I freaking loved "These Witches Don't Burn" by Isabel Sterling
These Witches Don't Burn (affiliate link) is not just the first in a duology by Isabel Sterling — it's a queer contemporary witch story set in Salem. It's fast-paced, high-energy, and makes you hard-pressed to trust any side characters because anyone could be the enemy.
The book starts off with main character Hannah recovering from a recent break-up and also a traumatic experience with a Blood Witch. You see, Hannah's an Elemental Witch, and the two factions (out of three possible in this world), they don't really get along. So the book starts out with a terrifying premise: a Blood Witch is in Salem, and she's out to get Hannah.
One thing I really loved about this book was how the world was built so well! It's set in our world, but our world has a twist — magic exists. It's almost like an alternate history present day book, where the Salem Witch Trials were real because the witches were real, and now magic is a secret.
There's a whole hierarchical society of witches in the book that was really fascinating to me, especially as I was working on my own contemporary fantasy queer witch book when I read this one last year. You can tell reading this that Sterling really did put a lot of thought and care into her world. It was nothing short of a masterclass.
One other thing I loved — how casually queer this book is. Hannah, her ex-girlfriend, her new crush, and several other characters are all queer under one identity or another. And while, yes, there are those who turn their noses up and look askance at these characters' sexualities, it was also refreshing to see just how normal it was.
There was so much intensity in this book. Like, Sterling did not pull punches when it came to putting her characters in danger! I should take lessons from this book, honestly.
I'm really excited to get to the sequel, This Coven Won't Break (affiliate link), sometime when my bank account allows me to buy books again. I'm really excited to dive back into this world, which remains fresh in my mind even a few months after leaving it.