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Customer Review

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Magic, Fae and more..., 16 Aug. 2013
This review is from: The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic (Kindle Edition)
The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic Emily Croy Barker.

ARC provided by Netgalley.

I love books about magic, but as this is Emily's début novel I didn't know what to expect. Its been compared to Deborah Harness Witches trilogy which I love, so I put in my request. Started it yesterday and was engrossed and transported into a different world.
It starts in a fairly conventional way, then Grad student Nora wanders off from a wedding party into a churchyard...and steps through into another dimension, populated with all sorts of folk including the Faitloren, a magical group who need her for a specific reason. There follows all sorts of adventures. Fabulous parties with amazing food and clothes, sunshine and sweetness everyday. Nora meets all sorts of people from history, goes all over the world in the blink of an eye and doesn't find anything strange about this, except occasionally a little voice in the back of her mind says "is this real", but then Ilissa plans another party and the roundabout starts again. Once Raclin marries Nora then a different side to the group emerges, and she learns the truth about her friends but she's trapped.
The story is full of kidnappings, rescues, escapes, magical creatures and dangerous undertakings. The magician Aruendiel has taken her in reluctantly, and over the following months she works in his household with his long time housekeeper. Slowly she persuades him to teach her magic, it takes up time but that's something she has in abundance, not knowing when or if ever she can return home.
The descriptions, first of the wonderful parties Ilissa has, and then of the castles and places Nora visits are wonderful. They really took me into a magical realm, where it seemed normal to heal by magic, to mend pots and things using magic, and to have transport made of sticks and feathers that could fly, doors in walls that were hidden and opened by witchcraft. The descriptions too of the differences between Wizards and Magicians and the spell books were fabulous. I felt as if I was there with Nora, learning as she learned, feeling all that she felt. Loved that, I like to get so absorbed in a story that I become part of it and swinging in the shade on my hammock in the garden yesterday that's exactly what happened. I've always had a vivid imagination and enjoyed books about magic. As a child my mum used to try to persuade me to more practical books, rather than the fairies and magic I preferred, and I can recall a conversation with my father over why he couldn't buy me a magic wand for Christmas. "They're so expensive we couldn't afford to buy presents for anyone else" "but dad, I could just magic them" Logic of a child :) I was always being told off for having my head in the clouds, and getting board rubber thrown at me by teachers for daydreaming...well, fantasy was so much more interesting than the real world and still is to me at times....
Anyway, back to the story, there were some things that didn't work so well for me. It took time for me to warm to Nora, at first she seems too anodyne, and I didn't ever really warm to her as a person, which made it hard for me to empathise with her. I felt a bit detached and need to be almost one with the main characters to feel and worry about them even though its fiction.... Then the world of Ilissa; I know Nora was under many spells but I think we needed to have that reinforced a few times, because I began to get impatient with her when she just accepted everything. This was explained much better later by Aruendiel, and I understood more but it could have put me off earlier as I was soo "Nora, get a grip girl!!" and of course later I learned why she couldn't, however if it wasn't a review book I may have given up then, and missed out on a magical treat. It is a long book, and I love long novels but there is a lot in it that tends to drag a little that maybe could have been tightened. I guess for me its because I'm always looking for the romance, this isn't marketed as a romance ( I think anyway ) but for some reason I expect one to develop. Maybe because of the one in the Harkness trilogy which is the cornerstone of those books. Anyway I was always looking for some developments between Nora and Arundiel - I suspect that he does want her but for whatever reason won't allow himself, and its clear Nora at times has feeling for him.
The ending is somewhat opaque, it suggests to me that there will be another book and that may have the romance that I wanted but missed - who knows? I can't find any references that say there's a follow up, and this can easily be read as a stand alone but it just seems to me to hint at more to come - or perhaps its wishful thinking on my part, as I'd love Nora and Arundiel to get together and to be back in that magical world.
Overall a good read, and at £3.99 for a massive 572 pages its a bargain on my VFM scale.
Stars: four, I needed that romance :) and a little more explanation of Nora earlier, and to make her more likeable. That would have made this a five star read for me but then we all need different things and I'm sure for others Emily has got this spot on.
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