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H.A. Clarke’s The Feast Makers is Sharp as a Knife


H.A. Clarke&#8217;s <i>The Feast Makers</i> is Sharp as a Knife

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H.A. Clarke’s The Feast Makers is Sharp as a Knife

A review of the final book in H.A. Clarke’s young adult fantasy series.


Published on April 10, 2024

Cover of The Feastmakers, depicting two swans with necks intertwined and a book resting on their necks, against a purple background.

It’s been a long four years since the first book in H.A. Clarke’s young adult fantasy series, The Scapegracers, and a year and a half since the sequel, The Scratch Daughters. Clarke closes out their trilogy with The Feast Makers. The real question is: Does the third book live up to the series hype? I think you already know the answer to that…

First, Sideways Pike was a loner lesbian with a sharp tongue and a bitter disposition. Then Sideways was a lost queer, missing their specter but surrounded by girls—Jing, Daisy, and Yates—who would kill for them. Now Sideways is the leader of a badass coven of ultra-cool high school seniors who hex bad dudes and party hard. The events of the previous two books come to a head here as all the local covens descend on the Delacroix House to sort out what to do with Madeline Kline and the recovered specter stones. Also piling into town are every witchfinder in the region, coming to bid farewell to a dead Chantry and get some witch hunting in for good measure. 

Sideways collides with one of the witchfinders, then collides with another. To save the girl they love, and protect their coven and the other witches, Sideways will have to take on the witchfinders one final time. The coven book devil, Mr. Scratch, is all too willing to help. The meaning behind the title sneaks up on you. It’s not what you think and it is so much worse, and I mean that in the best way possible. 

I could say a million things about how great this series is. Of The Scapegracers, I wrote that it “thrums with frenetic energy. Plots and subplots careen into each other like bumper cars at a carnival. Reading it felt like watching a primetime drama on The CW, all wild intensity and sizzling desire.” And of The Scratch Daughters I wrote that the “series has always been queer, but in this book queerness becomes a critical part of the plot. The ways these teens move through the branching paths of queerness directly impacts and is impacted by the main plot. Being queer isn’t a plot device—it is the plot.” The first point is less true in The Feast Makers, but the second Clarke doubles down on with a feverish intensity. 

Buy the Book

The Feast Makers
The Feast Makers

The Feast Makers

H.A. Clarke

Like the sequel, the third book meanders a bit in terms of plot. The main action is sparse. We don’t meet the secondary antagonist until a good chunk of the way in, then they vanish and don’t reappear until the mad dash to the finish line; the main antagonist we’ve met before but they only show up at the end and don’t stick around very long. Most of the book is dedicated to Sideways and their coven figuring out their romantic and sexual feelings for each other and what they each want to do after high school, the coven convention at the Delacroix house, and the drama that is What To Do About Madeline Kline. I’m not complaining—I love spending time with these chaotic bundles of hormones—but it also means that the baddies are barely more than cartoon villains, two-dimensional monsters cackling and twirling their mustaches. 

On the other hand, Clarke continues the trend of each book getting ever more queer. There are no new identity announcements here, but the coven meet a variety of queer elders that help shape and confound their ideas of what queerness can be. There are no neat and tidy labels here. No one cares about appeasing the cisallohets’ delicate sensibilities. People find the spaces they feel most comfortable in and occupy them without shame or apology. Sideways can be a masc-leaning they/them and a lesbian and whatever other labels they want to attach to themself. Who cares. Queerness isn’t about fitting into a box but about freeing yourself of the very idea of boxes at all. 

This series also pushes back against the idea of “good” representation. Back in ye olden days when us marginalized folks had almost no rep at all and what we had was usually written by majority people parachuting in as tourists or saviors, “good” and “bad” rep was a big concern. Mostly because most of the rep we had was offensive caricatures. We were sidekicks, tokens, and stereotypes. We needed “good” rep. Nowadays, we are still pretty underrepresented when it comes to the publishing world, but we’re not rarities either. Queer YA horror is practically its own subgenre at this point. We’ve moved past the need for “good” representation; now what we need is representation in all its glorious, messy, complicated variety. We need shitty queers doing horrible things to each other as much as we need caring, compassionate queers saving the world. Clarke’s series doesn’t bother with “good” or “bad” representation but instead shows us queer people being people, warts and all. Shiloh and Madeline have hurt a lot of people and have been hurt in turn by a lot of people, and they both process their traumas in different yet destructive ways. Elder queer witches made for bad role models but offer glimpses into futures Sideways never even dreamed of. 

Like its predecessors, The Feast Makers is vicious. Sharp as a knife, brutal as a bomb, and lyrical as a song. It crawls under your skin and burrows into your brain. This is the kind of series I want to literally throw at teenagers like that GIF of Melissa McCarthy. It’s the kind of series I wish I’d had when I was 16 because I would have made it my entire personality. I would have been utterly insufferable about Sideways Pike. I would have tattoos of the cover art and too many piercings and pretend to like heavy metal just to get a taste of Clarke’s coven. Everyone (including me) compares this series to The Craft, but that movie wishes it was this cool and queer. Wherever August Clarke takes readers next, I’ll be first in line for the ride. icon-paragraph-end

The Feast Makers is published by Erewhon Books.

About the Author

Alex Brown


Alex Brown is a Hugo-nominated and Ignyte award-winning critic who writes about speculative fiction, librarianship, and Black history. Find them on twitter (@QueenOfRats), bluesky (@bookjockeyalex), instagram (@bookjockeyalex), and their blog (
Learn More About Alex
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