The Price Guide to the Occult
by Leslye Walton
E-ARC, 288 pages
Published March 13th, 2018 by Candlewick Press
From the author of The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender comes a haunting maelstrom of magic and murder in the lush, moody Pacific Northwest.
When Rona Blackburn landed on Anathema Island more than a century ago, her otherworldly skills might have benefited friendlier neighbors. Guilt and fear instead led the island’s original eight settlers to burn “the witch” out of her home. So Rona cursed them. Fast-forward one hundred–some years: All Nor Blackburn wants is to live an unremarkable teenage life. She has reason to hope: First, her supernatural powers, if they can be called that, are unexceptional. Second, her love life is nonexistent, which means she might escape the other perverse side effect of the matriarch’s backfiring curse, too. But then a mysterious book comes out, promising to cast any spell for the right price. Nor senses a storm coming and is pretty sure she’ll be smack in the eye of it. In her second novel, Leslye Walton spins a dark, mesmerizing tale of a girl stumbling along the path toward self-acceptance and first love, even as the Price Guide’s malevolent author — Nor’s own mother — looms and threatens to strangle any hope for happiness.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
TW: self harm
The word anathema refers to something dedicated to the gods. Coincidentally enough, it can also indicate someone accursed, someone damned, someone doomed. A fitting name, it would seem then, for an island buffeted by rain-bearing winds and cloaked in a sky so gray that the ocean and the heavens seemed one in the same.
Set in Anathema Island, where weird is their kind of normal and witch truly live among them, this book is truly atmospheric. The whole time, you can feel like someone is watching you, that something wicked is coming their way and there’s nothing you can do to stop it, even though you know what is coming. There is no quirky things here, only weird things in a creepy way.
Before reading this, I’ve read a lot of meh reviews complaining of the pacing of this book. They are all saying of how slow this book is, how nothing happened for a huge chunk of the book and the ending was too fast. But I think the pacing is perfect, it was never slow. Things started to happened from the beginning and escalated quickly towards the end. I agree that the resolving part felt too quick and kinda anticlimatic, but it works for me as they let this book kept its ~mysterious~ feel. It was very convenient yes, but it tied the story nicely. THAT ENDING THOUGH.
The Plot & Themes
This book has an interesting premise, of gifted women being shunned and ended up releasing a curse. It’s also interesting to unfold the story of generations of Blackburn women, of their gift and curses, of how they handle the romance thing. And while romance started the whole thing, it was refreshing to see that it doesn’t took over the plot. In fact, I really like the choice Nor made in the end. The plot was intiguing because it was revealed in bits and pieces, and what happen at that time always tied to the past, to the previous generations of Blackburn women.
This is the part where the book loses its point. The characters, except for our main character, Nor, are never fleshed out. In fact, they pretty much followed the existing trope of sassy best friend, nice love interest, and grouchy-guy-who-has-more-than-it-seems. Nor as a character weren’t much, as she pretty much avoids doing anything interesting. But when you got to know her, you would want to hug her and protect her.
The villain also never got explained. Was she truly evil? Or is it because of the black magic? Did she love someone or did she thinks she love someone? I want to know more about her, as she seems interesting. Also, what’s up about those tattoos??
Overall? This book is a pleasant surprise. I did have high expectations for this book, but I lowered it since due to the meh reviews. It turned out to be darker and more complex than what I expected, which is something that I really enjoyed. The setting was atmospheric and while the characters aren’t exactly fleshed out, the plot was very intriguing and enough to keep me engaged!