'Spells Trouble' by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast is book one in the Sisters of Salem series.
After centuries as the Gatekeepers to five ancient underworlds, descendants of the founder of Goodeville face a challenge none of their kind have ever seen before. The integrity of the portals is weakening and if they fail, all manner of walking nightmares would come through.
On the night of their birthday, Hunter and Mercy Goode lose their mother. The first in a string of deaths that the twins must understand before they can find a way to heal the Gates and put a stop to the inevitable. If they don't, their world will not survive.
This book is kind of a welcome surprise. Though the premise sounded interesting, when I first started reading it.. I thought it seemed very light-hearted, which is fine. The girls are high schoolers, one is stereotypically popular and the other is stereotypically shunned, but their twin bond is tight and the love at home with their mom is warm and welcoming.
Initially, I genuinely didn't take any of it too seriously. There's a mention within the book of Sabrina and of course, some of the vibe is definitely similar. But like Sabrina, there's also a surprising darkness kind of strewn throughout.
For me, the difference is that the darkness never feels campy. I'm not disparaging Sabrina, I was surprised to find I enjoyed that too, but even with the dark tones.. it's sort of tongue-in-cheek at times. And this can be, but again.. not really in the campy way. Though.. Xena. Very fun.
Mixed into this high school romp through spell casting, are some distinctively Stephen King-esque textures, some Stranger Things adventure horror, and a fascinating dash of mythology. Now, if you don't know much about mythology, don't worry. The part it plays is all clearly explained, as are any connections of importance.
The characters, are all well done. Some I liked and some I didn't, but as was fitting with the story. Hunter and Jax are probably my favorites, as the latter is a really lovely friend, and the former is the more reasonable of the two MCs. But Mercy is cool too, if a bit misguided at times. They do really love each other and try to look out for each other.
As for the magic system, though it's kind of dressed up and modernized a bit, it's also rooted in a couple of traditional ritual styles.. giving it a sense of believability even in fantasy use.
Admittedly, I really loved the choices that were made as to the mythological connections. I especially enjoyed what little we were shown in relation to the underworlds and the ways and reasons each of the Gates were different.
I definitely added book two in my Goodreads list as soon as I finished reading this one. So, if you like witchy stories with a lot of interesting elements that aren't too atmospheric, give this a try!
(I received this title as an ARC. All opinions are mine and freely given.)