Extasia Explains What Happens When the Witches Live Deliciously

If you wanted to see what happened after the ending of The Witch, you need to read Extasia.

Amity has the honor of being chosen as the fourth saint of Haven, a small cultish village kept safe behind a patrolled wall. The people are pious and labor to keep the Devil at bay, but then men start disappearing and coming back brutally murdered, animals begin to act strangely, her sister keeps sneaking out in the middle of the night, and she starts to see tall gray ghosts in the shadows. Amity knows something must be done to protect her community. She has desired to become one of the saints since she was a young woman, watching the previous saints sacrifice their bodies in hopes of relieving her community from sin and putting a stop to the killings. She soon realizes that something more needs to be done. On a whim, she follows a white-eyed raven and watches as two of the other saints embrace, kiss, and disappear into a nearby wall. Amity follows and discovers a parallel community of women who seek the devil in hopes of liberation. 

One of the most interesting things about this overtly religious community is that while they spend a lot of time talking about God, there isn’t really a presence of God. While the people talk about pleasing God, most of the rituals that we see are violent, from the sanctifying of saints where they cut a symbol into the chosen saint’s chest to the town’s confession practice, which consists of taking out your sin on the four young saints by throwing them down, hitting them, cursing at them, and spitting on them. Somehow, this flagellation of the saintly body is a practice of redemptive suffering. The more the saints endure silently, the more remittance is received in the community. These scenes are as brutal as you would expect, and many of the townspeople seem to take surprising pleasure in the practice. It is not a duty for them but a release. While God is rarely felt, the devil is everywhere, even in their religious practices.

A bearded man looks above with his hands offered in prayer
“prayer at night” by mrehan is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

There is so much to like here—the beautifully atmospheric descriptions, lyrical prose, and positive relationships between the group of women. The coming of age and coming out plotline. Often with YA books, it’s hard to tell where they will fall on the violence and gore scale, but Extasia fulfills every gorehound’s dreams with creative kills and vivid descriptions. For being a fantasy novel, it also has a nice balance between world-building, character development, and action. The pacing never felt weighed down in details or intricate world lore, which is something that I often struggle with when reading fantasy. 

Extasia is a standalone queer YA fantasy folk horror novel that fits into the “Good for Her” subgenre of horror that is best represented by films like Midsommer, The Love Witch, Carrie, and others that often end with the ever-tormented final girl that finally gets to breathe in the sweet ashes of her enemies. This is a story for any queer person who feels compelled to conform to their insular conservative community, and it feels very relatable if you have grown up different in Dallas Fort Worth. 

A forest on fire at night under a full moon
“the bird and the moon week” by Luz Adriana Villa A. is licensed under CC BY 2.0

For literary nerds, there are many playful coincidences in the names. “Amity” is the protagonist’s given name when she becomes a saint, a name that means a peaceful, friendly nature. All of the saints’ names feel false, which plays out later in the novel and which is also perhaps the point. Why would you name someone Amity and then beat the crap out of them for the creator? Extasia, which I presume comes from the word extasiado meaning ecstatic in Portuguese or rapt in Spanish, is the name of the devil in this world. Extasia is a shadowy figure who the coven hopes to reach in order to release the hold of the elders on their community. The devil gives little pleasure in this novel because in Haven, the fear of the devil only helps the elders assert their control on the people of the community. In the coven of women, the devil represents freedom from conformity. It becomes apparent fairly quickly to Amity that Extasia means power as she works hard to learn spells in hopes of getting the devil’s attention. The physicality of these spells is impressive and terrifying.

If you are one to judge by a cover, Extasia is absolutely stunning. Amity is depicted as a petite girl in a white dress with a quiet strength behind her eyes. A blood-red moon is perfectly placed behind her head as a saintly halo. The cover features the art of Argentinian digital artist and illustrator, Diego Fernandez, who is best known for his portraiture of saintly-looking women.   

Book cover for Extasia

There is some confusion in parts as to who we are supposed to be cheering for in the story—if we are supposed to side with Amity and her quest or if we are supposed to side with Amity and her protection of her town and the archaic standards that they are trying to adhere to. It does become more clear, but there was an instance where I think readers would be unsure of the protagonist’s motivation, which can be slightly frustrating for readers who prefer a likable narrator. There are also a few characters who are grayer in their motivations. They support the community but not in a severely evil way.

Despite being a YA novel, Extasia delivers solid scares within a coming-of-age story that is fresh and beautifully written. Legrand blends genres and bends expectations melding together a story that feels like The Village meets The Craft meets Carrie

Claire Legrand is a native of Dallas Fort Worth, TX. She was born in Irving and got her degree from the University of North Texas. She now works part-time as a librarian in Princeton, NJ when she isn’t writing full time. Her previous work includes two fantasy trilogies and has been a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award (2018) and Edgar Award (2017). Extasia is one of “Buzzfeed’s Great LGBTQ+ YA novels to Warm Up Your Winter.”

You can also hear the Extasia playlist here:

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Written by Chrissie D.

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