The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton
Paranormal| Magical Realism | Young Adult
Goodreads | Amazon
Published by Candlewick Press
Released March 13, 2018
Leslye Walton’s The Price Guide to the Occult follows the Blackburn women on an island in the Pacific Northwest. Eight generations of this family have lived on Anathema Island, founded by their matriarch Rona Blackburn, a witch who performed a spell which led to each subsequent Blackburn woman being able to perform a single aspect of Rona’s magical abilities.
The story follows the eighth Blackburn daughter, Nor. Nor has all of the normal teenage problems to deal with, on top of the fact that she doesn’t want the rest of her family to know what gifts she has received.
One day Nor’s estranged mother’s book arrives on the island. Fern Blackburn left the island many years ago, but now, with the arrival of her book of spells people can pay her to perform, she has become an international celebrity. As her mother’s power grows, Anathema Island and it’s inhabitants begin to notice some strange changes to their surroundings. People also start appearing with fern tattoos covering their bodies. Nor attempts to discover what is behind all of these unsettling changes.
I enjoyed this novel, although I was left wanting more. The story was original and I loved Walton’s style of writing. I enjoyed the process of reading it, and it was also a very quick and easy read.
Before I go into further depth about the story itself, I want to mention how beautiful this book is! The colors on the cover you see above are etched right into the book – there’s no dust jacket – and it has red sprayed edges. The publisher and book designer did a fabulous job with this book.
The main point I want to make about this novel is that it’s a perfect example of a plot-based novel, rather than of a character-based on. Nor’s character was great and the reader gets a great understanding of her motivations and personality, but she’s the only character who we get to know that well. The rest of the characters felt flat and we don’t know enough about them to really care about any of them. As a result of these flat characters, Nor’s romantic relationship feels pointless and almost non-sensical. One moment she’s just admiring this guy, and then suddenly they’re a couple, and there’s really nothing in between to explain why they’re together. For people who are a fan of slow-burn romances (such as myself), the romantic aspect of the book will leave you disappointed.
Another thing that bothered me about the book is that it just wasn’t long enough. It’s very fast-paced and the story moves along nicely, but I would have loved more history about the Blackburn women and about some of the other inhabitants of the island. It felt like there were a lot of areas in the book that could have been greatly expanded upon.
In the end, I’m glad I read this book. I enjoyed it, but I probably won’t reread it. I expected so much more and wish it had been longer and more fleshed out. It felt cut too short and rushed in a lot of ways. I still think it’s worth recommending though, so if you’re looking for a quick paranormal/magic realism novel to read, don’t hesitate to pick it up.