A Reckless Witch is the third novel in the series which began with A Modern Witch. The same trio of witches use their Internet witch-finding spell to pull yet another independent witch into the fold at Witch Central in Berkeley. Sierra has had a rougher time of it than most of previous characters in the series. Her mother, Amelia, was a free spirit with no fixed abode who six years previously left a twelve-year-old Sierra in a hotel room as she had many times before, but that time she never came back. Sierra did not know where other witches or the rest of her family were, and so she has been in various foster-care programs ever since. As the novel begins, she is just about to turn eighteen and can be free of the social programs if she can only find a job.
This novel has a few more traditional plot-like moments than its two predecessors, but that fact does not get in the way of the core of Geary’s strength as a writer which remains her creation of engaging characters. Sierra is a strong water-witch who was raised to fully use her powers, but to do so with none of the safety precautions or awareness of potential consequences of her actions that the rest of the witch community are accustomed to. Thus, while the rest of community is delighted that Sierra has been returned safely to a place where she can be cherished and where her skills can be nurtured, there is a reasonable concern over her lack of training and sense of responsibility. The elders worry that Sierra is a reckless witch.
Sierra’s playing with water currents on the Oregon coast have been detected as anomalies by weather trackers and the weather witches who work with them to mitigate catastrophic weather events. As Sierra is brought back into the witch community, she is quickly shown how her magic can have unexpected consequences, and soon she is integrated into the weather crisis team where her magic proves extremely helpful.
The first of the three pregnancies begun in the previous novels moves to its expected conclusion in this book, and, even in a novel full of suspenseful and brave confrontations of weather crises, the birth scene provides the novel’s greatest dramatic climax. In some sense the novel’s turning of its attention to the birth of Nat and Jamie’s daughter is a little odd, since the focus shifts from Sierra to these other more familiar characters in the last few chapters, but the shift in focus is handled deftly, and Sierra’s story, nevertheless, reaches a fully satisfying resolution.
It must be said that one of the best things about the universe that Geary has created is that it is a world in which witches are fully human and accepted as such. There is no us-against-them conflict on either side, and so, of course, if witches have power to do so, they will work to save lives using their magical powers. The witches may not have the power to deflect all hurricanes and tidal waves, but they will put their lives on the line to what they can. Geary makes a fairly clear and wise assessment of healthy spell-casting and appropriate boundaries of safety and self-preservation to maximize the good for the All That Is (as my trad likes to call it). These books’ perspective on healthy and ethical magic work is truly refreshing.
The books are also consistently charming. Sierra’s story is comparatively dire, and yet she is swiftly integrated into the familial love of the witch community. Despite the higher dramatic stakes and stressful situations in this particular novel, there is still ample time given to individual and communal play. There is joking and teasing and romance happening throughout the novel even as the characters are placed into genuine jeopardy. Geary has created a world in which we all belong and to which we can happily return.
(Disclosure: despite my mild protestation but to my genuine pleasure Debora Geary gave me the copy of A Reckless Witch that I read for this review. She offers a free book for anyone who writes a review for one of her novels.)