Ready or not, here’s our Serwa Boateng’s Guide to Witchcraft and Mayhem book review, the second book in the Roseanne A. Brown’s series that explores Ghanaian mythology.
Serwa Boateng’s Guide to Vampire Hunting was one of my favorite Rick Riordan Presents books of last year, and so it was with bated breath that I waited for the sequel to hit shelves. With a title like Serwa Boateng’s Guide to Witchcraft and Mayhem, plus the image of a two-headed crocodile on the cover, I knew this one was going to be just as fun and magical as the last.
Not only did this sequel continue Serwa’s story with the same humor and wit as the first book, it also exponentially raised the stakes. (Spoilers ahead if you didn’t read the first one!) Now that Serwa knows she’s a obayifo (a witch who controls black magic), she is forced to see the world from the perspective of the people she had been told all her life were her darkest enemies.
This book introduces Auntie Effie, her mother’s sister and one of the most powerful obayifo the world has ever seen. Throughout the book, we see why Auntie Effie is so feared, but we also see a side to her that no one ever talks about—the one that cares for her niece. The problem is whether Serwa can trust that love is genuine, or if her aunt is just using her to accomplish her own goals.
That goal is, first and foremost, to set Serwa’s grandmother, Nana Bekoe, free of the Midnight Drum. Serwa grew up on stories about the war that finally trapped the powerful obayifo, but what if she can’t trust that those stories weren’t warped and twisted as well? What if setting her grandmother free is the only way to ensure people like her are treated equally?
More than anything, Serwa grows up a lot in this book. Guide to Vampire Hunting laid the groundwork, introducing us to this world and a cast of memorable characters. Guide to Witchcraft and Mayhem, on the other hand, digs deeper into what makes Serwa tick as a person, a Slayer, and an obayifo. Her entire world came crashing down around her at the end of the last book, and for the first time in her life, her parents aren’t there to help set her back on her feet. She must do that on her own.
It’s a difficult and lonely journey, to be sure, but my favorite part about this book is that we can see Serwa becoming her own person. Now that she knows the Slayers have fed her lies her whole life, she must analyze the data herself and come to her own conclusions. Who determines what is good and bad? Who gets to decide whether a creature will live or die, when their only crime is being born different? How far is Serwa willing to go to fight for her own freedom and the freedom of other people like her? And will anyone listen to what she has to say?
I’d be remiss not to use this Guide to Witchcraft and Mayhem book review to mention that Roseanne A. Brown talks about the very real issue of witch prisoner camps that still exist in some parts of Ghana. As she says in her author’s note, “I challenge anyone who reads this book to ask themselves exactly who gets to decide what makes another person a monster and why.” Roseanne also provides information on a book and a documentary to further your own education on the topic.
On a happier note, I’m excited to report that while they are not in this book as much as the last one, Roxy, Mateo, Gavin, and Eunju return. Not only was it great to see them again and remember all that these kids have been through, but they serve as a great lesson for Serwa. She must face the consequences of her own actions, and she quickly figures out that taking responsibility for hurting another person can be even more difficult than fighting off a horde of vampires.
The best part about writing articles like this Guide to Witchcraft and Mayhem book review is teasing readers with snippets of what they can expect when they finally get to read it. I have two words (and one name) for you: Declan Amankwah. Serwa mentioned in the last book that he was her eternal nemesis, and while I immediately knew Serwa was hiding other kinds of feelings about him—especially from herself—it didn’t prepare me for their sweet-and-salty interactions. I was seriously kicking my feet and smacking my forehead in turn. These two are so great together, and I’m as excited to see where Declan’s story ends as I am to see Serwa’s.
Not all sequels live up to the magic of the first book in a series, but this one certainly does. Not only did it build on what came before, but it dug deeper into the titular character in a way that was equal parts heart-wrenching and satisfying. Given how this book ends, I simply cannot wait to see what happens in the final installment, Serwa Boateng’s Guide to Saving the World.
‘Serwa Boateng’s Guide to Witchcraft and Mayhem’ by Roseanne A. Brown published on September 12, 2023
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