Review Blog

Jun 11 2018

The Price Guide To The Occult by Leslye Walton

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Candlewick Press, 2018. ISBN 9780763791103
(Age: 15+) Themes: Supernatural, Fantasy, Rivalry, Black Magic, Dark arts, Self harm. Seventeen year old Nor is the eighth generation of Blackburn women on Anathema Island off north west Canada. The first Blackburn woman, Rona, an extraordinary witch, had an affair with one of the original eight settlers, and he and his friends try to burn her out. But she escapes, bringing into the world her daughter, the second in the line of witches. Each generation has weakened powers and Nor, not wanting any part of it, is aware that her Burden when it comes in her pre teens is more powerful than she expected. But she is torn, and this is manifested in her self harm. Scars ravage her arms and chest and all knives are secured in the house where she lives with her grandmother. One day she discovers a book "The Price Guide to the Occult", written by her mother, Fern, delineating how much people can pay for her spells, some spurious but others part of the heritage of the family. Fern abandoned her daughter after using her blood for her own ends resulting in Nor's first scars.
But the self serving woman has returned, and the animals and plants that Nor can understand warn her, the island feels different and Nor knows that the spells her mother sells can only mean one thing, that the price is not money but blood and death. Fern is now a Black Witch accessing the darker side, negligent of the results. Nor must stop her.
Back home after a run, she feels apprehensive and finds her mother in the kitchen. A power struggle ensues, Fern testing just how much power her daughter now has, Nor trying vainly to curb the damage the woman is doing to others in the house.
A cat and mouse game to the death ensues, with enough supernatural touches to keep an intrepid reader hooked to the end. It is dark and bloody, and some readers may find it hard to read, especially those parts where Nor talks about her self harm.
The author includes an afterword about self harm, offering help from organisations which readers can contact.
This is a book for the older reader.
Fran Knight

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