These Witches Don't Burn

These Witches Don't Burn

by Isabel Sterling


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"Infused with page-turning suspense, bittersweet romance, shocking twists, and tragic turns, Sterling has written a standout debut." —Dana Mele, author of People Like Us

Hannah's a witch, but not the kind you're thinking of. She's the real deal, an Elemental with the power to control fire, earth, water, and air. But even though she lives in Salem, Massachusetts, her magic is a secret she has to keep to herself. If she's ever caught using it in front of a Reg (read: non-witch), she could lose it. For good. So, Hannah spends most of her time avoiding her ex-girlfriend (and fellow Elemental Witch) Veronica, hanging out with her best friend, and working at the Fly by Night Cauldron selling candles and crystals to tourists, goths, and local Wiccans.

But dealing with her ex is the least of Hannah's concerns when a terrifying blood ritual interrupts the end-of-school-year bonfire. Evidence of dark magic begins to appear all over Salem, and Hannah's sure it's the work of a deadly Blood Witch. The issue is, her coven is less than convinced, forcing Hannah to team up with the last person she wants to see: Veronica.

While the pair attempt to smoke out the Blood Witch at a house party, Hannah meets Morgan, a cute new ballerina in town. But trying to date amid a supernatural crisis is easier said than done, and Hannah will have to test the limits of her power if she's going to save her coven and get the girl, especially when the attacks on Salem's witches become deadlier by the day.

Isabel Sterling's delightful, suspenseful debut is equal parts sweet romance and thrilling mystery. With everything she loves on the line, Hannah must confront this murderous villain before her coven—and any chance she has with the new girl—is destroyed.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780451480323
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 05/28/2019
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 18,587
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.40(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Isabel Sterling is an LGBTQ educator and advocate by day and a YA author by night. When she's not writing about magic and murder, Isabel can be found lost in a good book, marathoning her favorite shows, or relaxing by the lake. She lives in Central New York with her wife and their brood of furry children: cats Oliver and December and a beagle-mix named Lily.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

They say there’s a fine line between love and hate.

I used to think They were idiots. Most people are. What could some faceless They know about love? Or hate for that matter. But then I dated Veronica Matthews.

Veronica. Matthews.

The girl who pulled me out of the closet so fast and so completely my head was still spinning weeks later. Our first kiss was life-changing. Identity-altering. Even after a year, I still don’t have the right words to describe it.

My parents were surprised, though they recovered quickly, when I walked into the kitchen the day of the kiss to announce, “Mom. Dad. Turns out, I’m gay.”

Dad dropped his sauce spoon on the floor. He blinked a few times, then shrugged. “Oh, well, okay then.”

Mom picked up the sauce spoon and rinsed it in the sink. “Want to talk about it?”

I remember shrugging. Dad and I do that a lot. “Nope. Just thought you should know.”

And that was that.

Veronica Matthews taught me about love, and I guess They were right. There really was a fine line to cross to hate. The same girl who dragged my ass out of the closet later tore my heart from my chest with her meticulously manicured nails.

I hate her. The stupid, self-centered—

Someone clears their throat in front of me. I tear my gaze away from Veronica, who’s in the back of the shop by the prepackaged potions, flirting with a girl whose name I can’t remember. She looks familiar, with her warm brown skin and a tumble of tight black curls. I think she was on the cheerleading squad with Veronica, but her name eludes me.

Evan Woelk, a tall, skinny white boy with guyliner thick around his dark brown eyes, stands on the other side of the counter. He smiles when I finally turn my attention his way. “Hey, Hannah.” He drops a pile of merchandise next to the register and shoves his hands deep in his front pockets.

“Find everything okay?” I ask, stifling a cringe as Veronica giggles. Even the lavender incense burning on the counter behind me can’t calm my nerves when she’s around.

Evan nods and watches the total go up and up as I scan his items. Black candles. Twine for binding rituals. A book on hexes. Incense. An all-black athame, both edges of the knife sharp even though the blade is only used for directing energy. I fight the urge to roll my eyes. Yet another Reg playing at being a witch.

I ring up the last item and glance at Evan. He has the whole goth thing going on—black jeans, a tight black shirt, and rings on every finger—which makes this all the more ridiculous. “Eighty-four ninety-five.” I bite my lip as he swipes his card. Part of me wants to warn him. Even if Wiccan magic is child’s play compared to what I can do, it’s still dangerous to mess with forces you don’t understand.

Not that I’ll actually say anything. To expose my secret is to risk banishment.

Or worse.

Evan accepts his bag with a tight smile. He shifts on his feet, not leaving. I plaster on my work smile, but I’m itching for him to go. Veronica’s still giggling over something What’s-Her-Face has said. I don’t want to deal with her, but I can’t leave the counter with a customer in the shop. I never considered myself the jealous type, but if those two don’t get out of here soon, I’ll—

“Is that Veronica?” he asks, pointing at the pad of paper in front of me. The one with my half-finished Veronica-turned-evil-demon sketch. “I heard you two broke up.”

Heat burns at my cheeks. I crumple the page and toss it in the trash. “I really don’t want to talk about it.” Of course he’s heard. The whole school gossiped about our public breakup for weeks.

“Forget I asked.” Evan brushes his dark hair out of his eyes. It’s a wasted effort, as it flops right back into place. “Are you going to the bonfire tonight?”

I offer a half smile, my thanks for the subject change. “I think Gemma wants to go.” And if my best friend wants to go to the annual end-of-school-year bonfire in the woods, there’s no way she’ll let me skip it. “I take it you’re going?”

“Wouldn’t miss it.” He raises his bag of magic supplies, the athame poking out through a small tear in the plastic. “See you tonight.”

“Later,” I say, but I roll my eyes once Evan is gone. I get enough of the wannabes from the tourists who visit Salem. It’s even more annoying when the locals do it, too. They act like it’s all about the wardrobe and accessories. Here, buy a necklace and a few candles. That totally makes you a witch. If they had any clue what real witches were like, what we’re capable of . . .

They probably wouldn’t sleep very well at night.

Veronica’s laugh trickles through to the front of the store. Familiar pangs of desire work down my spine, but the ice in my veins squashes the feeling. I want her out of this shop. I want her out of my life long enough for me to get over her.

But no. If only I were so lucky. The selfish, gorgeous bane of my existence belongs to the same coven as my family. Which was great while we were dating, but now . . .

“Oh, Hannah. I forgot you work here.” Veronica sidles up to the counter with a small basket of candles and incense, the lie falling effortlessly from her glossy lips. “How are you?”

I reach for the candles she deposited on the counter and ring them up. “What are you doing here?”

“Shopping.” She smirks and shares a look with What’s-Her-Face, who snaps her gum.

“This tourist trap overcharges, and you know it.” I shove the candles into a paper bag, letting my shoulder-length brown hair fall past my face. It creates enough of a barrier to keep from looking at her.

“Maybe I wanted to see you.” Veronica’s voice is sweet like honey, but I can hear the poison beneath her words. “You’re not returning my texts.”

“Yeah, well, take a hint.” I place the last of the incense in the bag. “That’ll be forty-four ninety-three.”

She hands over cash, her fingers lingering on mine. A shiver crawls along my skin, but I won’t let her see that. I can’t let her know she still affects me that way. “It doesn’t have to be like this, Hannah.” She almost seems sincere.

And the way my name sounds rolling off her tongue? I have to swallow around the lump in my throat before I can speak. “Thank you for visiting the Fly by Night Cauldron. Have a nice day.”

“Come on, Ronnie, let’s go.” What’s-Her-Face, who Veronica never bothered to introduce, pivots and hurries toward the exit, her heels clicking against the floor.

But Veronica pauses. Lingers. As if there’s more she came to say. My heart pounds in my chest, and I’m sure she must hear it.

I tug at my uniform again. “Since when do you let people call you Ronnie? You hate that.”

My ex watches her friend leave, and when she’s sure we’re alone, she leans against the counter, staring up at me through her lashes. “Be careful, Hannah. I might think you’re jealous.” A deliberate breeze brushes my neck, laced with a current of Veronica’s power. The smoke from the incense swirls its way between us, caressing my cheek and slipping along Veronica’s collarbone, drawing my eye to the bit of exposed skin.

“What the hell are you doing?” Even though I don’t see anyone else in the shop, I keep my voice low so no one overhears. “If Lady Ariana caught you using magic in public—”

“Relax, Hannah. It’s not like she’d ever step foot in a place like this. No one’s going to know.” She fixes me with her emerald stare, but I back out of reach. Using magic in public is a surefire way to lose coven privileges. And I, for one, don’t want my training delayed because my obnoxious ex is careless.

Veronica sighs and pushes away from the counter, releasing her hold on the air. The wind dies and resumes a more natural path. “Happy?”

I don’t dignify her with an answer. She knows what would happen if a Reg caught us. If our high priestess found out.

“Listen, Hannah.” Veronica fusses with her bag of candles. “I wanted to know . . . Are you coming to graduation tomorrow? I think I finally perfected my speech.”

“Really?” I cringe at the encouragement in my voice. Instincts from a lifetime of friendship are hard to quell, no matter how much she hurt me. I cross my arms and glance around the shop to make sure we’re still alone. “No, I’m not. I’d rather let the Council strip my magic than sit through that.”

The words hang in the air between us, charged with more power than Veronica’s manipulated wind. Her lips part, but nothing comes out. I wonder if she’s thinking about the day we went shopping for her graduation dress. If she remembers what we did the night she was officially named valedictorian, after her parents went to bed. Guilt clutches at my chest, but I push it away.

It’s her fault we’re not together anymore. She’s the one who hurt me.

Veronica shifts the bag to her other hand, and a mask settles over her features. Gone is the hurt. Gone is the girl I loved, replaced by the one who broke my heart.

What’s-Her-Face leans back into the shop. “Everything all right in here?”

“Of course.” Veronica smiles her perfect smile, brandishing it like a weapon. “Just thought I forgot my receipt. Let’s go.” She turns away, loops her arm through her friend’s, and disappears out the door.

As the bell jingles their departure, my heart threatens to burst. The tears sting, but I won’t let them fall. I won’t give Veronica the satisfaction.

If she thinks she can show up at my work all summer, she’s sorely mistaken. Because when it comes to holding a grudge, I’m an Olympic champion.

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These Witches Don't Burn 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous 14 hours ago
Hannah is 17, a recently-out lesbian, and an elemental witch. There aren't a lot of actual witches in Salem these days, but she and her family are - of course - in the same coven as her ex-girlfriend, Veronica. As if that wasn't bad enough, now there are weird things going on that sound a lot like they're connected to the blood witch that attacked her on a school trip to New York, and she and Veronica both are targets. (Plus, this super cute new girl who might actually like her? I mean... can you say DRAMA?) My notes: So good! I really loved Hannah and her family and friends, all of whom seemed very well thought out (even the background characters didn't seem flat). I hope there's a sequel so I can find out more! *Thank you to NetGalley for the eARC of this title, in exchange for an honest review.*
Take_Me_AwayPH 4 months ago
Not gonna lie, when I saw this I wasn't too keen on wanting to read it. I'm usually not a fan of books with witches, but when I heard this one was set in Salem.... Well, that's all I really needed to see. It isn't set during the Salem Witches Trials, but it was still enough for me to want to get my hands on it. Hannah and her families are witches. They try to live normal lives without drawing the attention of any Regs. But suddenly, the monotony of Hannah's life changes when there's evidence of foul play at a bonfire. But then things get even more crazy when there's a fire during a house party and so many other unfortunate instances. How can she keep her coven and her Reg friends safe? Like I said, I wasn't sure I would like this because I am not a huge fan of witches. But this one was pretty cool. I liked the Elemental magic is showed and the way it all worked. And I loved that it was hereditary and wasn't something that they just told the main character she could do when she woke up one day. (No disrespect to Undead Girl Gang because I actually loved that one, but this way makes it more real to me?) What I didn't care for was the characters. Hannah was good, but she was so stubborn, she didn't want to listen to anyone. And then there was Veronica.... Man she was a piece of work. As for the best friend and the new crush, they were the ones I liked most. Everyone had an important part in this story and I truly appreciated that. What I didn't care for was the writing style. I liked the mystery aspect. I caught one part of it, but the other I remember saying "WHAT" out loud when it was revealed. But what I didn't like was the way I felt like I had missed an entire prologue where something huge happened. It gets explained in the story, but by then I had already felt lost. I wish the explanation that was in the book had actually been a prologue. For the most part I liked this one and was very surprised at how much I liked it. This wasn't something I would just pull off the shelf, but when I heard it was f/f and set in Salem and was about witches, I was tearing it off my shelves.
ruthsic 5 months ago
These Witches Don't Burn brings a fresh take on Salem witches, and combining it with a mystery, makes for an interesting plotline. Hannah is an Elemental witch, the only kind of witches who are allowed to live in Salem, albeit in hiding, and when evidence of new rituals show up, she at first suspects another type of witch, the Blood Witches, to be responsible. When a house fire almost has her powers exposed, she has to keep laying low, while also trying to investigate who is targeting her. However, as the danger ramps up, another of the witches' old fears come to life. In this Salem, Hannah and her family are part of a coven of Elemental witches, which means they are also her community. Her ex-girlfriend, Veronica, is also another Elemental, and her only friend who she can discuss witch stuff with. So, initially she has to count on her help to investigate, but with Veronica pushing for a reconciliation, and Hannah starting to be interested in the new girl in town, Morgan, things are pretty dramatic on the love front. As for her other friend, Gemma, she can't say much to her, but Benton is helping her look into the fire. However, with the number of new people in town adding up, her suspect pool grows and so muddies the waters for various incidents. I won't divulge much about the mystery, but it is done quite well, with clues placed at just the right places to be seemingly innocuous but also red herrings at some occasions. Towards the end, the story really builds on the tensions and mystery that was fed throughout the book, leading us to threads that up the stakes for the next book. There's, however, also the fact that the book basically drops us in the middle of something, because for the first couple of chapters I had to go and check that this was indeed the first book in the series. Hannah and Veronica keep referring to an incident in New York that is the cause of their initial fear and suspicion, an incident that is pieced together over most of the book. That plot thread actually was pretty anti-climactic because it is told to us, not shown to us, so the characters' fears feel distant compared to the current danger. The romance is pretty cute, but yeah, it also took us away from the mystery at times, and at one point, I was like - why are you having a date in an isolated park when your life is in danger?! Also I didn't really get THAT character's motivation to get Hannah into their sights because if they were looking for a particular target, she didn't fit their profile. Still, it was an enjoyable read, and I am looking forward, eagerly, to the next book.
Anonymous 6 months ago
Oh my god. Okay, so I thought I knew what I was getting into when I started reading this book. I thought I was just going to be reading some cute love story with some witchy drama on the side. I don’t know what made me think this was going to be a light novel, but it wasn’t. This book nearly made me cry (the only reason I didn’t was because I was at work) This book does start off at a really light pace and does such an excellent job at introducing you into the world and the different classes of witches. Hannah was a great main character to follow around and her story was just so interesting. Seeing her handle her emotions and her past while trying to move on with her life was amazing. I honestly like almost all the characters and had no clue who could have been behind all the bad that was happening. I thought I knew for like a moment, but I was completely wrong. This book took such a turn that I never saw coming and it honestly broke my heart. I’m really hoping this is going to be a series, because this book was fantastic.
Anonymous 8 months ago
Definitely one of the best books I've read. Can't wait for the sequel!
Anonymous 11 months ago
I LOVED this book! I wasn't expecting to find a new series that I'm now officially obsessed with, but this was it. I'll read anything and everything about teenage witches & wizards, even the books that border on cheesy -- but this was not your typical teenage-witch book. I was fully swept into Hannah's world and fell in love with the characters. I'm already ready for the sequel!