Book Review: A Wilder Magic

TOTP and his sister discuss A Wilder Magic by Juliana Brandt

This week TOTP shares the photo with his half-sister who lives close to him.

Sybaline Shaw lives in a beautiful magical valley in the Appalachian mountains, but when the government builds a damn and plans to flood the valley, Sybaline is determined not to leave her home. For the valley is filled with magic, magic that Sybaline feels inside her, warming her, making her whole, making her who she is. She could not envisage living elsewhere without the magic. So when the time comes to move to the city, Sybaline and neighbouring cousin and best friend, Nettle, hatch a plan to stay behind in the valley. This plan involves using the magic of the valley to protect her home from being flooded. Both girls ignoring the family warning that using magic for selfish purposes has consequences, for Sybaline convinces herself that she is doing it to save the valley.

I enjoyed reading A Wilder Magic. I loved the premise and I can totally sympathise with the pain of not only leaving your family home, with all its memories and comforts, but also with leaving a beautiful location, and exchanging seventy-two acres of mountain for a small apartment in a city. I would not need there to be magic to be devastated by losing it.

I loved the horror elements of this story, as the lake waters rise and the impact on Sybaline’s home. Everything goes awry for the kids, which was fun to read, and I also loved the transformation plotline, and how the children dealt with everything in the changing valley.

There is no explanation for the magic in the valley, or why Sybaline and her family can use it while other people don’t even notice it. No reason for why the magic stays in the valley, and it seems to be of limited use and quick to punish any infringement. Aunt Ethel for example grew vines on her shoulders because she used the magic to save her family from perishing in a fire. Magical realism isn’t my favourite genre (well-worked out magic systems are more to my taste), but it’s done well in this book. I could almost feel the magic as Sybaline pulled and pushed it, and manipulated it.

There are some great themes in the story: actions have consequence, the use and abuse of natural resources, about letting go, and focusing on what really is important, as well as self-sacrifice, and the story has a nice, though not unexpected, end.

Thing I loved most about this book:

The horror of the lake closing over the bubble, slowly darkening the valley.

Favourite Character:

Nettle. She’s loyal and brave, and clever and funny, and unselfish. I haveto admit I had a soft spot for PawPaw too!

If you like lyrical prose, magic realism, and an imaginative story, this is the book for you.

TOTP awards 7 out of 10 Diamonds!

21 thoughts on “Book Review: A Wilder Magic

  1. I can take a little fantasy to balance out my selection of humorous books. The characters and your review are drawing me into reading this in the upcoming summer months. Thanks for being a part of MMGM.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t think I’ve seen this story yet, but you make it sound like a really compelling read with some great magical elements! (And I love the double dose of dogs as well!) Thanks so much for the wonderful review, Valinora!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It is a cute name! It’s not really horror, more magical realism in tone, despite the awful things that happen! I like horror so these elements appealed to me a lot! 🙂


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