The Witches at the End of the World Summary and Reviews

The Witches at the End of the World

by Chelsea Iversen

The Witches at the End of the World by Chelsea Iversen X
The Witches at the End of the World by Chelsea Iversen
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Book Summary

Two sisters find themselves at odds in this breathtaking historical fantasy – and when one releases a dark spell, someone will have to burn. They are witches, after all.

Rage burns brighter than any spellfire…

Deep in the birchwoods of Norway, magic courses through the veins of two sisters. For years they've been alone, but sweet-tempered Kaija is tired of living in shadows and longs for a life filled with community, even if it means stifling her magic. But Minna is a witch through and through, with wrath always simmering just below the surface. Different as they may be, both will never forget the day they were driven from their village. The day their mother burned.

When Kaija leaves to pursue a new life, Minna is left alone in the darkness of the forest. Devastated and outraged at the betrayal, Minna casts a curse to punish those who took everything from her. What she doesn't realize is that this act will incite a deadly chain of events. Soon it will destroy everything, including the life Kaija has lovingly built. But once a witch's rage boils, regret means nothing―she can't take back what's already done.

Someone will have to burn.

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!
  1. What are some differences in Kaija's and Minna's magic at the beginning of the novel? What do these differences say about themselves and their relationship with each other?
  2. Minna casts a dark curse on the village Kaija is traveling to because of her anger. Do you think her actions are justified considering what was done to her family? Why or why not?
  3. Mormor tells Kaija that "Not even magic can temper pain in our hearts." Describe the ways in which this idea manifests throughout the story. How do both Minna and Kaija learn this lesson?
  4. Minna sees an ominous vision of her sister burning at the stake. What emotions does this stir up in her? Given her animosity toward her sister, were you surprised at the actions she took throughout the ...
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Media Reviews

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This information about The Witches at the End of the World was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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Keri P. (Momence, IL)

Great book club book
I enjoyed this book very much. It's told in the alternating viewpoints of Minna and Kaija. A book of love, rage, family and consequences. The story line is well-written and the reader is drawn to the emotions if the characters. I would recommend this as a book club book;there is much to debate and discuss.

Joy A. (Port Ludlow, WA)

This is a novel of vengeance, grief, love, the ties that bind us to others and the actions fueled by emotion. The setting is in Scandinavia and there are a few Norwegian words sprinkled throughout that really require no further explanation due to the context. The author depicts ghostly birch forests and hard scrabble fishing villages vividly, right down to the rocky beaches. If you are familiar with the ocean, there is an incidence with a rip tide that should hit home.
While the author paints a detailed portrait of the earth, the sea, and the beaches where they meet; there is far less attention to the physicality of the people. People here are defined by their emotions. It is up to the reader to imagine a face marred by a lifetime of suspicion or a fisherman's hands scarred by a lifetime at sea. That is not to say the characters are not well written.
The reader feels an intimate connection to the sisters, and will certainly recognize at least one other character from their own life. Well worth the read, but be prepared. This is a visceral construct of humanity, ranging from herd prejudice to unselfish love.

Karen S. (Allston, MA)

Who doesn't want some magic now and then?
As a New Englander, I may be particularly open to books about magic and witches, This tale set in Norway was surprisingly fun to read while dealing substantively with issues of "outsiders" and villages full of suspicion and rigid loyalty to their church's authority. It is a tale of "life below the surface," on many levels. Themes of loyalty, love, rage and evil permeate this tale of two very different sisters, the daughters of a witch burned in the village they fled as young girls. A good read, and I will recommend it to friends who enjoy stories that include a bit of magic we could all use.

Susan P. (Mount Vernon, WA)

Norway, Witchcraft, Sisters, Spells and Consequences or Is it Just History?
Chelsa Iversen's first novel, The Witches at the End of the World, captured this reader's attention from the beginning and held it to end as she tells the tale of two sisters living a subsistence life in the birch woods in 17th century Norway. The sister's tale is not so unusual as they mature and their wishes for an adult life differ one from the other. Until, that is, you learn they come from a long maternal line of Sami women with magic in their blood. The Sami are, of course, the reindeer herders who live a migratory life in the north country and are practitioners of the Old Religion, where certain spiritual abilities are accepted and even revered. Their father, a Norwegian man from a small fishing village is only an elusive memory for them as is their early childhood in the village where their mother was burned as a witch for practicing her small magics.
The oldest sister, Kaija, runs from the isolated life in the woods where their recently deceased grandmother raised the two girls, taught them how to practice their magical gifts, and hidden them from the Norwegians. Kaija goes to live the simple, non-magic life she believes she wants and needs in the village; the younger sister, Minna, stays in the woods embracing her solitary existence and welcoming the ability to practice her growing magic.
This story takes us through the experiences of each sister separately. We learn of the Norwegians' distrust, fear, and racist attitudes towards the Sami people, and the general Norwegian nonacceptance of any outsider. Importantly, we also learn of the religious struggle in Norway as Christianity begins to supersede the Old Religion, and the Church's suppression of women's choices, and their place in village society. We also learn about the struggles of the other village children born to Norwegian and Sami parents who are treated as outsiders in their very birthplace. The choices each of the sisters make soon lead to consequences neither considered. Despite their differences Kaija and Minna soon discover their bond and reliance on one another is strong and they begin to understand and appreciate the values of the other. Together they slip away from the village when another witch hunt has begun and Kaija, in a complex twist of fate becomes the natural target.
I can't wait to read Ms. Iversen's next book as this one is such an engaging storyline. The Witches at the End of the World is well-written, with well-developed characters, and interesting historical research that results in cultural insights sprinkled throughout the story.

Kathleen C. (Cockeysville, MD)

Sisters and witchcraft
A wonderfully immersive story of two sisters, Kaija and Minna, who cope with childhood trauma and a legacy of witchcraft in a world not always kind to those who are different. The sisters will experience the repercussions of actions done in anger. Tragedy occurs as well as the opportunity for forgiveness and healing.

The story kept my interest throughout. I felt empathy for the sisters, the settings are easily imagined and I was on the edge of my seat caring about the outcome during tense scenes. I look forward to Chelsea Iverson's next book!

Patricia S. (Chicago, IL)

Witches at the End of the World
Ten years before this book begins, Kaija and Minna flee their village with their grandmother. Behind them, their mother is burned as a witch. Escaping to the birchwood the two girls grow up safe, learning to use their magical powers under the tutelage of their grandmother, Mormor. As the book begins, the Mormor has died, and decisions need to be made. Kaija wants to return to the village she left, remembering friendship, and community, maybe even gaining a husband and family, and willing to suppress her magic in order to live there. Minna wants nothing to do with the village, being too young to have known it as Kaija did. She wants revenge on the village for burning her mother. Each one knows their path is the right one and is convinced it is the right one for her sister too, if only she'd listen. But neither does; Kaija leaves for the village and Minna casts a curse. Which one will have the life she wants?

This is an enthralling book, exploring family and sisterhood, and the ties of the past. Fascinating bits of Norwegian mythology are woven into the narrative, and life in a small, relatively isolated village are explored in detail. Both sisters are fully developed characters, relying on each other, even though they don't know how much they do. This is a relatively short book, perhaps too short as relationships develop a bit too quickly, but this doesn't detract too much from the book. While I would have liked to see more of Kaija's life in the village, dealing with friends who don't remember her, and viewing it with adult eyes, the shortened timeframe makes for a tight plot, that races to its finish.

I would recommend this book to fans of Mary Sharratt.

...23 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Chelsea Iversen Author Biography

Chelsea Iversen has been reading and writing stories since before she knew what verbs were. She loves tea and trees and travel and reads her runes at every full moon. Chelsea lives with her husband and Pepper the dog in Colorado. The Witches at the End of the World is her debut novel.

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