Book Cover
Title The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic
Author Emily Croy Barker
Cover Art ---
Publisher Pamela Dorman Books - 2013
First Printing Pamela Dorman Books - 2013
Book Cover
Title ---
Author Emily Croy Barker
Cover Art ---
Publisher ---
First Printing ---
Category Alternate World
Warnings None
Main Characters Aruendiel, Nora, Hirizjahkinis, Ilissa, Raclin
Main Elements Wizards, Faeries

Click to read the summaryThe Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic

Based on other reviews, it seems like people either really like this book, or really hate it. I'm one of those that really liked it.

How about I start at the beginning, the title. I must admit I didn't like it, and I will agree with others that Nora isn't much of a thinker, the title is completely inappropriate, in fact when I showed it to my family they rolled their eyes. Fortunately the title doesn't reflect the book much.

After wandering along a mountain path Nora finds herself in a strange place, with strange people. I actually found the first part of the book oddly creepy. We all know how fairies glamour humans and twist their minds, but you don't often see the effects from inside that human's head. It must be akin to dementia, you know your mind is going, but there's not a thing you can do about it, till your mind is gone and suddenly all that weird stuff seems perfectly normal. Eventually she is rescued by the magician Arundiel, and the story continues while she remains in his castle, waiting for an opportunity to go home.

Now I warn some readers, the pace is slow. I like this, not being a big fan of huge battles and the like. In fact I loved how much time was spent on teaching not just Nora but us, how magic works in that world. This might bore some people to tears but I enjoyed this.

I also liked how Arundiel is not your usual knight in shining armour. In fact his armour is so rusty and has so many dents it isn't funny. Had he been his younger self I would have told Nora to run fast and far from him, the book would have devolved into a YA "bad boy" romance where the girl falls for the wrong boy for all the wrong reasons (and somehow is portrayed as a good thing). But Arundiel is older now, and some events in his past, have changed his outlook on the world. Unravelling the secrets of this past is part of what I enjoyed in this book.

There are several other great supporting characters, and the contrast of modern Nora against the traditional (and put in their places) women was interesting as well. I don't blame her for refusing to learn their speech patterns to better fit in.

The book would have probably done better without the Pride & Prejudice references. They didn't bother me but I see a lot of reviews that didn't much care for it and it didn't really add anything to the story (except push it to a borderline cliche)

I'm not sure I'd compare it to Lev Grossman's The Magicians (which is more Narnia/Harry Potter for adults), this book reminded me more of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. Perhaps because there isn't a clear goal to the story. This isn't a quest to destroy some evil power, rescue someone, save a kingdom, acquire some object. Nora just gets sort of dumped into this world and she has to make do. Yes, she's thinking about going home, but there's nothing she can do to further that end, so what does one do while one waits?

I'm assuming this is a series, otherwise the ending is extraodinarily unsatisfying. (2014 edit - yes, a sequel does appear to be in the works, yay!)

Posted: June 2013


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