Unbury This and Stick It To The Top of Your TBR: The Buried and the Bound by Rochelle Hasan

Posted 23rd December 2022 by Sia in Fantasy Reviews, Queer Lit, Reviews / 0 Comments

The Buried and the Bound by Rochelle Hassan
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Lebanese-American MC, bi/pansexual MC, gay MC
PoV: Third-person, past-tense, multiple PoVs
Published on: 24th January 2023
ISBN: 125082219X

A contemporary fantasy YA debut from Rochelle Hassan about monsters, magic, and wicked fae, perfect for fans of The Darkest Part of the Forest and The Hazel Wood.

As the only hedgewitch in Blackthorn, Massachusetts—an uncommonly magical place—Aziza El-Amin has bargained with wood nymphs, rescued palm-sized fairies from house cats, banished flesh-eating shadows from the local park. But when a dark entity awakens in the forest outside of town, eroding the invisible boundary between the human world and fairyland, run-of-the-mill fae mischief turns into outright aggression, and the danger—to herself and others—becomes too great for her to handle alone.

Leo Merritt is no stranger to magical catastrophes. On his sixteenth birthday, a dormant curse kicked in and ripped away all his memories of his true love. A miserable year has passed since then. He's road-tripped up and down the East Coast looking for a way to get his memories back and hit one dead end after another. He doesn't even know his true love's name, but he feels the absence in his life, and it's haunting.

Desperate for answers, he makes a pact with Aziza: he’ll provide much-needed backup on her nightly patrols, and in exchange, she’ll help him break the curse.

When the creature in the woods sets its sights on them, their survival depends on the aid of a mysterious young necromancer they’re not certain they can trust. But they’ll have to work together to eradicate the new threat and take back their hometown... even if it forces them to uncover deeply buried secrets and make devastating sacrifices.

I received this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


~always check the Christmas fair for misbehaving fae
~indestructible wolves are inconvenient
~if you’re not old enough to sign a legal contract you shouldn’t be able to agree to a magical one

A few times over the last few years, I have come very close to swearing off YA – not because there’s anything wrong with it, but because my tastes seem to have changed and YA rarely hits the mark for me any more.

But books like The Buried and the Bound are why I keep coming back.

When I was explaining what I loved about this book (and there are many things, but we’ll get to them) to my husband, I said: the writing is so smooth. Like the perfect rock that fits just right in your hand? That’s what Hassan’s writing feels like. And I have pondered, but I haven’t come up with a better way to put it than that. Hassan’s prose isn’t the flowery descriptive kind I usually prefer, but it’s not barebones and blunt either. It doesn’t have the frenetic pace of an airport thriller; nor does it drag its feet. The action and introspection are in perfect proportion; there’s room for us to fall in love with the characters without slowing down the plot, and Hassan knows exactly when to show and when to tell.

Her writing feels expert. Polished until it gleams. Precise, and elegant, and smooth. It had me hooked after two paragraphs, after which I only put the book down long enough to gleefully describe and explain the story to my hubby.

I am seriously impressed, folx.

The Buried and the Bound is divided pretty equally between the three main characters; Aziza, Leo, and Tristan. They each take turns being the PoV character, and Hassan has an excellent instinct for when to switch between them, for whose eyes we should be looking through for each part of the story in order to give that story the most impact. They’re all absolutely brilliant characters; the careful relationships that develop between them are perfectly on-point, and each one of them reads and feels like a real teenager, a real person. And because they feel so human, here, plot twists and reveals (or not-reveals) that would feel contrived in the hands of a lesser writer work beautifully – because Hassan absolutely sells us on the fact that her characters would behave as they do, even when it’s not the smartest or most rational option. One thread of the plot in particular echos similar storylines I’ve seen elsewhere, but instead of rolling my eyes (as I have before), I was nodding along, because here I understood and believed in the relevant character’s motivations and thought processes. That’s something so many authors struggle with, but Hassan pulls it off with aplomb.

I don’t want to go into the plot very much – the book description sums it up pretty well – but I do want to talk about the characters and their world a little bit.

Aziza is a Lebanese-American hedgewitch being raised by her grandfather, and if you’re anything like me, you saw the word ‘hedgewitch’ and thought of little magics, not-very-impressive magics. But in The Buried and the Bound, hedgewitch actually has a very specific meaning: a witch who is tied to – and, in fact, made or chosen by – a place. It’s Aziza’s job to keep the supernatural and human worlds of Blackthorn safe and separate, to keep the boundaries between them healthy and whole, and I really loved getting to see what that meant, and how much pride and care Aziza takes in the work. I also really adored the fact that she’s a loner who is very happy to be by herself; she’s not secretly pining for friends, and she doesn’t want to be normal. That makes a pretty refreshing change from most witchy characters I see in YA!

Go into the unknown, but go prepared: That was Aziza’s way

Leo is not any kind of witch; instead, he has huge, sweeping memory loss – because he was cursed to forget his true love, and apparently, that person was a big part of his life, because big parts of his life are now missing. He signs up to be Aziza’s sidekick in the hope she might be able to help break the curse, and the friendship that develops between them??? *chef’s kiss* Made my heart freaking GLOW. They make such a great team, both for Aziza’s work, and in the way they fit together, play off each other.

“What if I promise not to make laser noises during the fight scenes?” He held up a bandaged hand in a wait gesture. “Think carefully before you say no. This offer might never be on the table again.”

And I really liked how well Hassan got across just how devastating Leo’s kind of memory loss is, how damaging it is – and how easy it is to misunderstand for those not experiencing it themselves (ie, Leo’s parents). Personality is shaped, if not outright defined by, memory, so yeah, of course losing huge chunks of his memory messes Leo up!

Tristan is…I probably can’t really talk about Tristan very much without spoilers. He made a deal with a monster, and it was a stupid decision, but it’s easy to see why he made it. It’s way too easy to understand and sympathise with his situation, his desperation. That being said, it does kind of feel like The Buried and the Bound glossed over the terrible things he’s done in favour of the terrible things that have happened or been done to him. That doesn’t really bother me in this case – I liked and sympathised with Tristan too much to really care – but I’m definitely curious to see what other readers are going to think of him and his arc.

Fear that ran so deep it became bravery.


I was honestly surprised with how much Hassan managed to pack into one book, without ever making any of the issues touched on or dealt with feel rushed or shallow; we see homophobic parents and homelessness, the debatable value of academics, the dismissiveness so many adults turn on the concerns and cares of teenagers (never ceases to make me rage), family secrets, what on earth True Love means… And this is without touching on the magic, which is delightful; we see dryads and kelpies and pixies and sandmen, and a simple but pretty unique take on witches. This is a world that, like its characters, feels very real, with believable depth to it – and plenty of room to be expanded upon in the rest of the trilogy!

If I had to pick out a flaw or two… I would say that there’s a touch too much telling-not-showing, although I also think Hassan’s introspective writing style makes the telling go down easy, rather than it being something that I choked on. At the same time, one or two things aren’t explained when they probably should be; I know what selkies are, but if you don’t, you might want to read up on them a bit before opening up this book, because The Buried and the Bound doesn’t really tell you. And a few things happened or came together a bit too neatly for me, or didn’t quite make sense.

But those are all extremely minor gripes, and don’t change the fact that I adored this book so much, and already have my eyes out looking for the sequel! I already can’t wait to get back to Aziza, Leo and Tristan, and see where the rest of the story will take them; I already miss Blackthorn and all its magical secrets and mysteries.

So if you’re looking for elegantly written YA witchery, with just a touch of Holly Black vibes? Make sure you snatch this one up next month – and then come tell me what you think of it!

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