Malus Domestica #1: Burn the Dark – S.A. Hunt

Spoilers Ahead!

“The Red Lord will find you.”

Robin has a mohawk, a cherished fifteen year old stuffed mosquito called Mr. Nosy and a popular YouTube channel called ‘MalusDomestica’. Her subscribers think what they’re watching is fake, but it’s anything but. [If you’re wondering, ‘malus domestica’ is Latin for “the common apple tree”. You’ll learn the significance of this name during the book.]

Robin travels around the country in her van hunting witches. Robin’s father was convicted of killing her mother but Robin knows the witches were responsible. Now, after spending time in a psychiatric facility and subsequently honing her witch slaying skills, she’s returned home to Blackfield to face off with the local coven.

“You witches killed my mama!”

Witches. Demons. Ancient sigils. The quest for immortality. Cats that aren’t just cats. Murder. A pizza guy. A “big blond Viking dude”. Sound effects – “grum-grum-grum-grum”.

Before I began reading I saw several comparisons made between this book and Buffy, so I expected to witness a lot more slaying. Witches are dispatched of in flashbacks but I don’t recall any scenes where a witch meets their maker taking place in the present. I expect the sequel to well and truly make up for this.

A fair amount of time is spent on characters’ backstories and explanations of the supernatural aspects of the story. While it is well written I did spend a lot of the first half of the book anxious for some present day action scenes.

There were plenty of pop culture references in this book, from Batman to Indiana Jones and The Simpsons. Had I realised there would be so many of these references I would have made a list and asked other readers to let me know which ones I’d missed.

I liked most of the characters but the one that I was most interested in, Heinrich Hammer, Robin’s mentor, didn’t appear in person until the very end of the book. I’m looking forward to seeing them in action in the sequel.

Content warnings include mention of domestic violence, racism, death by suicide and mental illness.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Tor Books for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Robin is a YouTube celebrity gone-viral with her intensely-realistic witch hunter series. But even her millions of followers don’t know the truth: her series isn’t fiction.

Her ultimate goal is to seek revenge against the coven of witches who wronged her mother long ago. Returning home to the rural town of Blackfield, Robin meets friends new and old on her quest for justice. But then, a mysterious threat known as the Red Lord interferes with her plans …

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