A far wilder magic by Allison Saft

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In the gothic town of Wickdon, seventeen-year-old Maggie waits for her mother to return from her alchemic searches. Then she sees the hala, a magical creature with a frightening capacity for destruction. It’s dangerous but if Maggie can present her mother with the hala’s body, the ingredient she is searching for, perhaps Evelyn will love her again.

Wes Winters is desperate for a chance at an alchemy apprenticeship. As a poor immigrant it’s his only hope for a better life. And the prize money for winning the hunt could heal his mother. But when he teams up with Maggie, they are risking not only their lives but also their hearts.

Allison Saft has crafted believable characters that were easy to relate to. Unlike many love stories there was never a time when I asked, ‘why would they do something so stupid?’ Motivations and actions flowed seamlessly together as I followed Wes and Maggie’s emotional journey. The same attention was given to minor characters such as the mayor’s son Jamie and the barmaid Amber. And I loved Wes’s family, who provided a warming picture of connection especially in contrast to Maggie’s mother.

Along with the characters I enjoyed Saft’s handling of the theme of displacement. Wes’s ambition, his desperate charm and Maggie’s aggressive isolation were all believable responses to being from an unwanted race and religion. Even Jamie’s actions as he tried to stop the despised outsider’s winning the hunt were understandable if not forgivable. A Far Wilder Magic would make an excellent book to explore the experience of immigration and prejudice.

The world building was unobtrusive and centred you in the space, but I felt it lacked magic. It reminded me of the world building of a good contemporary or historical novel rather than the fantasy it advertised. But the largest problem I found with the story was style. The third person present tense point of view was clunky and hard to adapt to. This improved as you read further and the story itself was compelling, but the style could prove an obstacle to any but the most confident reader.

In conclusion I found A Far Wilder Magic to have excellent characterisation and a well-handled theme of displacement. It had the world building of a good historical novel and could be used to expand the genre selection of an avid reader but is probably not the best choice for a less confident student.

Themes: Displacement, Prejudice, Family.

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