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The Price Guide to the Occult Hardcover – March 13, 2018
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Walton follows The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender with a lyrical and robust multigenerational story set on the fictional Anathema Island in the Pacific Northwest...In succinct, evocative sentences, Walton paints vivid scenes while maintaining a gripping plot. Addressing abandonment, self-harm, first love, and other topics, Walton weaves a rewardingly complex tale that brims with suspense and romance.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Walton conjures a rich sense of place in her sophomore novel, and the backstory of the Blackburn women is undeniably fascinating. Additionally, she does an excellent job handling the topic of Nor’s self-harm: Nor’s already sought treatment by the time her story begins, and though her compulsive thoughts and anxiety are still there, she’s learned how to manage those thoughts in a healthy way...the eerie atmosphere, lyrical language, and romance subplot will still entrance many.
As in her 2014 debut, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, Walton’s writing is atmospheric and ethereal. Anathema Island, with its foggy shores, rich diversity of flora and fauna, and quirky tourist shops, comes to vivid life...Nor’s wicked and violent sociopath mother is memorable and her scenes are truly chilling...Walton’s sophomore effort is haunting and, especially in the last act, thrilling.
—School Library Journal
Like in The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, Leslye Walton's story is lyrical and atmospheric, and you'll find yourself getting lost on Anathema Island.
An atmospheric, blood-drenched dark fantasy for a cold and stormy night.
About the Author
Leslye Walton was named a William C. Morris YA Debut Award Finalist for the publication of her debut novel, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. Born in the Pacific Northwest, she has an MA in writing. She lives in Seattle, Washington.
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More than a hundred years ago Rona Blackburn arrived on Anathema Island with little more than her dogs and her magic. She built a home for herself and made a place on the island but even then the original eight settlers viewed Rona with fear and, eventually, with enough hate to try and burn her out of her home.
Rona survived. Determined to see the original eight and their descendants suffer she bound herself and her line to the island. But in casting her curse Rona inextricably tied daughters down the Blackburn line not just to the island but to the original eight families as well.
In the present all Nor wants to do is keep her head down, her unexceptional powers under control, and her love life nonexistent and untethered to any of the original eight families.
But when a strange price guide to the occult appears at her part time job Nor knows that the time for hiding is almost over in The Price Guide to the Occult (2018) by Leslye Walton.
The Price Guide to the Occult is Walton's sophomore novel. Written in close third person this novel, much like its heroine, keeps readers at a remove even as they are drawn deeper into the mysteries and intrigue that surround Anathema Island and its founding families.
Each chapter is named for a spell and features an epigraphy from Rona Blackburn's writings on witchcraft and magic. Circuitous writing and lush descriptions bring Anathema Island and its magic to life especially as things begin to change when the Price Guide surfaces.
Walton deftly builds a world where magic feels both plausible and inevitable with subtle twists on everyday moments that bring Nor's world startling close to our own. Nor is a cautious girl, if not by nature then through painfully learned lessons. Self-harm is a thread throughout The Price Guide to the Occult as Nor struggles with knowing that she can't return to self-harm while wishing for a solution that could seem as simple as cutting herself once did.*
She watches with growing horror as her home, the rest of the island, and beyond fall threat to dangerous magic being performed at a great cost. This story is equal parts sexy and gritty as Nor experiences the elation of young love with an unlikely boy while searching for the source of the Price Guide and its magic that is slowly ruining the island and everything Nor loves. The novel, and the island itself, features a deliberately inclusive cast notably including Nor's grandmother and her longterm partner Apothia Wu.
The Price Guide to the Occult is an unexpected and fascinating story that only begins to reveal the secrets surrounding Anathema Island and its founding families. Ideal for readers looking for a twisting fantasy whose memory will linger long after the book is closed. Recommended.
*Resources for readers who have struggled with self-harm themselves can be found in a note at the end of the novel. Possible Pairings: Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moïra Fowley-Doyle, Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman, Salt and Storm by Kendall Kulper, Sender Unknown by Sallie Lowenstein, Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore, Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood, The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
The book takes place in a magical version of our world. Nor Blackburn is the descendant of a powerful witch who cursed the inhabitants of the island where she lived when they tried to murder her. However, the curse also affected the witch’s family; in each generation since, the Blackburn daughter has only one strong magical talent rather than a range of powers. That doesn’t mean that they can’t do other kinds of magic, however, as Nor’s narcissistic and cruel mother Fern demonstrates when she uses the power of human blood sacrifice to achieve national fame. All Nor wants is to live a quiet life on her island home, enjoying her simple magic of understanding the language of plants and animals and trying to avoid other aspects of her ancestor’s curse. However, as a child, Nor was her mother’s first victim, and she watches in horror as Fern’s power begins to taint life on the island. As the darkness grows, Nor has to try to find the strength to stand against Fern, even though her mother has always terrified her.
At the beginning, it seemed like the story was going to be about unusual people living in a quirky little town and about Nor’s fledgling romance with a very nice guy. And that’s how it starts, yes, but then the story goes dark. Fern’s madness is displayed pretty horrifically, and people die rather gruesome deaths. Some of the lighter elements from the beginning remain in play as the narrative darkens, which made for what I thought was an odd juxtaposition at times. Overall, though, the book’s mixture of light and dark moments and beautiful writing really worked for me, and I just couldn’t stop reading.
One thing that might bother some people even more than the darkness of the storyline is the book’s discussion of self-harm. Fern’s early attempt to perform magic using Nor’s blood caused Nor to turn to cutting to relieve her anxiety. By the time the book begins, Nor has been in treatment and has largely learned to cope, but she does experience the temptation to injure herself at some points in the story, which might be triggering for some people.
Nor’s story clearly isn’t over at the end of the novel. Not only are there still elements of her ancestor’s curse that haven’t played out, but now everyone from the president on down knows that magic and witches exist. That’s obviously going to create problems for Nor in the future, and I can’t wait to find out what happens next!
Highly recommended for anyone who loves dark fantasy.
A copy of this book was provided through NetGalley for review; all opinions expressed are my own.
Most recent customer reviews
A PRICE GUIDE TO THE OCCULT immediately drew me in.Read more
DNF at 43%
I personally think this book is way overhyped and too adult for me.Read more
Generations ago, Rona Blackburn landed on Anathema Island and was henceforth shunned by the original eight settlers.Read more