ARC Reviews

ARC REVIEW: Toil & Trouble Anthology


36426163Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release Date: August 28, 2018
Received From: NetGalley

A young adult fiction anthology of 15 stories featuring contemporary, historical, and futuristic stories featuring witchy heroines who are diverse in race, class, sexuality, religion, geography, and era.

Are you a good witch or a bad witch?

Glinda the Good Witch. Elphaba the Wicked Witch. Willow. Sabrina. Gemma Doyle. The Mayfair Witches. Ursula the Sea Witch. Morgan le Fey. The three weird sisters from Macbeth.

History tells us women accused of witchcraft were often outsiders: educated, independent, unmarried, unwilling to fall in line with traditional societal expectations.

Bold. Powerful. Rebellious.

A bruja’s traditional love spell has unexpected results. A witch’s healing hands begin to take life instead of giving it when she ignores her attraction to a fellow witch. In a terrifying future, women are captured by a cabal of men crying witchcraft and the one true witch among them must fight to free them all. In a desolate past, three orphaned sisters prophesize for a murderous king. Somewhere in the present, a teen girl just wants to kiss a boy without causing a hurricane.

From good witches to bad witches, to witches who are a bit of both, this is an anthology of diverse witchy tales from a collection of diverse, feminist authors. The collective strength of women working together—magically or mundanely–has long frightened society, to the point that women’s rights are challenged, legislated against, and denied all over the world. Toil & Trouble delves deep into the truly diverse mythology of witchcraft from many cultures and feminist points of view, to create modern and unique tales of witchery that have yet to be explored.


GENDER: presumed cisgender, transgender
SEXUALITY: bisexual, lesbian, demisexual, presumed heterosexual
ROMANTIC ORIENTATION: biromantic, homoromantic, panromantic, presumed heteroromantic


TROPES: magical abilities, fated mates/soulmates, generational curse, elemental magic, first love
TAGS: young adult, new adult, fantasy, contemporary, Latinx author, Latinx characters, queer characters, queer authors, historical, Black characters, Black author, Indian characters, Indian author, mythology, disabled characters, Asian characters, Asian author, horror, Native characters, Native author, biracial characters, multiracial characters, sibling relationship, anthology, short stories, feminism, romance, queer romance
WARNINGS: death, hospitalization, overdose mention, childbirth, cheating, parental death, car accident, gore, bullying, drugging mention, vivisection mention, cancer mention, underage drinking, physical injury, anaphylactic death mention, slurs, gendered slurs, sexual harassment, fire, drowning mention, rape, gang rape, vomiting, body horror, snakes, spiders, ableism, cissexism/anti-trans phrasing, racism, animal cruelty, suicide mention, slutshaming, sexual content, sexual assault, domestic abuse mention, emotional abuse mention, past abusive relationship, gaslighting, victim blaming, mental illness (panic attack), forced labor, imprisonment, religion (Christianity, Catholicism), survival sex work


And there’s magic in the little things, even if my dad doesn’t see it. It’s there in the secret lives of girls, most of all.

This anthology has many great stories about women and witchcraft, taking place in numerous time periods and addressing multiple different mindsets and situations surrounding the witches featured.

Several authors of color contributed to this anthology, so there is much more racial diversity to be found within the pages of this book than is typical of many anthologies, which I really enjoyed. I loved getting to read these authors exploring different aspects of their cultures and mythology within the contents of their stories. There are also several queer authors in the book as well, and a few of their stories contained queer characters. I would’ve liked to see some stories where the main characters had other marginalizations (disabled characters, fat characters, etc), but overall, it was really great to see the marginalizations that were depicted.

One thing I liked was that all the stories are so different. Some of them are romances, some are coming of age. Some are contemporary, some are historical. Some involve families, some include characters that have no one. And not a single witch was similar to any other. The editors did a really great job of picking stories that simultaneously fit well together in the confines of the book, but which are also distinctly different in all ways. And I loved that you could kind of get a peek into the authors through their stories.

In some of the stories, there was a bit of head hopping, which made it a tad difficult to follow those stories, but otherwise, they were all really easy to read. (Or difficult but for other reasons. Lots of triggers in some of them.)

My favorites were: Starsong by Tehlor Kay Mejia, The Heart in Her Hands by Tess Sharpe, Death in the Sawtooths by Lindsey Smith, Love Spell by Anna-Marie McLemore, The Gherin Girls by Emery Lord, and Why They Watch Us Burn by Elizabeth May


tess sharpeBorn in a mountain cabin to a punk rocker mother, Tess Sharpe grew up in rural Northern California. She lives deep in the backwoods with a pack of dogs and a growing cabal of slightly feral cats. She is the author of Barbed Wire Heart, the critically-acclaimed YA novel, Far From You and The Evolution of Claire, a Jurassic World Prequel.

She is also the co-editor, along with Jessica Spotswood, of Toil & Trouble, a feminist YA anthology about witches.


jessica spotswoodAuthor. Editor. Feminist. Slytherpuff.

I live in Washington, DC with my playwright husband, where I also work as a children’s library associate for the DC Public Library.

If you’re interested in interviews or guest posts, please contact me at


brandy colbertBrandy Colbert was born and raised in the Ozarks—more specifically, Springfield, Missouri—and earned a bachelors degree in journalism from Missouri State University.

Her second novel, Little & Lion (Little, Brown, 2017), is the winner of ALA’s 2018 Stonewall Book Award; was named to ALA’s 2018 Best Fiction for Young Adults; and was named a Book of the Month Club selection, a Junior Library Guild selection, and a best book of 2017 by Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, Vulture, Bank Street, Bustle, BuzzFeed, Paste Magazine, and Seventeen magazine.

Her debut novel, Pointe (Putnam, 2014), won the 2014 Cybils Award for young adult fiction and was named a best book of 2014 by Publishers Weekly, BuzzFeed, Book Riot, the Chicago Public Library, and the Los Angeles Public Library. She was also chosen as a Publishers Weekly Flying Start for spring 2014.

Her work can also be seen in the anthologies Three Sides of a Heart: Stories About Love Triangles; Feral Youth; Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World;Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories; and the forthcoming collections Our Stories, Our Voices, Toil & Trouble, and Black Enough.

Her third novel, Finding Yvonne, will be available on August 7, 2018, from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, with The Revolution of Birdie Randolph following in 2019.

Brandy lives in Los Angeles where she works as a copy editor for magazines and books. Her writing is represented by Tina Dubois at ICM Partners.


zoraida corodovaZoraida Córdova is the author of urban fantasies The Vicious Deep trilogy and the Brooklyn Brujas series. Her short fiction has appeared in the New York Times bestselling anthology, Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View. Zoraida’s most recent release, Labyrinth Lost, won an International Latino Book award, was named a Best Book of 2016 by Paste Magazine and has been optioned by Paramount Studios. Zoraida is also the author of the upcoming Hollow Crown, to be published by Disney Hyperion in 2019.


andrea cremerAndrea Cremer is the author of the internationally bestselling Nightshade series. She spent her childhood daydreaming and roaming the forests and lakeshores of Northern Wisconsin.

Andrea has always loved writing and has never stopped writing, but she only recently plunged into the deep end of the pool that is professional writing. Before she wrote her first novel, Andrea was a history professor at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. In her books, she strives to bring together her two passions: history and fantasy. Andrea now lives in New York and writes full time.

To contact Andrea, please visit,


kate hartAfter studying Spanish and history at a small liberal arts school, Kate Hart taught young people their ABCs, wrote grants for grownups with disabilities, and now builds treehouses for people of all ages. Her debut YA novel, AFTER THE FALL, was published January 2017 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux; she’s also a contributor to the 2018 anthologies TOIL AND TROUBLE and HOPE NATION.

A former contributor to YA Highway and host of the Badass Ladies You Should Knowseries, she also sells fiber arts and woodworking at The Badasserie. Kate is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation with Choctaw heritage and lives with her family in Northwest Arkansas.


emery lordHi! I’m Emery. I’m the author of four novels about teenage girls: OPEN ROAD SUMMER, THE START OF ME & YOU, WHEN WE COLLIDED, and THE NAMES THEY GAVE US.

I was born near a harbor on the East coast and raised near a beach, an ocean, a great lake, and the Ohio River. I’m a longtime Cincinnatian, where we love good food, our public library, and a majestic baby hippo named Fiona.

I’m married to a scientist who shuts down every wedding dance floor, and we are owned by our baby and two rescue dogs.

I believe in the magic of storytelling, Ferris wheels, and you.


elizabeth mayElizabeth May is the author of the The Falconer Trilogy (The Falconer, The Vanishing Throne, The Fallen Kingdom) and contributor to the anthology Toil & Trouble. Her work has been published in ten countries, and was an Indie Next Pick, an Amazon Book of the Month, a Green Mountain Book Award nominee, and a Scholastic Reading Club pick.

She grew up outside of Los Angeles, where she spent most of her early years dragging books from the library to dinner tables, restaurants, classrooms, and family vacations. Eventually, she tried telling her own stories, writing about people in places she had never been to, but longed to see.

With writing came her love for travelling. Elizabeth went to the rugged landscapes of New Zealand, the coral reefs of Australia, the plains of Canada, thirty-nine US states, and briefly stopped in Vermont to earn her BA at Marlboro College. One day she landed in the United Kingdom, fell in love with Scotland, and decided that was where she belonged.

Inspired by the mysterious, dark, winding alleyways of Edinburgh and the fairy legends of Scotland, Elizabeth wrote her debut novel, The Falconer. One summer, she finished editing the book, held her breath, and sent it out into the world. The Falconer was published two years later.

After earning her PhD at the University of St. Andrews, Elizabeth committed to writing full time. When she isn’t trekking around the Scottish Highlands, hiking mountains and taking photos, she’s imagining stories about complicated girls and writing them down. Elizabeth lives in Edinburgh with her husband and two cats.


anna marie mclemoreAnna-Marie McLemore was born in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and taught by her family to hear la llorona in the Santa Ana winds. Her debut novel THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS was a Junior Library Guild Selection, a YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults book, and a finalist for the William C. Morris Debut Award. Her second novel, WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS, was longlisted for the National Book Award in Young People’s Literature, and was a 2017 Stonewall Honor Book. Her latest is WILD BEAUTY, and BLANCA & ROJA is forthcoming in fall of 2018.


tehlor kay mejiaTehlor Kay Mejia is a YA author and poet at home in the wild woods and alpine meadows of Southern Oregon. When she’s not writing, you can find her plucking at her guitar, stealing rosemary sprigs from overgrown gardens, or trying to make the perfect vegan tamale. Her work appears in the ALL OUT and TOIL & TROUBLE anthologies from Harlequin Teen, and her debut novel, WE SET THE DARK ON FIRE, is out January 2019 from Katherine Tegan/Harper Collins.


lindsay smithLindsay is the author of multiple novels for young adults, including Sekret and A Darkly Beating Heart, as well as the comic series Black Swan. She is the showrunner and lead writer for Serial Box’s The Witch Who Came In From the Cold, a Publisher’s Weekly Best Book of 2017. Her short stories and comics have appeared in the anthologies A Tyranny of Petticoats, Strange Romance Vol. 3, and Toil & Trouble and on She lives in Washington, DC with her husband and dog.


nova ren sumaNova Ren Suma is the author of the YA novels THE WALLS AROUND US as well as the YA novels IMAGINARY GIRLS and 17 & GONE, which were both named 2014 Outstanding Books for the College Bound by YALSA. Her middle-grade novel, DANI NOIR, was reissued for a YA audience under the title FADE OUT. She has a BA in writing & photography from Antioch College and an MFA in fiction from Columbia University and has been awarded fiction fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, the Millay Colony, and an NEA fellowship for a residency at the Hambidge Center. She worked for years behind the scenes in publishing, at places such as HarperCollins, Penguin, Marvel Comics, and RAW Books, and now she teaches writing workshops. She is from various small towns across the Hudson Valley and lives and writes in New York City.

Find Nova online at and on her blog


robin talleyI live in Washington, D.C., with my wife, our baby daughter, an antisocial cat and a goofy hound dog. Whenever the baby’s sleeping, I’m probably busy writing young adult fiction about queer characters, reading books, and having in-depth conversations with friends and family about things like whether Jasmine’s character motivation was sufficiently established in Aladdin.

My website is at, and I’m on Twitter and Tumblr.


shveta thakrarShveta Thakrar is a writer of South Asian–flavored fantasy, social justice activist, and part-time nagini. Her short fiction and poetry have appeared or are forthcoming in a variety of magazines and anthologies. When not spinning stories about spider silk and shadows, magic and marauders, and courageous girls illuminated by dancing rainbow flames, Shveta crafts, devours books, daydreams, draws, travels, bakes, and occasionally even plays her harp.


brenna yovanoffHi, I’m Brenna Yovanoff. I write young adult and speculative fiction.

My young adult fantasy novels The Replacement, The Space Between, Paper Valentine, and Fiendish are available from Razorbill/Penguin Group.

Here are some things about me (not book-related):

I’m good at soccer, violent video games, and making very flaky pie pastry.

I’m bad at dancing, making decisions, and inspiring confidence as an authority figure. I suspect this is because I am short, and also terrible at sounding as though I have any idea what I’m talking about.


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