Saturday, 7 September 2013

Single Witch's Survival Guide by Mindy Klasky

Single Witch's Survival Guide by Mindy Klasky is a sequel to the author's Jane Madison trilogy and the first in the Jane Madison Academy series. Unlike the earlier books, this one was self-published. I read the original Jane Madison trilogy several years ago and, in fact, books 2 and 3 were two of the very first ebooks I ever bought (from Fictionwise to read on Stanza, back when both of those existed). You don't have to have read the original series to pick up Single Witch's Survival Guide, but I think readers who have read the earlier books will enjoy this book more. This review (and, quite frankly, the blurb) does contain spoilers for the original series, but not really any that weren't totally predictable.
Jane Madison’s life is perfect: She’s left her unsatisfying job as a librarian, moved to the country with her boyfriend David (who just happens to be her hunky astral warder), and opened a school for witches.

Alas, Jane never counted on her students running roughshod over every school rule she creates… And she never expected a mandate from Hecate’s Council to complete a Major Working by the end of the first semester… And it never crossed her mind that she and David would fight over every little thing that goes wrong.

Before long, Jane wonders if she should ditch the Madison Academy and retreat to life in the city. But that would mean giving up on her professional dreams – and tossing her love-life in the trash. Jane desperately needs the Single Witch’s Survival Guide!
The cover sort of screams "chick-lit with magic" which is a fair description, despite the unpleasant moniker of "chick-lit". Jane has set up shop on a farm just outside of DC and is planning to start her own unconventional magical academy. Then she actually gets a couple of students and her life is thrown into disarray as she tries to work out how to a) teach them magic b) deal with them as people and c) not yield to external pressures to give up on the school and on inherited collection of magical books and paraphenalia.

The external pressure comes in the form of an unpleasant Council employee with a grudge against David, Jane's boyfriend/warder, who goes out of his way to make their lives difficult and tries to have the Academy shut down. The main action the centres around Jane's relationships with her witches and David, and her striving to jump through the hoops Hecate's Council has set up for them. I was a little disappointed that Jane's best friend did not feature as heavily as she did in the earlier books, but it mostly made sense given Jane's new living arrangements. Still I would have liked more resolution on that front in the end.

The two witches introduced certainly added to the tension by introducing new conflicts with Jane. One (attempted to) compulsively film everything around her and was bordering on being a drama queen. The other was relatively normal in her behaviours except for having an affected British accent (and, quite frankly, a slightly inconsistent one in terms of regional word-choice, but anyway). Her accent annoyed Jane disproportionately, in my opinion, and if the character had actually been British, instead of from Arizona, Jane's thoughts would have been really quite racist xenophobic. As it was, it still made me feel rather uncomfortable. (And confused, since obviously British accents are superior to American ones, yay, colonial brainwashing.) But that was my biggest problem with the book.

I also had very little opinion on the new witches' entourages of a warder and a familiar each. Although in the context of worldbuilding their existences made perfect sense, I didn't feel they added much to the plot except for the one warder who managed to distinguish himself. I also thought there was a little too much wording spent on waxing lyrical about the magic spells. Obviously some description and explanation of the magical system is good, but I found it too repetitive and skimmed through some of those pages (which at least weren't as long as they could have been).

Obviously, Single Witch's Survival Guide is not for everyone. But readers after a relatively cheerful suburban/rural fantasy with witches and hunky guys and a gay cat-man will find it a pleasant read. Good for a non-serious diversion.

4 / 5 stars

First published: August 2013, Book View Cafe
Series: Jane Madison Academy book 1 (of 3, maybe?), sequel series to the Jane Madison Trilogy
Format read: eARC
Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewer programme


  1. I'm in need of a diversion like this tonight. I will have to look up the first. Thanks!

    1. I think I enjoyed the first series more (so far). The mojitos she drank with her friend really stuck in my memory.