The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton
Published by Candlewick Press on March 13th 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Magical Realism, Paranormal, Witches, Young Adult
Length: 288 pages Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers
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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.
Disclaimer: I received this book for free from LibraryThing Early Reviewers and Candlewick Press in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
It has been snowy and gloomy and dull and my loves, everything in my heart has been dying for something dark and witchy and alive. In that matter, The Price Guide to the Occult was everything I wanted. It was earthy and malevolent and brought me to life.
The Price Guide to the Occult introduces the reader to Rona Blackburn – a powerful witch who comes to the island in its founding days and wishes to be left in peace. Unfortunately, frightened people make rash, irrational decisions. When the eight “founding fathers” of the island fail to kill Rona, she sets a curse upon her kin and theirs, breaking apart the magical gift that is their legacy and assuring none of the Blackburn women will know true love.
Fast forward to the present, and there is Nor. Nor is the eighth generation of descendants from Rona. She possesses one magical gift and lives with her grandmother and her partner. Life on the island is simple and quiet, and Nor does her very best to fly under the radar. If only her mother would do the same….
While I wasn’t wholly excited about Nor, her supporting cast is filled with colorful, amazing characters. From Madge, we get that terrifying, devoted edge of a brainwashed cult follower mostly reformed. Judd is powerful and firm. Nor and Savvy’s friendship is incredible and true to life of a proper female friendship. Savvy was one of my favorite characters – she reminded me to the tee of my color roommate Savannah, right down to the ever-changing hair color. It was uncanny. Even Nor’s love interest was layered and interesting. Nothing insta-love about this novel.
All other characters fall to shame at the feet of Fern Blackburn. I haven’t read The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, but if Fern is representative of Walton’s villains… readers beware. Fern is vicious, heartless, and terrifying. The Price Guide to the Occult is amazing not for its protagonist, but for its villain. I thoroughly enjoyed her. My only complaint is that we didn’t get a better close-up view of this queen of darkness.
From a technical scope, the writing is thrilling and enveloping, the world felt gritty and real, and I enjoyed every moment of it.
And the book itself? Oh my goose, one of the prettiest books in my collection. It’s this stunning hardcover – no dust jacket – with stained red page. Three color design. It’s simple, beautiful, perfect for the content of the novel… like the pages are bleeding. I love this book design, guys.
If you’re a fan of an earthy witch story – like Charmed or Practical Magic, or even something akin to Hocus Pocus – you will adore The Price Guide to the Occult.
The Price Guide to the Occult stays on the shelf!
This book was SO PRETTY I was afraid I wasn’t going to love it and I would end up donating it and it is too stunning and I want to keep it forever based on those merits alone. But the book stood on it’s own feet – it’s a great story… dark and magical. It’s an easy favorite for me and definitely something I can see myself revisiting down the road.