Today I am catching up a long overdue review. I was lucky enough to get an ARC of Dyer Street Punk Witches from the author, and then life got turned upside down, inside out and every other word for messy that you can think of and this wonderful book has been out in the world for a few months now. So a massive thank you for the arc and an even bigger apology to the author for taking so long with the review – but I LOVED this book!
Disclaimer – I received a copy in exchange for an honest review, all thoughts are my own.
Kit hung up her brass knuckles, but the shadows of her past always lingered. Now they’re back to claim her.
Kit “Fadulous” Hamley, magazine editor, activist and former punk rocker, is a well-known loudmouth in St Alphege’s. She works tirelessly to hold local authorities to account. Some say she’s making up for her criminal youth. Others spread rumours of witchcraft. Only a handful of people know how dark her secrets really are.
When an old friend warns Kit that a former rival has resurfaced, those secrets start to resurface. People have gone missing, with body parts and strange symbols left behind, and someone is stalking Kit. The gang she abandoned are scared stiff and her magic-wielding bandmates are long gone. Kit herself is a target, and if she can’t unravel exactly how this new feud connects with her past mistakes, it could kill her.
Decades older, a little wiser, and contrary as ever, Kit’s going to remind them all what a punk witch can do.
Get ready for a riotous ride into the seedy underbelly of St Alphege’s, where gang warfare and occult conspiracies tear ordinary lives apart. Dyer Street Punk Witches is a standalone urban fantasy thriller, packed with tough, subversive characters and tense twists – you won’t be able to put down.
‘You, blessed reader, I trust are an eagle. You’re reading this now, you must’ve been inspired to get here! We’re a minority, those of us who soar. Treasure your magic, nurture it for the rare gift that it is, and recognise that you are not like everyone else. It’s how it should be, because if the sky was full of eagles, it’d be carnage.’
Dyer Street Punk Witches is only my second venture into Williams’’ Ordshaw universe, and it won’t be my last, because oh what a joy this book was. To be fair, I was always going to be onboard with this one as soon as the author put Punk Witches together (and not just because I am on a massive witch kick at the moment for REASONS); but Dyer Street Punk Witches was just a sheer joy to read, and while it is certainly short and punchy, it felt like there was a whole lot more wrapped up in the pages – a Tardis of a book if you will, and while I would love more of these characters and this particular part of Ordshaw it was also an incredibly satisfying story in and of itself.
‘That’s eighty per cent of a punk’s work. We fight against the norms. Show them weird’s cool.’
In keeping with how much this book packs in, it treads the line of urban fantasy and thriller, and through our main character’s story it also feels a little like a time capsule for the punk scene, as well as dipping into crime and gang wars, and even a commentary on social issues through her work with an independent paper that focus on the failings of those in power as well as championing the poorer parts of the city. It’s a unique blend, and finely balanced and it works brilliantly.
Aside from Williams’ obvious skill with blending genres, one of the reasons it works so well here is the characters. Kit is our main character, and at its heart this her story. She is our Punk Witch, although in the present, she has largely left behind that life – although the rebellious streak remains strong – and instead we get an incredible woman approaching her forties, who has lived one hell of a life and been shaped by so many events, and still gets up with a fight in her heart and remains true to who she is regardless of what society tries to demand of her. I loved the Kit that we got to see in the flashbacks to her days in a punk band, when she used her magic, got into fights, and was the living breathing embodiment of the title; but it was the older Kit, the one who found herself dragged back into magic and gangs, and the whole bloody mess she had tried to leave behind that really stole my heart. I would love to be half as badass as she was at that age – although maybe without the chaos and trouble that seem drawn to her like moths to a flame. She’s certainly a character that is going to stick with me for a long time.
While Kit, and her wonderful no-nonsense attitude and sheer driving force is our main gateway to this story, the rest of the cast is just as vividly realised. Aaron was another favourite, although he took me a wee bit longer to warm to, but he made an interesting contrast to Kit; and in terms of development he was probably the one who changed the most throughout the book. However, there were certainly parts of his character that resonated, especially that feeling of it being easier in a way to stay in one place, to keep the status quo because it’s easier – and watching that wash up against the rocky shore of Kit’s personality was certainly interesting, and I also enjoyed his opening up around Ellie and while it felt as though he was still finding his feet by the end of the book, it really felt as though we had been there for the start of his story. Another favourite had to be Big Mad, and her friendship with Kit, their interactions were some of my favourite – and it was fun to see a slightly different side to Kit through their banter and the obvious depth of their friendship.
‘Beyond them lay the city, Ordshaw’s peaks and sewers, winding tunnels, veins of flowing energy. Then specific things crowded into his senses: the hollow echo of a word, beating drums, a place, a knife, blood.’
Ordshaw itself was very much a character in this story, and much more than a mere location of setting for the unfolding events. I liked how the worldbuilding was delivered through a combination of the plot unfolding, as we got to learn about the struggles in the city through Kit and Ellie’s work at the paper, through the descriptions of the streets Aaron was walking through, and through the discussion of Kit’s past and the trouble that was washing up on their doorsteps. A very organic way of doing it, and one that made the story and city seem like one beating heart, where one element constantly affected.
Layered on top of that was the supernatural elements and the magic, which was the main flashpoint of this story – the threat and the solution all at once. I particularly enjoyed the excerpts at the top of the chapters that told us more about the history of witchcraft and it’s practitioners, and the fun inclusion of recipes and spells (with some weird and wonderful ingredients), which again added another layer to the story – and also gave the feeling of this being a tale and a practice that transcended the timelines in the story. There would still be witches when the events of this book were done, and there were more who had come before Kit and her band in the flashbacks; which gave the world that added breadth. The magic itself was wonderfully written, and I particularly loved that it was a fix-all, that it was something that had to be worked at, that there were limits and costs – Kit again being our main gateway to seeing these elements.
I don’t want to say too much in terms of specifics about the plot, because both the length and the thriller-esque nature of the book mean that it would give far too much away. Also this book is too damn fun as experience for me to rob you of that. What I will say that Williams guides this story with a skillful hand, and there are so many twists and turns that you are kept guessing all the way through. There is anarchy and chaos, witches and gangs, real, flawed characters and the various bonds that form between them, magic and some (bloody) mayhem. It’s fast paced and addictive, and I read it in one go – and writing this review has me wanting to go and revisit it again.
Dyer Street Punk Witches was a fantastic and compelling read, and as it can be read as a standalone it’s very much a great way to dive into Ordshaw if you haven’t. If you want genre-bending, character-driven urban fantasy with flare, then pick this one up!
If you’ve read it, or read it in the future, please feel free to shout at me about this fantastic book.