Kappa Rho Nu isn’t your average sorority. Their parties are notorious. Their fundraisers are known for being Westerly College’s most elaborate affairs. But beneath the veil of Greek life and prestige, the sisters of Kappu Rho Nu share a secret: they’re a coven of witches. For Vivi Deveraux, being one of Kappa Rho Nu’s Ravens means getting a chance to redefine herself. For Scarlett Winters, a bonafide Raven and daughter of a legacy Raven, pledge this year means living up to her mother’s impossible expectations of becoming Kappa Rho Nu’s next president. Scarlett knows she’d be the perfect candidate — that is, if she didn’t have one human-sized skeleton in her closet…. When Vivi and Scarlett are paired as big and little for initiation, they find themselves sinking into the sinister world of blood oaths and betrayals.
Warnings: violence and death, depiction of traumatic injury, human sacrifice, animal death, magical manipulation of people
I was quite excited for the ‘witches in college sorority’ setting of this novel even before going into it – mostly I expected dark academia vibes, with some horror elements. The Ravens is, well, not exactly that, but it is still an enjoyable read aside from my expectations. So, in this, we have two main characters – a junior at Westerly college, Scarlet, and a freshman at the same, Vivi. Scarlet comes from a long line of witches, is a legacy at Kappa Rho Nu (which is also a coven) and a strong contender for leading the coven next year. Meanwhile, Vivi is a new to the world of magic – even though her mother is a medium for a living, she doesn’t believe in the readings. As pledge master of the freshman class, Scarlet is in charge of guiding the pledges through their rush week, plus selecting the ones with power to join the coven. However, this year, they have been plagued by a mysterious enemy leaving threatening messages, and getting increasingly aggressive with their attacks on the coven.
Now, getting back to the two main characters: right at the first meeting, they rub each other wrong as Vivi doesn’t show that much interest in Kappa, and Scarlet has basically arrived with a 15-year plan of her life in hand, which includes her non-witch (and thus ignorant of the existence of witches) boyfriend, Mason. Mason, who has returned from a summer backpacking through the world, has been enlightened by the experience, and is getting disillusioned with having his path in life set before him (#richpeopleproblems); he starts to take an interest in Vivi, who also takes an interest back in him until she realizes whose boyfriend he is. Here is where I got super The Secret Circle vibes, even though, yeah this is a common trope. Scarlet meanwhile, also has this hate-relationship with this other dude, Jackson, who hates Kappa with a passion, as his step sister was a pledge too, and she died two years ago. Anyway, the romances were uninspiring – I didn’t even remember the names of the dudes while writing this review and had to consult my annotations.
Part of Scarlett knew she was being unfair, but something about the girl (Vivi) rubbed her the wrong way, and it was more than seeing her talking to Mason. She was too eager, somehow. Too innocent, too . . . free. She’d lived a lifetime without the weight of expectation. This was all new and exciting to her. Scarlett couldn’t tell if she envied her or hated her for that. All she knew was that she was going to enjoy every second of Hell Week.
As for the mystery of their attacker, that had something going for it. Even though a red herring was dangled in front of us, twice, it was apparent from the start who really had motive to harm them, it was a good plot to read through. I like the whole ‘we are a sisterhood’ vibe going for the girls’ personal arcs, too. I particularly liked Scarlet’s arc over Vivi’s because I felt there was more going on there – she had to challenge her own notions of what being a witch meant, while Vivi was mostly there to serve as a reader stand-in for entry into this world. Plot-wise, too, she did more to move along the story. The magic in this book is mostly structured around the four suits of tarot with regards to spells, but is loose enough to allow more belief systems into it. There are darker elements with the introduction of dark magic.
She’d never known what it felt like to sacrifice something she might really want to remain true to her coven. Until now. Magic doesn’t just give, it takes, Minnie had said. It was her turn to pay.
Overall, it is a good witch-themed book, with a college setting that allows for more independence for our characters.
Is it diverse? Black main character; secondary sapphic characters; secondary WoC characters
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from HMH Books for Young Readers, via Edelweiss.
Released on January 5, 2021