A young witch who just wants to be invisible. A beautiful mermaid who doesn't belong. A secret relationship that threatens the entire academy.
Brie only agreed to try the witch academy to make her mother happy. She assumed she would learn Water magic. But when the students were assigned to their Elemental classes, she ended up in Earth. The list of reasons for her to leave the school keeps growing—her roommate is a bully, she doesn't understand her classes, and everyone judges her for her infamous family name.
Then a beautiful mermaid named Gabriella catches her eye at the beach. Merfolk aren't allowed in Santa Cruz because they're dangerous killers, but Gabriella is friendly and kind. She agrees to show Water magic to Brie as long as she keeps their meetings a secret.
Brie lies to everyone about Gabriella, even when her Fae mentor asks her to investigate merfolk. But when the secret relationship strains her friendships, tanks her grades, and threatens her position at the academy, Brie learns that love comes at a high price.
She must choose between her first love and her magical school—or lose everything.
The Reluctant Witch is the first book in an upper YA urban fantasy academy series. It features the daughter of Rosa from the Fae of Calaveras trilogy, but it takes place twenty years after the original series and does not require prior reading. If you like teen witches, magical schools, and introverts who have to overcome their wish to be left alone, you'll enjoy Kristen S. Walker's latest novel.
Rated PG-13 for mild profanity and sexual references.
Who doesn't love magical academies? Kristen S. Walker's series is all about the Santa Cruz Witch Academy and its latest attendees. In addition, this is a YA book, with a lovely teenaged voice that feels very authentic to me. – Leah R Cutter
"A fun magic adventure full of first love and daring espionage."– Reader review
"This book was a unique and entertaining story with magic, romance and action all packed in one. Easy and fun to read with original characters and a peculiar take on the magic realm and the human realm mixed.""– Reader review
"Notorious family, forbidden love and flamboyant friends, what more could you ask for?"– Reader review
I leaned my head against the window frame to catch every glimpse I could of the coastline. I was crammed into the back seat of our blue VW Beetle with my overstuffed backpack and art portfolio. I only had a tiny curved window to see out the side. The lack of legroom didn't really bother me, because I was short, but this tiny view was getting me down.
My two moms took up the front seats. Mama Rosa's familiar, a bearded dragon named Kitten, was sunning herself on the dashboard. They were chattering on about the start of the school year, but I had tuned them out hours ago.
It was a long drive from our home in Madrone, a little town in Calaveras County, crossing the state of California to the coast. But now we'd finally hit Santa Cruz, and I could see the one thing I'd come here for: the beaches of Monterey Bay. The road curved along the cliffs, so I had the perfect view.
The water glinted in the September sunlight, and the waves gently rolled up to the beach. It was a calm day, but a few surfers were sitting on their boards while they waited for the next swell. The salty air came through the window and whipped my red hair around my head.
I couldn't wait to be out there with them. My board was strapped to the top of the car, and my wetsuit was in the suitcase in the trunk. Maybe I could convince my parents to just drop me off here for a few hours. They'd enjoy the first day of school orientation more than I would.
Only juniors drove to witch school because we didn't have any magic yet, but I was glad to stay on the ground. All the older students would fly in on their brooms over the weekend. Classes didn't start until Tuesday, after the equinox, but juniors also had to get there early. Which is why I was stuck in this car on a beautiful Thursday afternoon.
Most kids would probably be excited to go to a witch school. Magic users only made up a quarter of the population, and for most kinds of magic, you had to be born with it. The highest ranked were faeriekin—part human, part Fae, a blending of two worlds. The other races were collectively called magikin, which covered everything from dwarves to pooka. Humans technically had two choices for gaining magic. Vampires were more powerful, but there were some nasty side effects to being undead, like consuming blood, and their numbers had dwindled in the last two centuries. But make a pact with a Fae, and you could become a witch—the bottom rung of the magic community.
I'd been against the idea for years. Mama Rosa was a witch, and she could do some cool things with her powers. I was just tired of people comparing me to her. Or worse, to her mother, Granny, who had been stripped of her powers for illegal magic. With such a well-known witch family, I could feel the weight of expectations the moment that people heard my name.
My real dream was an art school, and I didn't need magic for that. I could have finished out my last two years of high school in my old school back home. People still flinched at the name McAddams there, but I'd developed a prickly persona where I kept my head down and avoided everyone. I just had to build up my portfolio and graduate.
But Mama Ashleigh, who was a faeriekin but didn't use her magic, finally talked me into giving witch school a chance. She pointed out that the first degree in magic was the same as a high school diploma. If I didn't like it, I could switch to art in college.
So I'd made a deal with her: I would go to a witch school and try the magic life for a limited time. But I wanted to pick the location—definitely not the Calaveras Witch Academy, where Mama Rosa taught herbalism—and if it was too awful, I could transfer back.
And now here I was in Santa Cruz. It was beautiful with green trees everywhere, even at the end of summer when most of the state was brown and dried out from the sun. The coastal redwoods were smaller than the giant sequoia from back home, but they were still impressive. This place was familiar in some ways but just different enough that it felt like an escape.
A dark shape in the water caught my eye. Something bobbed up between the kelp beds and I thought it turned toward me. I pressed closer to the glass, trying to get a better look. Was someone out there?
"Did you find a sea otter, Bridget?" Mama Rosa said, glancing at me in the rearview mirror.
I shook my head. It looked too big to be a sea otter or even a seal. I checked the nearby surfers, but they didn't seem to notice.
It was unmistakable. A girl's face looked up at me from the water. A cold shiver passed over me. Mermaids usually avoided anywhere with humans, but they could be hostile. If mermaids were in Santa Cruz, it wasn't as peaceful as the school's brochures promised.
Mama Rosa saw me shiver and reached for the window controls. "Are you cold? Let me close the windows."
The girl slipped back beneath the waves with the flicker of a purple tail. I watched for another glimpse, but she was gone without a trace. I knew what I saw, though.
"I'm fine," I muttered, slumping back in the seat.
We turned off the coast and drove up into the hills of Soquel, another town next to Santa Cruz. Within minutes, we were surrounded by trees again, and the road became even more narrow and winding. The school didn't come into view until we were right at the entrance.
An old-fashioned wrought-iron gate blocked the road at the front and a tall brick wall surrounded the campus. Signs warned people away. We were stopped by a guard and all three of us had to show our IDs before we could drive in.
All the security wasn't to protect the students—it was to protect the population from the witches-in-training. Ever since the Witchgate, an incident where Granny had almost destroyed our hometown by tearing open the Veil, people didn't trust humans with magic. In the upheavals since then, magikin had gained many freedoms, but witches had lost more. The campus might call itself a school, but it looked like a prison.
Why had I ever agreed to come here?