The Wicca/Sweep series by Cate Tiernan and why you should read it
I’ve just reread the Wicca books by Cate Tiernan (the series is called Sweep in the US). Mostly as something soothing (rereading is always soothing, it’s like reading with your eyes closed. kind of.) and because I’d been eyeing it for a while. And I’ve gotten a big rush of how much I like it, and I wish it had a bigger fandom (what is it with me and tiny fandoms lately, srsly). So here is the breakdown of what it is and why you should check it out.
So I’ve recced this to a few people irl, and unfortunately as we live in a post-twilight literary world, there are a few things I need to make clear straight away. First, though you could legit describe this series as “like twilight but good”, it actually predates Twilight easily. Second, I’m gonna spoil a plot twist because if you don’t know this is going to happen there is no reason to keep reading - or, like, there was when I was a teenager and didn’t make Twilight-ish assumptions about what was going on, but I can very easily see people junking the books without getting past this first bit. So here we go:
Meet Morgan! Morgan is our protagonist. She’s a tad stereotypical - she’s not traditionally pretty, kind of awkward, sixteen years old, and a maths nerd. Her family is catholic, and so is she, though she doesn’t seem particularly intense about it. Her best friend is Bree, and Bree is one of those automatically stunning girls. Morgan is cool with this, everything is fine. Except this year at school, there is a Hot New Mysterious Boy called Cal. Morgan gets a super crush on him, but assumes there is No Hope.
Cal organises a party, and it turns out he’s a witch. They do a circle, and Morgan basically feels like the whole world just opened up inside her brain. To cut a long story short, it turns out she’s actually got a super-awesome magical inheritance. Also, Cal kisses her and they start dating.
At this point, if you’re reading her and Cal with an eye on the relationship dynamics, it doesn’t look great. Cal never reaches Cullenish levels of unsettling behaviour (at least, not while they’re actually still dating), but there are a few red flags, particularly as Morgan becomes more isolated from her family and friends. But Morgan thinks everything is very romantic. Cal is her rock. And what did she do to deserve this? She is very lucky. Uh huh. Some of you are probably shaking your heads now, and thinking H, why are you telling me I should read fifteen books of this relationship?
But NO, dear reader. Because in BOOK THREE, Cal tries to kill Morgan (that escalated quickly) and then becomes, basically, a villain for the rest of the series. Because it turns out all those red flags were written in as red flags and not as “romance”. And then we get Morgan dealing with this and steadily becoming a stronger person and it is AWESOME.
Okay, it’s not the most perfect book series in the world. It gets kind of purple-prosey in places, and there are definitely places where I noticed that virtually every chapter ends with either a ^gasp^ cliffhanger or with “omg magic love hearts hearts my soul”. So there’s that. To be honest, to me it mostly reads fairly realistically - ie, “I am sixteen and I genuinely feel this intensely about this” - but I would totally get that as a stylistic thing that’s gonna put some people off. Also, it has the “Friends” problem - I enjoy all the relationship stuff, that’s done really well, but the logistics of how the fuck half of these people are actually paying rent (and international airfare) are kind of out the window.
SO MANY THINGS I LOVE ABOUT THESE BOOKS. I’m gonna make a list.
1. MORGAN. Morgan’s a great protagonist. She starts out a bit snippy, a little too keen to compare herself to other girls, and kind of insecure. Across the series she slowly develops her confidence - and although one of the last scenes involves her getting kind of dressed up, it’s not ever really made out to be about her appearance. It’s all about how she feels about herself. And she’s a great balance between scared-as-shit by everything that’s going on and confident enough to put her foot down when she needs to.
2. Hunter Niall. So Hunter is (spoiler) Morgan’s second and more-permanent boyfriend. Hunter’s great. The series is set in America, and Hunter is British, somewhat ambiguously (which I find mildly hilarious lol). My favourite thing about Hunter is probably that Morgan, externally, takes a while to warm up to him - he’s a bit reserved, a bit intense, and she’s not quite sure what he thinks about her to start with, but you get a lot of gush from Morgan about how she feels about him. And then, suddenly, in book ten, you get Hunter’s Po. And you are hit in the face with a page and a half of “so that’s morgan. she’s my girlfriend. she’s so great. she’s so badass. oh god I made my hair stick up funny. oh god. she’s smilling look at that smile isn’t she incredible wow. okay okay I’ve got this. I’m cool. hey morgan. hi. I love you. omg she’s so amazing” because Hunter is a GINORMOUS DORK and he just loves her SO MUCH. And idk, I found that really refreshing to read as a teen? Which brings me on to:
3. Morgan and Hunter’s relationship. They screw up a lot, they upset each other, but they always talk it out and figure it out. And I’m so convinced by their relationship? Like, because it’s such a slow burn, it feels more realistic to me. There’s no “our eyes met and BAM” even though this universe does include the concept of soulmates. They’re both absolutely smitten with each other, and it’s not subtle, and they have to do quite a lot of negotiation to get their dynamic the way they’re both happy with it, and idk you folks it just makes me so happy. Because it feels real, purple-prose and all.
4. Alisa! Alisa is one of the only other characters who gets narration. She’s a younger girl who finds out something about her own family, and she gets a whole book to herself (and splits one other book half and half with Morgan). She has a very similar story to Morgan’s in some ways, but she’s still great to read, and I really enjoy her books when I get to them. She’s also half-Latina, I think.
5. CONSENT IS A THING IN THIS UNIVERSE. LIKE, PEOPLE TALK ABOUT IT AND IT’S A THING THAT IS DISCUSSED AND THAT IT CAN GET MESSY WHEN PEOPLE ARE CONFUSED AND FEEL PRESSURED AND PRESSURE IS BAD and also if you’re morgan’s little sister and someone is pressuring you to have sex she will literally hit them with a baseball bat so there’s that too
6. LGBT rep - it’s not central, there aren’t main characters who are LGBT. But Morgan has an aunt who has a girlfriend, and they feature fairly regularly; and another two female members of Morgan and Hunter’s coven end up dating at one point. Unfortunate incident of “the b-word” being clearly avoided, as it’s likely that Sky and Raven are both bisexual, but it’s never absolutely written on the page. It’s not a whole lot, but I really liked that this was actually in here, and it’s just a normal part of the world? Like, this is a het romance story, but that didn’t mean that EVERYTHING ELSE had to be het. Which I appreciate.
And as a bonus to all of this stuff, you’ve got battles against the forces of evil, world-saving, and the logistical problems of trying to do those two things while keeping your grades up. A few bum notes, but all around a great little series that doesn’t get nearly as much credit as it deserves, and is a lot funnier and takes itself less seriously than the tag for it on tumblr might suggest (sorry folks, but it’s literally two-thirds full of melodramatic quotes. bring out the humour!).
So yeah. Magic, Actually Decent Relationships, Romance, Teen Angst, Fun. One of my favourite teen series.