A clock from the oldest, a tear from the saddest, a lock of hair from the most beautiful and a crown from the richest. This is what the cursed princesses need to find in order to break the spell, the curse that changed their lives.
Each Princess either can’t sleep, eat, love, remember or hope. But this isn’t your everyday fairytale and there’s more to the Witches then it seems.
Trigger Warning: Sexual Harassment, Sexual Assault, Rape, Eating Disorders, Insomnia and Child Abuse.
I give this book 5 stars (out of five) easily, this is one of my favourite books that I’ve read in a while and I absolutely love the story, characters, plot and mechanics. There isn’t even a single bad thing I could think of to say about this book.
First of all, this book has a trigger warning. This is a really important thing, especially for this book specifically because it seems like your everyday fantasy but many of the themes within are heavily related to real world things like sexual harassments, assault, rape and disorders, such as eating disorders and insomnia. I would like to add to this warning by saying that it’s also very, very sad. There are many scenes that are extremely emotional, especially if you’re attached to the characters.
I really liked the way they used the concept of magic, for witches every time you cast a spell you gain a skirt that will stay on you forever. This is what balances out magic, it means witches have to think through their spells and bare the weight of them forever. Some skirts are light and others are heavier or of different material, but they are all based on the spell that was cast to summon them.
Warning: This summary is nothing compared to the actual story and I strongly encourage you to go out and find a copy and read this for yourself, it’s a beautiful story and I’m sure you’ll love the message and characters. In the summary I’m also going to explain things not in the order they are revealed to the reader, so be wary of spoilers.
The five Princesses of Ever are Spellbound, by a Spell of Without. They are each cursed to be without one essential thing, and the Queen is trapped in a glass box until the spell is broken or turns True. Jane (the oldest) can’t eat, and the others can’t sleep, love, remember or hope. After the day of the youngest’s (Eden’s) thirteenth birthday the witch who cast the Spell of Without and will tell them how to break it.
Reagan was twelve years old when she cast the spell, she is not like other witches, her magic is stubborn and driven by emotion. When she learned the truth of what the King of Ever did to her mother, she cast the spell without much forethought or planning. All she knew was that she wanted him to hurt as much as he hurt her mother, so she targeted what she thought would hurt him the most; seeing his family in pain. But after five years passed and Reagan is back in Ever after being banished due to her rash actions, she sees that her spell did not have the intended effect. The King is happy and the Princesses are dying.
In order to break the spell the Princesses have four days to gather four objects, a clock from the oldest person in Ever, a tear from the saddest, a lock of hair from the most beautiful and a crown from the richest. This would’ve been possible if they had the support of their father, but the King didn’t want them to break the spell. Instead he wanted to let them keep suffering because they had gained way more attention then they possibly could’ve if they were normal and many of the other Princes and Princesses wanted them. They preyed on the Princesses and took advantage of their lack of strength and understanding.
After one day of Reagan, Jane and the other Princesses looking for the items Reagan finally tells them why she cast the spell. Her mother was raped by the King. At first Jane doesn’t believe her, it doesn’t fit with her idea of him because he taught her everything and kept her safe as she grew up. But that night she and the other Princesses start paying more attention, they see the way all the attendants and servants are scared of him, they see the way he eats carelessly while the rest of Ever starves. And he refuses to help them break the spell even when faced with the reality of their imminent deaths without aid.
If that wasn’t enough later that night Jane and two of her sisters walk in on him assaulting Jane’s personal attendant Olive. When she confronts him he calls Jane hysterical and threatens her, that night he orders all the Princesses to be locked in a tower and not let out until the curse becomes True.
[Spoiler Warning, skip the next 10 paragraphs to avoid major spoilers but there are minor spoilers in the rest of this review.]
Throughout lots of the story at this point odd things have been happening to Jane, she feels a sense of connection with Reagan, and soon after being locked up both her and Olive are able to escape and teleport to the home of the witches using magic. It becomes clear that the odd things they’re feeling are magic and they also get closer to breaking the spell after getting the tear from Reagan’s mother.
Willa (Reagan’s cousin), Regan, Olive and Jane head out to find the most beautiful and it’s both Reagan’s childhood best friend and Olive’s brother. While they’re there the King begins to make a speech about Jane and her disappearance, he manipulates and lies so the situation seems like she abandoned the people she’s trying to save. In those moments Jane closes her eyes, and without knowing what she’s doing, casts a spell.
It puts all the non-magical women in Ever inside glass boxes similar to the one the Queen is in. This includes Jane’s sisters and Olive’s little sister but none of the witches, before this Jane had no idea she’s a witch. They got the lock of hair, and at this point the wife of the oldest citizen who they already visited brings them the clock. They all head back to the Home on the Hill (where the witches live) so they can finally understand the true history of Ever and what’s going on around them.
Long ago all women were witches, people all across the gender spectrum were witches, the only people who weren’t witches were men, but even some men were witches. Until nearly a century ago when a Princess from Ever was kidnapped. The people of Ever know this story and are always hoping for the Princess’s return, but they don’t know the full story. The Princess of Ever was not taken for her beauty like Jane believed, but for her magic.
Many young girls from Ever were being taken for their magic, but when it happened to a princess it started a war (comically titled the War We Won). This war resulted in witches everywhere losing their powers (they still had magic but it was significantly less strong) and the men loved this, because it gave them all the power. To end this war the Princess had to make a deal with the King, the witches promised to stay on the Home on the Hill and protect Ever as long as the war ended and magic was preserved. The royals liked being able to control the remaining magic, since it faded away everywhere else.
At the end of this story it’s revealed that Reagan’s grandmother (who had been telling the story) was the Princess. The time has come, they decide that it’s no longer okay to sit back and ensure that the kingdom is at rest because they can do better than that. This time it’s Jane, Reagan, Willa, Olive and Bethly (Reagan’s mother) who set out, the first thing they do is to break the spell Jane cast. In order to break it Jane tells the people of Ever to cross the moat, which is difficult for them because they were cursed to be scared of water, and take the crown from the King. They all gradually start crossing the moat, where Jane and the others explain why the King isn’t who people thought he was but when the King interrupts Jane calls her crazy and completely dismisses what she says another voice comes from the crowd.
They know who he really is, they’ve seen him and they’ve suffered. And one by one as more and more people see the truth, both Reagan’s and Jane’s spells start breaking. Until the Queen steps out of her box and joins the chorus of voices. They’re broken because they no longer need the King’s crown, a King is only a King because people believe he is, at that time no one in Ever wanted him as their King, so his crown was meaningless. They are a kingdom without a King, but with many Queens.
The ending is beautiful, after the spells were fully broken everyone in Ever who had magic gathered around and cast a spell together, the spell contains the dethroned King in a glass box. If he ever feels sorry for his actions, then the box will break and he will be banished but until then he’s trapped. Life in Ever has widely improved and each main character fulfills themselves and helps the people of Ever in different ways, but they’re all Queens. ‘
These are two of my favourite lines from the book, “If a queen is silent, I guess I won’t be queen.” -Jane, Pg. 281 this shows how much Jane has changed and grown throughout the story.
And “If he won’t give it, we’ll just take it. We’re goddamn witches. Don’t tell us we can’t.” -Reagan. Pg. 278, I love this quote because the witches are always looked down on but Reagan is done dealing with everyone’s bullsh*t and I’m here for it.
I love both the main characters Reagan and Jane, they’re similar and special in their own ways and I love how their stories are interconnected. I really loved the switching perspectives, this is one of the few books where this is not only done perfectly but it also adds a lot to the storytelling. In many stories with multiple points of view it’s just for variety, but in this story it is 100% necessary and shows the characters thought, feelings and interactions in a really cool way.
This book has a very unexpected feminist vibe and I find it really empowering. The group of witches and women, Bethly, Jane, Olive, Reagan and Willa, were all hurt by the King and they are the ones to break the spell and bring him to justice.
Also there is the inclusion of LGBTQA+ acceptance even among royals as one of the princesses (Grace, I believe) frequently asks if she will be able to marry a princess instead of a prince. And the topic of diverse gender identities was also included when discussing who could be a witch.
This book is so well written which is why it’s heartbreaking at many different times. I love the overall messages about learning how to do things your own way. There are many different ways to be happy, to survive, to move on, to be Queen, to be a witch, etc. At the beginning of the story the main characters Reagan and Jane were both almost obsessed with doing what was right, for Jane being the perfect Queen and for Reagan being the right kind of witch. But in the end they realize that they don’t need to change and they can do it in their own way. It’s a very powerful and important message.
I think the universe created in this story showcases how men can take control and all the power, they use women and their abilities and then convince everyone that they’re the one with the magic and powers, while abusing the people under their control.
I also really like that the names of many of the different things throughout the story were very creative and fun. The kingdom is called Ever and another is called AndNot, some other places and things are called Home on the Hill, The Spell of Without and many other cool things. I also enjoyed the wordplay that was often used with the word Ever, like in the title and ending lines of the book.
This story is truly wildly unique and amazing, I’ve never read anything like it and I would strongly recommend it. It’s what I would call a perfect story, not necessarily objectively but because everything makes sense and fits together perfectly as well as being a very good story to begin with.