violent. If she punches you, it’s with a be-ringed fist (silver knuckles rather than brass knuckles). Thus far, she’s stuck to mundane violence but Teal can call down lightning.

2: Fortunately, even if one of the family slips and says that Sage can command plants,” this isn’t taken as she’s a plant witch.” She’s just good with plants. She has a green thumb.

3: Being able to control the weather, or animals, or plants may seem like desirable talents, but the Flores family are wary of unforeseen consequences. One consequence might be that NOT using the gifts would offend the gods. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t?