In One Word

In One Word, This Coven Won’t Break by Isabel Sterling is…

this coven won't break

  • Published in 2020 by Razorbill
  • Format: Audiobook
    •  Narrator: Kristen DiMercurio
    • Listening Speed: 1.5x
  • Listening Time: 3 luster-less days


  • It’s another LGBTQ month pick and, since Morgan and her dad are bisexual, this slots into the Bisexual Rep prompt nicely. The story takes place a little while after the first book. All Hannah’s hopes of getting through the mean days of high school and the stress of said Witch Hunter’s trial are crushed when their drug is perfected and the whole of witch-kind is threatened with losing their powers. As the only one who has managed to ‘recover’ from the drug, it’s up to Hannah to recruit allies in order to launch a counter-attack. One problem: Hannah’s magic hasn’t returned properly. How can she fight back when even the simplest of spells leaves her in agony?
  • Now, I know it’s unfair of me to judge Hannah harshly after all the trauma she went through in the previous book but, my word, does she ever have a habit of plunging into self-loathing whenever something goes wrong? To be fair to her, those are brought on by vivid and understandable flashbacks but, still, she and others around her don’t make much of an effort to get her the help she needs. In fact, I’m judging the people around her even more harshly than her for catapulting her back into high-stress situations when she clearly isn’t ready for it and for never giving her honest feedback on her performance. She was always given the benefit of the doubt at times when too much was at stake and it made me lose all respect for the elders who were clearly only giving her this level of responsibility because the plot demanded it.
  • Sweet romantic scenes scattered throughout the book in just the right quantity. What also made them good was the fact that Hannah knew her boundaries and stuck to them. She didn’t rush into sex before she was ready and Morgan respected that. I just love a healthy relationship and I love the fact that Morgan is now with someone who loves her for real. Her (male) ex makes an appearance and he is just as bad as he’s built up to be.
  • Unable to deny there was a few instances of good character development in the background. Veronica, who had been a secondary villain in the previous book, turned into a decent character in this one. Morgan was still too good to be true and Gemma was a great supportive friend despite the fact that her injury (caused by her association with witches) is a major source of guilt for Hannah.
  • Fantastic at not just gay and bisexual rep but also with trans rep. Cal, a trans man and caster witch, gets some great scenes and is an invaluable ally to Hannah throughout.
  • Fair to say that Avatar: The Last Airbender has ruined me for all other villains and for villains who switch sides. Compared to the Fire Nation and (*name censored to avoid spoilers*), the Hunters and (*name censored to avoid spoilers*) felt so flat. The Witch-Hunters were just a cookie-cutter evil organisation full of people (with one exception) who just seem to delight in making people suffer. I would have liked to see some sympathy directed towards the younger members who don’t know any better but the book chose not to go down that interesting road. The one person who did defect had good reason to but I think their change of heart could have been done so much better. That is mostly the fault of Hannah, mind, whose view towards that character is understandably blinkered, but it was still disappointing.
  • Idiot balls and idiot plots abound. Worst of all, they all come from the Big Bad (I’m not saying who it is because that’s a big spoiler). You almost have to admire all the mental gymnastics they had to do in order to think that their plan would have ever worked like they hoped and that it could have backfired in at least a dozen different ways. Hannah isn’t immune to it either. Who posts pictures of themselves with clearly identifiable location markers on Instagram during an important secret mission?
  • Chock full of wasted potential. The book condemns the hunters for having a narrow ‘cult-like’ mentality but doesn’t do any exploration on what that cult mentality is and how certain aspects of that mentality are reflected in the witch community. In particular, the fixation on absolute secrecy around magic rubbed me up the wrong way. No proper explanation was given and, when it was challenged, it’s batted away with the ‘it’s-not-a-good-time’ excuse before never being addressed properly again. The most infuriating part was that, when it was eventually addressed, that part was skimmed over, leaving what should have been an important shift in the witch community as just a minor detail. Not to mention, the book tried to address mental health issues in regards to Hannah being unable to reach her magic but I don’t think it said anything meaningful.
  • Interesting world building regarding blood magic. Now that the taboo around blood magic is slowly but surely lifting, its benefits become more apparent, especially in how it can work in tandem with other magics. It was good to see a low key but noticeable change in attitudes towards blood witches over the course of the novel. It was also good to see what caster and elemental witches could really do and I think I can definitely see some Avatar influences in how water and air magic can be used in combat.
  • Entirely relies on the reader having read the previous book recently. If you’re like me and you read the book almost a year ago, you might struggle to get up to speed with what happened and all the different kinds of magic. While there are a few recaps scattered around the story, they don’t give you the full picture.
  • Now, the action scenes were much better in this book than the previous one. The pacing picked up and the level of threat was raised excellently by the perfected hunter’s drug. The twists, however, were a mixed bag. Some were rather predictable (see above comment regarding Instagram photos) but some took me genuinely off guard.
  • The climax scene was satisfyingly dramatic and the ending, while leaving us a thread or two to pick up later, felt like everything important had been addressed. In theory, this should have been an excellent follow-up but idiot plots and a refusal to flesh out the villains rubbed me up the wrong way, leaving me disinclined to be generous with my rating.

Goodreads Rating: ⭐️⭐️

Did you agree with my rating? Can you think of a better word to describe it? Please let me know with a like, share or comment.

2 thoughts on “In One Word, This Coven Won’t Break by Isabel Sterling is…”

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