By Syd Moore
Paperback, 392 pages
2017, Point Blank
Expected Publication Date: May 2017
Rosie Strange has inherited a witch museum from her estranged uncle and pays it a visit hoping to give it a quick survey and then list it for sale. Instead, she meets the infuriating, yet charming curator Sam and a visitor begging for Sam’s help in a possibly magical matter. Not one to be left out of something that concerns someone who is now her employee, Rosie tags along and finds herself chasing after a skeleton to save a boy who may be possessed.
When I first saw this book listed on LibraryThing’s monthly giveaway, I was initially enamored by the cover art and found the urban fantasy-sounding plot intriguing. Unfortunately, I found the cover more interesting than its contents.
I felt no initial excitement upon being introduced to Rosie and the museum she inherited, nor did I care about who I assumed would be her potential love interest, and current museum curator with a passion for all things witchcraft, Sam. The two are asked to help recover the bones of a long-dead local witch who was hung, as her son appears to have taken possession of a boy who fell from a tree and the strain on the child is killing him. I didn’t find myself invested in this quest either, but at least hoped for some magic, as the title and plot summary implied.
Rosie was an adequate main character, but nothing about her personality had me rooting for her. Her relationship with Sam was puzzling, as they initially didn’t like each other and he seems to have little faith in her navigational and driving skills – he’s constantly giving her driving instructions and telling her to slow down throughout the whole book, and boy is there a lot of driving – and I didn’t find myself hoping they would get together, though it appeared Rosie did, when she wasn’t cursing Sam for being a nuisance. I know the whole, ‘you annoy me and we seem to hate each other but then actually grow to love each other’ is a common romantic trope, and I enjoy it when it’s done well. But Rosie and Sam primarily seemed to annoy each other or just be on neutral ground, with the occasional flirty scene that felt out of place and never truly culminated into any meaningful relationship.
Characters aside, the plot didn’t grab me either, though I felt it should have. They were questing after these old bones, which had been sold to various different people since they’d been accidentally dug up from their original resting place. The boy was clearly exhibiting signs of possession and needed rescuing or death was imminent – yet I felt there were no stakes in this novel. Maybe it was because I knew the boy wouldn’t die – I mean, I didn’t truly know for certain, but it was a pretty safe assumption – and maybe it was because there was no actual magic happening that my interest flagged.
Mostly I was bored while reading – especially during the driving scenes; why is there so much driving!? There was a lot of historical information, which I assume is accurate, but most of it was delivered via info-dumping, so I tended to skim those bits. I was expecting an urban fantasy novel with “real” magic, but Strange Magic takes a more skeptical approach and lets the reader decide whether some scenes in the book are truly magical or just strange coincidences and character belief. From my perspective, the magic felt more like the product of Rosie’s hyperactive imagination and thus, I was left disappointed.
It seems like there will be a sequel to this novel, but I won’t be reading it. If you’re interested in reading about the background of some of those who were killed as witches in England and you enjoy a vague, implied sort of magic, this book may be for you. It was not what I expected however and I didn’t find anything about the characters or writing style that particularly stood out for me.
I received this book for free from LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions in this post are my own.
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