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The Worst Witch posterIn the (ongoing) 2017 CBBC series The Worst Witch, Mildred Hubble is the only girl at the prestigious Cackle’s Academy who hails from a non-witching family. She squeaked in to the school, and due to her unusual background she struggles to catch up with classmates whose lives have been inundated with magic since their births. Mildred is sweet and far from stupid, but she’s also a tiny disaster-magnet who stumbles from one catastrophe to the next. Her best friends, Maud Spellbody and Enid Nightshade, help see her through, while causing a few problems of their own. Mildred adores Cackle’s and the general camaraderie of the girls, which even her on-going feud with a classmate, the insecure and thus obnoxious Ethel Hallow, can't spoil for her. The members of the teaching staff have their own dramas, and all the characters get caught up in the seemingly perpetual struggle to defend the school against forces that would repossess it, outright destroy it, or subject it to a much-needed magical Ofsted inspection.

Over the years, The Worst Witch book series (1974-2013) has been made into a 1986 television film, a 1998-2001 TV series with two subsequent spin-offs (2001 and 2005—essentially a Saved by the Bell: The College Years and a Degrassi: The Next Generation), and now this CBBC reboot. I have to admit I've not read the books or seen much of the other adaptations (I’ve dipped into the 1998 version, which seems very much the current incarnation’s spiritual predecessor). I haven’t found much material on the different versions to refer you to (perhaps someone can help in the comments?); I regret that I can’t offer you that context, and that a discussion of the tradition(s) of school stories and magical versions thereof, from Diana Wynne Jones's Witch Week to Rowling, is somewhat outside the scope of this piece (though again, comments please!).

In a way, The Worst Witch is almost as much a family saga as it is a school story. Everyone's relationships with their parents are important to them, and while all are different, most are strong and positive. Mr Nightshade is his daughter's supportive partner in crime, while his wife is a more grounded disciplinarian. The Spellbodies are wildly proud if Maud so much as breathes. Janice Hubble is a steady nurse who raises her daughter on her own in an ex-council flat, and the two treat one another a little like loving and respectful friends. The only parents to really pressure their children are the appearance-obsessed Hallows. Ethel Hallow isn't pointlessly nasty to Mildred, she's from a posh magical family that alternates between enormously pressuring her and ignoring her, comparing her unfavourably to her older sister, the universally-admired head girl Esmerelda. Esmerelda is chagrined by their parents’ attention, and rather than feeling competitive, she mostly just hopes Ethel does well and learns to chill out. Esmerelda Hallow's compassion, brilliance and strong morality are unfortunately also what enable the tragic loss of her powers, a poignant development the family spends the second season reckoning with. Ethel takes out her unhappiness on their younger sister Sybil, a timid girl who only seems at all relaxed and happy in the company of her idol Esmerelda, her own two best friends Clarice Twigg and Beatrice Bunch (who form a new, secondary core trio in the second season), and Mildred, who's been kind to Sybil and earned her jumpy trust.

The title may suggest that the series is Mildred Hubble’s bildungsroman, but The Worst Witch really shines as an ensemble piece. The show excels at giving us a firm sense of the different personalities of a whole host of girls, and manages to check back in with eight of them regularly. The narrative is to be commended for almost always finding something for them all to do. First-season Maud especially is glorious. I love that a chubby girl with little tolerance for bullshit who always has a clap-back at the ready is head of year and a main character, and that the show never once mocks her appearance (the actress changes, from Meibh Campbell to Megan Hughes, between the two years, though this is fairly elegantly explained away). Mildred's actress is the versatile Bella Ramsey, made famous by playing Lyanna Mormont in season six of Game of Thrones. Mildred is certainly more timid than Lyanna—a little hapless, a little short tempered and a lot winning. The sly, winking and down-to-earth Enid Nightshade (Tamara Smart), a born troublemaker with famous parents, rounds out the core trio.

Your Dumbledore will be played today by Ada Cackle, who gives good eye-twinkle. All the teachers are fun (especially Algernon, who Mildred found in the pond after he’d been maliciously transformed into a frog—and who sometimes returns to the pond to see the tadpoles hatch out of nostalgia); but the highlight is femme-Snape-with-femme-Kerr-Avon-energy, Hecate Hardbroom. Leaving aside for a moment the strong genderqueer vibes of that name (difficult, I know!), here we have an actress who's been licensed to play it Extra. Hardbroom brings camp, OTT, Classic-Master-from-Doctor-Who watchability to the series. Her performance makes you realise that, by script and direction, most female characters aren't permitted to be this fun. But Miss Hardbroom also works as a character. She’s uptight, repressed, and screamingly flamboyant; obsessed with discipline, able to appreciate a joke, and deeply loyal; intensely compassionate towards Esmerelda Hallow and Ada Cackle; and short-tempered and awful when stressed, capable of deep insecurity, and a fantastic source of plot energies and humour. A lot of people cite Servalan from Blakes 7 as the source of their Sexual Awakening; similarly, in about ten years, a lot of girls are absolutely going to say Miss Hardbroom was their Root.

No one comes centre stage to announce they’re gay in The Worst Witch (well, unless you count the young wizard who cross-dresses to get into the school and then gives a chanting performance in front of his hyper-traditional grandfather to demonstrate that gender-segregated magic training is sexist, and to prove himself to the chanting mistress he admires and wishes to be trained by—he definitely had a Moment), but honestly I don’t need them to. I’m very down with women interacting with women in ways that may be platonic or romantic, in a text that doesn’t rush to shut down queer interpretive potentialities. Some of the key adult interactions might be read either way: great. To me, stories that support such readings are actually more important than stories that are preoccupied with announcing demographics affiliations they may not, and often don’t, do well by. We have every indication that witches, who practice distinct types of magic, go to school with each other as girls, work as adults in female covens, and seem to trace descent matrilineally, have a non-standard attitude towards sexuality that doesn’t necessarily prioritise and prestige heterosexual relationships. It’d be nice to see a set of parents who were both witches (or wizards), but then this text makes such arrangements seem not just possible but probable.

Simply having an all-female cast (with the exception of Algernon, the staff’s Token Bloke) allows the show to have so many kinds of women interacting with one another in fun ways, having conflicts that are about them and their aims. It’s hard to think of a moment that doesn’t pass the Bechdel, with the welcome exception of the episode where Mildred accidentally curses all the female teachers to love Algernon, “the first wizard they see,” and Algernon to love himself by the same logic. (Under the influence of love potion, Miss Hardbroom hisses at Algernon that “allllll men are fools but youuuuu are their kinnnng,” which is probably the closest this Platinum Star can come.) Beatrice Bunch and Enid Nightshade (et famille)'s being black does similar work: there's no one way to be an engaging, well-realised black girl. Physical education teacher Dimity Drill and season two’s art teacher, Miss Marigold Mould, are also women of colour. Taken together, these characters give the school story welcome diversity. This approach modernises and broadens a genre that’s often very white. For more good work along these lines, see the excellent Golden Age girl detective school story series, Murder Most Unladylike.

This isn’t the show’s only thoughtful development of the form. Beatrice Bunch’s best friend Clarice Twigg seems to be on the autism spectrum. Clarice overcomes occasional communication difficulties by making efforts to understand her friends and treat them well, and by those friends meeting her with acceptance and willingness to work through conflicts. This is interesting and important because female autism is often rendered invisible in the real world, and representation thereof is almost non-existent. Clarice doesn’t announce her DSM V identifiers, but she does more: she meets the challenges such issues can give rise to. Clarice’s friends and the show itself seem to appreciate her as an individual and for the perspective and skills she brings, and Clarice lives a rewarding life.

With bouncy dialogue and comedy-gold plotting (this show never met a trope it didn’t like), The Worst Witch is always a pleasure. It strongly reminds me of Harry Potter, sure, but even more strongly of The Sarah Jane Adventures, which was some of the best children’s television of the last couple decades. It has that show’s heart, its sense of character comedy, and Miss Mould is even played by the same actress as Gita Chandra, the wonderfully exasperating mother of SJA’s Rani (not to be confused with the definite article Rani). Gita was always on the verge of informing us that Netherfield Park was let at last.

Judging by its strengths and how I’d sell it to someone, it's possible that The Worst Witch may work better as a comedy or a school story than as a fantasy. Magic often serves as an enabling mechanism for scrapes and interactions. The show’s witchcraft hangs together rather loosely as a system, and the magical society makes limited sense. As far as accuracy goes, Dr Francis Young is “intensely irritated by fiction [such as this] that uses ‘wizard’ and ‘witch’ as masculine and feminine terms for the same thing”. He recommends Owen Davies’s Popular Magic (2003) or the introduction to his own interesting Magic as a Political Crime in Medieval and Early Modern England (2017) to those who’d like to know about the historical distinction. You could certainly do worse: historical magical practice is a fascinating subject. I’ve written extensively about how domestic charms were employed over the centuries myself. But while I wish more media was heavily interested in witchcraft itself, and/or in fantasy qua fantasy, I think good media that uses magic to a variety of ends comprises a healthy part of a well-developed SFFnal media landscape.

In terms of things that don’t really work, Cackle’s continual failure to deal with Mildred’s lack of a magical background annoys me. I suppose the show could be said to hold up a mirror to how frustratingly awful the UK education system is at responding to disability (it makes America look good, which is saying something). But I doubt the parallels are intentional, so much as a product of a strange logical gap common to many children’s stories. We hear nothing about whether there’s ever been a witch from a seemingly completely non-magical family before Mildred. The adults don’t seem sufficiently surprised or concerned that the way they believe magic works may have been proven incorrect. No one seems to understand or have any sensible response to Mildred’s need for remedial education (which surely must arise sometimes, even if a girl has a traditional background?). There’s no literature on adjusting to the magical world—say, for non-magical people who marry witches or wizards. Or does that never happen either? The “can’t trust adults” kidlit/YA trope is entangled with queer lacunae in the patterns of causality. It’s like a literalisation of a child’s-eye view that doesn’t account for adults’ interiority and broader social responses (significantly, the writer of the original books began them while still in school herself). We’re supposed to take emotional reactions and this world quite seriously in one scene, and then to read the whole text as farce in the next. Viewers see adults alone, talking to one another, but still can’t know much about how adults think.

Likewise, if you’re keenly aware of and bothered by lax treatments of consent, several elements of the show may discomfort you. The show’s semi-farce structure employs temporary love potions, personality-altering potions that take months to wear off, and forgetting powder that never does. I’m sure most of this comes from the source material, but as the team’s made major changes to that material elsewhere, they’ve actively chosen to preserve these elements. The show could clearly retain its comedy while being more cautious about navigating questions of bodily autonomy in a show aimed at young women. It slightly reminds me of Nanette’s meditations on the scope and purposes of humour.

I’m torn on this, because while The Worst Witch could stand to go a little more carefully here, I have to acknowledge that I also enjoy a lot of period fiction that doesn’t feature our contemporary perspective on non-sexual questions of knowledge and agency. The current popular consensus doggedly insists that full disclosure and personal independence are always more important even than net good. Yet that is a time-specific (and slightly Randian) framing: in fact there have been and are many ways to weigh outcomes. If The Worst Witch started being cautious here it would seem to alter the rules of the universe, and thus to make the earlier incidents more serious. I wonder if issues of consent in these stories don’t strike the writers as particularly serious because almost all the characters are female? The fact remains: if consent is a sensitive subject for you, you might not enjoy some of these episodes.

In the same vein, the school is so consistently under threat from recurring enemies that it quickly becomes strange and ludicrous that the government hasn’t provided Cackle’s with substantial support in dealing with its problems. Witches seem to operate in an almost anarcho-libertarian context at times, settling disputes through duels and personal magical potency. Property law almost over-rides an obviously sensible decision about who should run the school: its respected long-time headmistress, or her violent sister. One sometimes winces through the umpteenth restoration of Ada Cackle’s wise and just rule, because she seems to deal with challenges to it so terribly. I know it’s the mechanisms of story at work, churning out regular conflict and serving it up at a good scale, but the overall plot groans a little under those demands. We might get more out of interrogating what is, after all, more a convention of post-Buffy television screenwriting than anything else. And when, for Plot Reasons, Miss Cackle denied the desperate, depressed, now-powerless former head girl Esmerelda Hallow a position working for the school, I was deeply unimpressed.

In a way, thinking about what “doesn’t work” in The Worst Witch reminds me of Diana Wynne Jones’ point in The Tough Guide to Fantasyland (1996). The societies of SFF aren’t anthropological artefacts, but literary ones. They exist primarily to enable a given story. Trying to analyse them like you’re the CIA World Factbook can be a bit off-base, not to mention pedantic. We’ve collectively devoted so much energy and attention to pointing out, again and again, like we’re aurigae whispering “memento homo” to Roman duces—aurigae who’ve been hideously crossbred with TV Tropes at that, that literature is fiction, as though the ultimate aim of literature was not to be. Even stating that the duty of fiction is to be “true to life” is a very limiting, historically- and movement-situated argument, as is supposing that media ought to be “flawless” in any sense. What doesn’t work is only interesting in terms of why it doesn’t, and what those omissions and “failures” do. It has never been as relevant as what does. When I think about a show it’d be a joy to write for, The Worst Witch is definitely up there.

Anyway, it’s on Netflix. Try it, Miss Hardbroom is a big lesbian, enjoy.

Erin Horáková is a southern American writer who lives in London. She's working towards her literature PhD, which focuses on how charm evolves over time.
18 comments on “The Worst Witch”
Samira Nadkarni

I enjoyed so much of this review, particularly the parts about queer potentialities in this largely feminine space, feminine friendships, and the issues of consent being complicated in the process of this watching. I have to admit that one of my primary issues with Ada Cackle's governance of the school is how often Ethel's malicious acts are geared towards getting Mildred expelled, yet the discovery of these never seems to suggest the same repercussions for Ethel despite this happening multiple times, suggesting that not only is Mildred disadvantaged by her lack of remedial knowledge, but that she is disadvantaged as well by the unwillingness of the system to address repeated threats to her existence within a political educational space. There's an implicit argument to be made about the Hallow's power but the shocking thing is that it's never explicitly made here, suggesting that this is just the way things are: Mildred's state is continually precarious and unlikely to change and Ethel's state is assured and unlikely to change. If this is taken to be true, then Miss Cackle isn't the pinnacle of goodness and fairness she claims to be at all and is, in fact, very much part of a structure penalising Mildred to excess.

I'm unsure about the disability metaphor itself holding in an extended form (though I agree and am intrigued as it reminds me a lot of Sami Schalk's argument) and there is definitely something maybe there with regard to Esmerelda, Mildred, Janice Hubble, Miss Mould, and Agatha that might be quite complex given that depending on the case, a lack of magic is positioned as a traumatic loss, an unexpected discovery, something invisibilised and unnoticed, a choice with repercussions, and a punishment—it feels like the show is giving us a variety of positions, though in the case of Esmerelda there is the presumption of a magical fix at the end of season 2 (I think?). I'd love for anyone to discuss this more, if possible!

With regard to the series' racial diversity, I'm halfway between agreeing and disagreeing with your assessment. In the first season, the episode I remember most that featured Ms Drill showed her controlled and enslaved by Agatha and this being focused on the body of the only Black character at the time (?) made me VERY uneasy, particularly as part of this was played for laughs (as far as I remember given the show's magical comedy-drama genre). This was never addressed in terms of specific historical and racially contextual factors which felt badly handled, particularly as Mildred then "saves" Ms. Drill. Season 2 was far better in that regard.

Similarly, I struggled a little with the relationship Enid Nightshade has with her parents which appears quite distant when compared to most of the other close child-parent relationships. While it's commendable that we see the Nightshades as representative of Black success and a Black power couple, the implication seems to be that Enid's acting out is partially/ largely caused by this. I am by no means suggesting that Black success and fraught parenting decisions not be a part of this—by no means—but do feel it would be particularly relevant to acknowledge that this is happening with a contrast to largely loving middle class white families, with the implication that it has led to Enid being spoiled and acting out in hope of attention, and that there is a moral judgement implied there that cannot be separated from its racial undertones, especially in contemporary Britain. There's a way in which issues of Black representation are oddly mobilised and invisibilised in this series that I can't put my finger on but gives me pause.

(There is SO MUCH to think through with this series, Erin! And much like you, I have little to no idea of the books or any of the previous adaptations.)

Ahem, that said, I'll say what I actually came here to declaim—



I cannot believe you wrote a theoretically cogent mini-review all to justify your Thirst Cry, and I hope you are fired from life.

This is of course a really valid critical lens more in your wheelhouse than mine, re nuanced readings of racial mobilisation, and something more could be done with a disability framework. I hate you, also.

EDITORS: I have been 'reliably informed' by 'sources' that the line is "All men are fools, but you are their king!" Please amend the article accordingly? Sorry, and thanks!


Euuuhh now I'm thinking about an edited collection on the magical (girls) school story eughhhhhh

Dan Hartland

Erin: This EDITOR can confirm that the correct line has been duly replicated, though not necessarily that Miss Hardbroom's hiss has been captured in quite the way you'd prefer. Do confirm.

(I'm voting in favour of the incipient collection.)


You know what mortal hands and mortal phonic systems can't really capture it it's ok EDITOR you did your best.

(I'm voting in favour of not having to ever do any work but it's not working out v well for me.)

Samira Nadkarni

Hecate Hardbroom negged Algernon HARD and it was canon. She is incredibly glorious and incredibly gay and I will write a million mini-reviews to have my thirst documented for future generations. HECATE HARDBROOM, I THINK YOU'RE AS SMOOTH AS A CAULDRON. CALL ME.

That said, there's something to be explored as well in terms of the manner in which teaching is portrayed in this show. As you said, there's the combative Ms Hardbroom who is an updated and far less abusive parallel to Severus Snape, and there's Ms Bat who seems very similar to Professor Binns. Aside from the question of how Ms Bat ever gets her portion done on time if she's always asleep, I was particularly interested in the fact that her narrative as Esper Vespertilio was placed in parallel with Ms Drill's background as the 'Star of the Sky,' neither of which was known by the girls. Arguably, the section with Ms Bat may make sense if she retired much before the girls coming to study at Cackle's Academy but it seems unlikely that a well known sports star would remain completely unrecognised, particularly since the implicit hierarchy of the show seems to indicate that Ms Drill is otherwise the most recently/ newly hired of the staff. That Hecate Hardbroom mutters that Ms Drill will "get full of herself" when she organises the sports day and reveals her past—a factor never produced when we see Ms Bat reveal her own past and organise a large event around it—does suggest, alongside of everything else, a really troubling racial component to this show. Ms Drill seems a particular focus of microaggressions and it troubles me. I'm still very unsure of Ms Mould's narrative as well and I'd really like to think it through more, particularly her representation as a politically radicalised brown person within this largely white space.

Samira Nadkarni

I am also very in favour of an edited collection and would like to subscribe to that newsletter.


What IS the deal with the radical anti-hierarchy witches commune?? How does it interact with the 'sisterhood' of covens? Why is the seemingly independent witching world led by a head-wizard, and is that always the case? How does Mould square her seemingly GENUINE anti-traditionalist sympathy for and interest in Mildred with working for Agatha Cackle? (I didn't want to get too into this in the body because spoilers, but I have SO MANY QUESTIONS HERE?) Clearly the easy answer is that it's a lazy Dark Knight Rises conservative mess wherein radicalism, esp brown radicalism (I mean wtf Tom Hardy but he's SUPPOSED to be and she *is*), is conflated with easy to understand/oppose aims like 'chaos' and 'someone Bad taking over'. What does anyone without a personal vendetta gain from supporting Agatha? Has she promised this coven something genuine, with her 'no rules' approach? Is leaving magic behind a kind of freedom for Mould, who clearly doesn't agree with the power structures associated with magic?

Samira Nadkarni

I think the end of the series suggests that Ms Mould is to face some sort of punishment (though this is not clarified) and may or may not become an art teacher in the non-magical world. I think my issue is also that Ms Mould loses her magic because she steps in for an event caused by Ethel Hallow (who yet again faces no real consequences for her actions) and that there is something particularly fraught in the idea of the one brown witch we see losing her magic and the magic of eleven generations after her to atone for her radicalisation under a white woman of considerable privilege and power (Agatha Cackle). If we're looking at this in terms of larger sociopolitical power structures, the repercussions of this radicalisation is to be borne by generations of brown women who presumably, like Mildred, will eventually lose their relationship to this magical world. It makes me very uneasy.

That said, Ms Hardbroom used to date Pippa Pentangle and it was a messy break up, don't @ me!

Molly Katz

Love this review and this discussion.

@Samira, I really see something in the way that Ms Bat's cute sad-weirdness is the focus of her version of that arc, whereas we don't really get feelings and such lavished on Drill.

Ms. Hardbroom is the sexiest.


The Ethel thing is of a piece with Ada and Agatha's issues never receiving any kind of systemic response you're so right, &it's presumably a lower-classed wicth than the Hollows (the Hubble ancestress) this initially happens to, so there's a strange thread of generational punishment along class and racial lines, and btw does it weaken things to have Mildred 'actually' be from a witching family, also THIS IS NOT THE THIRST WITCH OMG I CANNOT BELIEVE YOU WOULD DISHONOUR THE COMMENTS PAGE LIKE THISSSS

Samira Nadkarni


I'm remembering now as well that alongside of Ms Drill being controlled, the school inspector Miss Doomstone is also a Black woman. Notably, this is the second instance of a Black woman being controlled in order to further the issues of Cackle's Academy (previously Ms Drill) and while we're informed that the personality changing portion will wear off, the implication is that we are to not only view her as a threat to the school but rejoice in her being controlled in this manner.

I might need to sit down with this more and re-watch the show to confirm these events but I do think there's an issue with writing diversity into a show without considering the manner in which this will be sociopolitically and historically inflected by those choices.

Samira Nadkarni

I'm torn on Mildred's realisation that she's from a witching family. On the one hand, it allows for her mother to give what I feel is one of the best speeches of the show about how there's magic in just being good and kind and trying really hard and that Mildred loses nothing by giving up magic if she can hold to that; on the other hand, I think it doubles down on an idea of (matrilineal) bloodline purity that I'm quite leery about. I feel like the show might've done more without the revelation but it was also a primary focus for the narrative so this seems almost inevitable?



I loved reading this review: the Worst Witch books were my favourites as a child, so I binged this new adaptation immediately. Much has been said in both the review and the comments with which I agree, so I'll share just a small part of my perspective. I went to a girls' boarding school in the middle of the English countryside during the 1990s, and now that I look back on it I'm quite amazed at the abuses that occurred even as the school claimed its atmosphere and pastoral care were excellent. Teachers were frequently blind to the cruelties of some favoured pupils and constantly critical of others -- typically those who, like me, were not from the kind of background with which the school wanted to associate. The staff behaved as though they really believed they were beyond reproach, caring and kind, and yet they tolerated bullying, abuse and homophobia. Girls with particular challenges were characterised as lazy, arrogant, stupid, uncouth, or all the above. And worst of all, the girls in question would internalise and believe these characterisations, and would adore and defend the teachers who invented and inflicted them. Perhaps this goes some way to providing context for the Cackle/Hallow tolerance. But counter to that is the idea that the show is clearly set in the modern day, and so you might optimistically expect a little better from a school and its staff.

On a positive note, I thought the young actors who played Enid and Clarice were truly outstanding, and many others were good too.

Hey Lucy, thanks a lot for this comment&insight! It really makes me wonder whether the writers have experience of this kind of school environment and are bringing it to bear here.

Samira Nadkarni

I think Lucy's right here, and there's something to be said for the ways in which most boarding school series tend to have a mix of abusive behaviour and seemingly pastoral care. I'm thinking to an extent of the Harry Potter books in recent incarnations, but I'm fairly sure I'd find aspects of it in the Mallory Towers/ Chalet school series if I was to go back to them. There's an interesting undertone in some sense of the teachers and administration in these boarding schools being an old and largely ineffective guard whereas their young students (often practically children or very young teens) are positioned as the driving force behind survival and social change. It's a complicated moral framework for me because it sets up an odd framework for me in which sacrifice and heroism become conflated with young adulthood in a way that leads them not to prioritise their own survival (as children!), and at the same time there's the ways in which they are not part of the larger political landscape that the adults are forced to perform within. This is maybe where I end up conflicted because Hecate Hardbroom offers to sacrifice her powers to the Founding Stone, only to willingly step aside for Ethel Hallow, and then we have Mildred offer the same, only to have Ms Mould take her place. There's a something there in terms of the show's engagement with personal choice and responsibility between teachers as adults and children that feels very odd, particularly in that first instance. I'd love for someone to pick it apart further...

Ahem. As per usual, I remain #HARDFORHARDBROOM .

Samira Nadkarni

While I am here to declare my unceasing and largely unending thirst for Hardbroom snapping her fingers while pursing her lips as per usual, I've also been thinking through the disability metaphor Erin posed early on in her review. It struck me that the finale of the second season established that witches don't just "do" magic but "are" magic, and this results in them being calcified and frozen when the founding stone is destroyed. Yet this doesn't seem to be a factor when it comes to various witches who have lost their power, suggesting that either the magic remains in a form of inaccessible reserve or... it fails to parse at all. If we're suggesting that there is a fundamental cellular change, then this would imply that the same occurs each time a witch is stripped of her powers as well as when she regains them? Thoughts?


I have rather mixed feelings about both this review and the show itself. I’m not fond of child actors - really, I prefer the books because the characters come across as real which isn’t something that can be said of the actors - and the episodes I watched had most of the problems with child actors. On the other hand, I loved the books as a small boy and - even now - I will read them with pleasure. The latest just came out, BTW.

Some of the issues are easily explainable by context. Mildred is from a non-witch family - if she’s literally the only person with a non-witch background, of course they’re not going to have any provisions for her. It probably never occurred to them that it would be needed and, even now, it would be difficult for them to understand what Mildred needs. I’ve lived in several different societies and there are always problems with culture shock and clashes. I was born in Britain and lived in the US for some time and, even then, there were problems when I didn’t really understand what was going on. It was a great deal worse when I was living in the Far East. Obviously, Mrs Cackle and Mrs Hardbroom should have been doing something about that, but they’d have trouble understanding what they should do. They would take too many things for granted to make good guides for a stunned Mildred. (And let’s face it - Mildred is not visibly disabled and, when she actually puts her mind to it, she’s a pretty good witch.)

A society with magic will be very different from ours. For all we know, ‘Head Wizard’ may not be - for them - gender-specific. And it might not even care much for coddling the ‘weak’. (See the very next paragraph.) The Hallows might be too powerful for even Mrs Cackle to challenge openly, which might explain why Ethel keeps getting away with things. (Although, seeing Ethel also gets her comeuppance quite a lot, it’s possible that the teachers think the scales were already balanced.)

There’s also an understandable reason why Mrs Cackle denies the powerless Esmerelda Hallow a place at the school. Think about it - how is Esmerelda going to cope? She will be surrounded, every day, by reminders of what she’s lost, by a world she can no longer be fully a part of ... not to mention the people who might want to seek a little revenge on her family by taking it out on a helpless Esmerelda. I can understand why people would think that Mrs Cackle was cruel, but allowing Esmerelda to stay would have been far crueller.

I also wonder why some of the commenters are so obsessed with race. I don’t recall anything on the show itself to suggest that classic racism is actually a factor, save for discrimination against witches from non-witch families (although this does raise the question of why anyone would bother to develop such a prejudice if there’s no one to practice on.) I don’t see any reason to read deep racial meanings into the scripts, particularly when - at base - TWW is a kids show. (Nor do I care if HB is a lesbian or not. Sexuality should not be in a kids show.) If bad things happen to POC, they also happen to whites.

In some ways, it reminds me of Chris Nuttall’s The Zero Blessing and its sequels. Cat is black and no one makes an issue of this in the first and third book. (In the second, Cat and her friends are kidnapped and taken deep into the hinterland, where Cat’s skin makes her stand out. No one thinks of her as inferior, but after they make their escape they realise that Cat is much more noticeable than the other two.) The whole society is pleasantly free of racism, although not of other social issues. But Nuttall was writing more for older teens than adults - if you liked TWW and Harry Potter, you should give him a try.


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Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
In this episode of the Strange Horizons podcast, editor Anaea Lay presents Carlie St. George's “Monsters Never Leave You.”
Beep, she thought, and then said it aloud because she had a beeper and why the hell not. “Beep. Beep.”
By: Janelle C. Shane
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
In this episode of the Strange Horizons podcast, editor Anaea Lay presents Janelle C. Shane's “68:Hazard:Cold.”
And on the terrace: Célia. Dark fur shining like tar in the moonlight, snout long and wrinkled.
a quake fractured my wall, / but my portraits didn’t fall. / They disappeared one by one
in the name / of Mercy / I wished a wish―which the Universe soon granted―
In this episode of the Strange Horizons podcast, editor Ciro Faienza presents the poetry from the June 29th issue.
By forming their own chosen family as the Sea Salt Trio, Roxas, Axel, and Xion are eventually able to fight for their own lives and purpose.
Issue 22 Jun 2020
By: Neha Maqsood
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Neha Maqsood
Issue 15 Jun 2020
By: Remy Reed Pincumbe
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Preston Grassmann
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 8 Jun 2020
By: Kathleen Jennings
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Keaton Bennett
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 2 Jun 2020
By: Sheree Renée Thomas
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Maggie Damken
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
Issue 1 Jun 2020
By: Jessica P. Wick
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
Strange Horizons
Issue 25 May 2020
By: Dana Wilde
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 18 May 2020
By: Johnny Compton
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Jong-Ki Lim
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 11 May 2020
By: Gabriela Santiago
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Ashley Bao
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 4 May 2020
By: Vida Cruz
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Raimo Kangasniemi
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 20 Apr 2020
By: Tamara Jerée
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: L. D. Lewis
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: L. D. Lewis
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