Book Title: The Witch and the Vampire
Author: Francesca Flores
Release Date: March 21, 2023
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Retelling, LGBTQ+
My rating: 3/5 Stars
Francesca Flores’s The Witch and the Vampire is a queer Rapunzel retelling where a witch and a vampire who trust no one but themselves must journey together through a cursed forest with danger at every turn.
Ava and Kaye used to be best friends. Until one night two years ago, vampires broke through the magical barrier protecting their town, and in the ensuing attack, Kaye’s mother was killed, and Ava was turned into a vampire. Since then, Ava has been trapped in her house. Her mother Eugenia needs her: Ava still has her witch powers, and Eugenia must take them in order to hide that she’s a vampire as well. Desperate to escape her confinement and stop her mother’s plans to destroy the town, Ava must break out, flee to the forest, and seek help from the vampires who live there. When there is another attack, she sees her opportunity and escapes.
Kaye, now at the end of her training as a Flame witch, is ready to fulfill her duty of killing any vampires that threaten the town, including Ava. On the night that Ava escapes, Kaye follows her and convinces her to travel together into the forest, while secretly planning to turn her in. Ava agrees, hoping to rekindle their old friendship, and the romantic feelings she’d started to have for Kaye before that terrible night.
But with monstrous trees that devour humans whole, vampires who attack from above, and Ava’s stepfather tracking her, the woods are full of danger. As they travel deeper into the forest, Kaye questions everything she thought she knew. The two are each other’s greatest threat—and also their only hope, if they want to make it through the forest unscathed.
The Witch and the Vampire was one of my most anticipated releases of 2023. A sapphic Rapunzel retelling with witches and vampires and friends to enemies to lovers? Um, yes please! That sounds like everything I want in a book. And while this one unfortunately didn’t live up to all my expectations, I did enjoy reading it.
First, I loved the relationship between our MCs, Ava and Kaye. The two had been separated after years of being best friends. Kaye’s resentment was left to fester after tragedy had struck, she had no answers, and no friend anymore. Ava, meanwhile, was completely unaware of Kaye’s growing anger and couldn’t wait for the day the two would reunite.
When they finally did, it was a moment filled with tension, longing, confusion, and hurt. Ava had been turned into a vampire, beings Kaye had sworn to eliminate from the world. However, Kaye soon started to question everything she knew when she got closer to the girl she once knew so well.
Their relationship was a slow burn with the perfect amount of tension. It was the most compelling part of the story, and I really enjoyed watching it develop. Both girls had certain ideals stuck in their heads about how things are supposed to be, but being close to each other forced them to challenge those thoughts and question everything they knew. I was rooting for them the whole time.
Now, while I did enjoy the romance, the pacing of the rest of the story was a bit off. There were parts of the plot that dragged, and others that went by so fast I almost got whiplash. I wish it had been smoothed out a little better to give a more cohesive feel to the story.
Additionally, the world building fell flat for me. Most of it was done through info dumping (my least favorite), and the parts that were shown through exposition were a little confusing and didn’t entirely fit with the rest of the lore. If there had been less telling and more showing, I think it would have strengthened the story substantially.
One thing I did appreciate about the plot was the lack of black and white thinking. As it is in their world, witches were good, and vampires were bad, but the story revealed just how false this ideology is. Both the vampires and witches were capable of evil deeds, but also of doing good. This discussion was one of the highlights of the book for me.
Overall, if The Witch and the Vampire had gone through a few more rounds of edits, I think it could have really hit it out of the park and met those expectations. As it is now, though, it’s a story I enjoyed, but one that I had issues with. However, I am still glad I read it because I did enjoy the romance, which had me smiling constantly throughout. The ending was left kind of open, so I’d definitely be interested in reading more about Ava and Kaye!
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a digital ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.
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