10 Spooky Reads for a Season of Magic and Mayhem

Sara Roncero-Menendez
October 21 2021
Share 10 Spooky Reads for a Season of Magic and Mayhem

How often have you thought, “If I just had this one magical power, life would be so much easier”? I, for one, would love to cut down my travel time with some teleportation, or cook meals with just a flick of the wrist. But there are no easy outs, not even with magic. In fact, magic often causes more problems, as countless authors have detailed in fictional works. This October, spend some time in magical lands with chaotic consequences with these ten hauntingly good reads.

The Radleys
by Matt Haig

Every family has its secrets. For some, it might be unexpected ancestry or history that’s been forgotten. For Peter and Helen Radley, the secret they are keeping from their children, Rowan and Clara, is a bloody one. In a literal sense: the Radleys are vampires, although they abstain from drinking blood. But when Clara commits a gruesome act, the cat is out of the bag. THE RADLEYS is a dark yet funny book about family, identity, and the struggle against our natures, for better or for worse. A great book for those looking for a supernatural read that doesn’t dip into horror.

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The Radleys
Matt Haig

From the bestselling author of The Midnight Library, an “irresistible...full of clever turns, darkly hilarious spins...Even if you're suffering from vampire fatigue...The Radleys is a fun, fresh contribution to the genre” (Associated Press).

Just about everyone knows a family like the Radleys. Many of us grew up next door to one. They are a modern family, averagely content, averagely dysfunctional, living in a staid and quiet suburban English town. Peter is an overworked doctor whose wife, Helen, has become increasingly remote and uncommunicative. Rowan, their teenage son, is being bullied at school, and their anemic daughter, Clara, has recently become a vegan. They are typical, that is, save for one devastating exception: Peter and Helen are vampires and have—for seventeen years—been abstaining by choice from a life of chasing blood in the hope that their children could live normal lives.

One night, Clara finds herself driven to commit a shocking—and disturbingly satisfying—act of violence, and her parents are forced to explain their history of shadows and lies. A police investigation is launched that uncovers a richness of vampire history heretofore unknown to the general public. And when the malevolent and alluring Uncle Will, a practicing vampire, arrives to throw the police off Clara’s trail, he winds up throwing the whole house into temptation and turmoil and unleashing a host of dark secrets that threaten the Radleys’ marriage.

The Radleys is a moving, thrilling, and radiant domestic novel that explores with daring the lengths a parent will go to protect a child, what it costs you to deny your identity, the undeniable appeal of sin, and the everlasting, iridescent bonds of family love. Read it and ask what we grow into when we grow up, and what we gain—and lose—when we deny our appetites.

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Jane Slayre
by Charlotte Brontë and Sherri Browning Erwin

Some might say that you should never mess with the classics. But what work of classic literature couldn’t be improved with a little amusing paranormal hunting? Okay, so “improved” might be a provocative word, but Sherri Browning Erwin’s take on the British tale of a young girl and the man she loves (who is also keeping his insane wife in the attic) stands out. Jane Slayre is on a quest to do better for herself and become the monster slayer she was born to be, with the help of her new master, Mr. Rochester. Filled with vampires, ghosts, zombies, and werewolves—and more spooky creatures than you can shake a stake at—JANE SLAYRE is for both horror-loving readers and classics nerds to enjoy.

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Jane Slayre
Charlotte Brontë and Sherri Browning Erwin

Jane Slayre, our demon-slaying heroine, leaves the vampyre kin who raised her to become a governess for Mr. Rochester, only to discover he is hiding a violent werewolf in his attic. Vampyres, zombies, and werewolves transform Charlotte Brontë’s unforgettable masterpiece into an eerie paranormal adventure that will delight and terrify.

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The Taker
by Alma Katsu

Alma Katsu is a star author of horror and supernatural fiction, so it should be no surprise that her debut novel THE TAKER fits the bill for a magical adventure. Dr. Luke Findley is working a late shift in the ER of a small hospital in Maine when Lanny barges in. At first, she merely causes a stir, what with being a bloody murder suspect with a police escort and all. But the more Luke hears of her story—of obsession and romance in nineteenth-century Puritan Maine—of a curse that keeps her immortal and trapped, the more he’s drawn to her. Will Luke be able to break the spell, or is Lanny doomed to an eternity of torment?

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The Taker
Alma Katsu

From the author of The Hunger—hailed by Stephen King as “deeply, deeply disturbing, hard to put down”—comes a hauntingly atmospheric tale filled with alchemy, lust, and betrayal.

True love can last an eternity…but immortality comes at a price.

On the midnight shift at a hospital in rural Maine, Dr. Luke Findley is expecting another quiet evening of frostbite and the occasional domestic dispute. But the minute Lanore McIlvrae—Lanny—enters his ER, she changes his life forever. A mysterious woman with plenty of dark secrets, Lanny is unlike anyone Luke has ever met. He is inexplicably drawn to her…despite the fact that she is a murder suspect with a police escort. As she begins to tell her story, Luke finds himself utterly captivated.

Her impassioned account begins at the turn of the 19th century in the same small town of St. Andrew, Maine, back when it was a Puritan settlement. Consumed as a child by her love for the founder’s son, Jonathan, Lanny will do anything to be with him. But the price she pays is steep—an immortal bond that chains her to a terrible fate for all eternity. And now, two centuries later, the key to her healing and her salvation lies with Dr. Luke Findley.

Part historical novel, part supernatural page-turner, The Taker is a “mesmerizing” (Booklist, starred review) story about the power of unrequited love not only to elevate and sustain, but also to blind and ultimately destroy.

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MENTIONED IN:

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The Third Witch
by Rebecca Reisert

After suffering a tragic upbringing, Gilly is now an orphan, scouring the bodies of the dead for a living, along with two other witches. She sets out for revenge against the man responsible for her misery, warrior king Macbeth, but revenge is not as straightforward as it seems. As Gilly infiltrates the Scottish castle in disguise, she finds there are other forces at work to take the king and his queen down. THE THIRD WITCH is a retelling of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, adding layers to the already complex story of ambition, desire, and fate.

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The Third Witch
Rebecca Reisert

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Bohemian Gospel
by Dana Chamblee Carpenter

Being a clever woman has never historically been easy, but in thirteen-century Bohemia, it’s downright dangerous. But Mouse can’t help it—she’s born with abilities and talents that cause her to stand out, even with her work as a healer. But it is only when she heals King Ottakar, wounded by a mysterious assailant, that her world starts to unravel. She travels with him to Prague, and toward her destiny, which is darker than she could have ever imagined. BOHEMIAN GOSPEL is a novel steeped in history and spell-binding fantasy, sure to have you hooked until the very last page.

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Bohemian Gospel
Dana Chamblee Carpenter

Thirteenth-century Bohemia is a dangerous place for a girl, especially one as odd as Mouse, born with unnatural senses and an uncanny intellect. Some call her a witch. Others call her an angel. Even Mouse doesn’t know who—or what—she is. But she means to find out.When young King Ottakar shows up at the Abbey wounded by a traitor's arrow, Mouse breaks church law to save him and then agrees to accompany him back to Prague as his personal healer. Caught in the undertow of court politics at the castle, Ottakar and Mouse find themselves drawn to each other as they work to uncover the threat against him and to unravel the mystery of her past. But when Mouse's unusual gifts give rise to a violence and strength that surprise everyone—especially herself—she is forced to ask herself: Will she be prepared for the future that awaits her? A highly original tale of fantasy and adventure, Bohemian Gospel heralds the arrival of a fresh new voice for historical fiction.

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The Wise Woman
by Philippa Gregory

What would you do to get what you want? For Alys, a witch in Tudor England, that line of thinking gets her into some dark territory. After being forced from her nunnery, she enters King Henry VIII’s castle as a scribe, before falling in love with Hugo, the son of a lord and, unfortunately for her, a married man. Nothing a little magic can’t fix, or so she thinks. Alys, Hugo, and his wife, Catherine, become ensnared in a dark and destructive love triangle that threatens to destroy everything, even themselves. THE WISE WOMAN is a tale of obsession, desire, and a cautionary be-careful-what-you-wish-for tale.

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The Wise Woman
Philippa Gregory

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Payback's a Witch
by Lana Harper

Who doesn’t love a little witchy LGBTQ rom-com to celebrate the spooky season? Emmy is a witch who has made it a point not to go home to Thistle Grove, in an attempt to forge her own way in the world. But when a little tradition, and a lot of parental guilt, drags her back, she becomes embroiled in small-town drama. Her best friend, Linden Thorn, and local badass Talia Avramov have been played by Gareth Blackmoore (who Emmy also has a history with). Both women want revenge, and they want Emmy’s help, but what will happen when Emmy starts developing feelings for Talia? Filled with fun and drama, PAYBACK’S A WITCH will draw you in with a mix of magic and romance, sure to make your reading hours fly by.

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Payback's a Witch
Lana Harper

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Gideon the Ninth
by Tamsyn Muir

If you’re in the mood for some chaos mixed in with your magic, look no further than the adventures of GIDEON THE NINTH. In a universe where necromancy is central to power, Gideon lives on a small, desolate planet, a burden to the Ninth House. That all changes when the Emperor summons representatives of each of the houses to compete in a strange and mysterious competition. Harrowhark, cruel daughter of the Ninth House, goes as its necromancer, but she needs a cavalier to protect her, who ends up being the reluctant Gideon. But there are dangers neither of these women could prepare for in a dark, creepy and yet oddly heartwarming adventure.

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Gideon the Ninth
Tamsyn Muir

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Magic for Liars
by Sarah Gailey

Ivy has always wanted to be magical. Unfortunately, the person who got those abilities in her family was her sister, Tabitha, from whom she is estranged. But this investigator soon finds herself pulled into the heart of magic when there is a gruesome murder at the magical academy where Tabitha teaches. Soon enough, Ivy soon finds that magic doesn’t fix your problems, but rather makes everything a lot more complicated. Can Ivy solve the case before the bodies start piling up? A smart and moving narrative that challenges the “chosen one” trope, MAGIC FOR LIARS is the kind of thrilling roller coaster that will have you guessing at every turn.

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Magic for Liars
Sarah Gailey

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Magic Lessons
by Alice Hoffman

There’s little else as magical as love, and the bonds it helps us form. For Maria Owens, however, love is more of a curse than a blessing. Found as a baby abandoned in a snowy field in the late 1660s, Maria is taught to be a witch by her caretaker, Hannah, who teaches her everything magical she knows, and imbues her with the importance of love—especially love that is reciprocated. But when Maria is abandoned yet again at fifteen, this time by a man who supposedly loves her, she travels to Salem in order to vengefully find him. A prequel to the popular PRACTICAL MAGIC, what lies between the covers of MAGIC LESSONS is a truly magical (and timeless) story that will ensnare you in its spell.

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Magic Lessons
Alice Hoffman

In this “ bewitching” (The New York Times Book Review) novel that traces a centuries-old curse to its source, beloved author Alice Hoffman unveils the story of Maria Owens, accused of witchcraft in Salem, and matriarch of a line of the amazing Owens women and men featured in Practical Magic and The Rules of Magic.

Where does the story of the Owens bloodline begin? With Maria Owens, in the 1600s, when she’s abandoned in a snowy field in rural England as a baby. Under the care of Hannah Owens, Maria learns about the “Nameless Arts.” Hannah recognizes that Maria has a gift and she teaches the girl all she knows. It is here that she learns her first important lesson: Always love someone who will love you back.

When Maria is abandoned by the man who has declared his love for her, she follows him to Salem, Massachusetts. Here she invokes the curse that will haunt her family. And it’s here that she learns the rules of magic and the lesson that she will carry with her for the rest of her life. Love is the only thing that matters.

Magic Lessons is a “heartbreaking and heart-healing” (BookPage) celebration of life and love and a showcase of Alice Hoffman’s masterful storytelling.

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Photo credit: iStock / TU-KA

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