A Far Wilder Magic by Allison Saft
Published: March 8, 2022
Format: E-book 📱
Tags: YA, Fantasy, Magic, Duel POV, Romance
| Synopsis from the Publisher |
When Margaret Welty spots the legendary hala, the last living mythical creature, she knows the Halfmoon Hunt will soon follow. Whoever is able to kill the hala will earn fame and riches, and unlock an ancient magical secret. If Margaret wins the hunt, it may finally bring her mother home. While Margaret is the best sharpshooter in town, only teams of two can register, and she needs an alchemist.
Weston Winters isn’t an alchemist—yet. Fired from every apprenticeship he’s landed, his last chance hinges on Master Welty taking him in. But when Wes arrives at Welty Manor, he finds only Margaret and her bloodhound, Trouble. Margaret begrudgingly allows him to stay, but on one condition: he must join the hunt with her.
Although they make an unlikely team, Wes is in awe of the girl who has endured alone on the outskirts of a town that doesn’t want her, in this creaking house of ghosts and sorrow. And even though Wes disrupts every aspect of her life, Margaret is drawn to him. He, too, knows what it’s like to be an outsider. As the hunt looms closer and tensions rise, Margaret and Wes uncover dark magic that could be the key to winning the hunt—if they survive that long.
Keywords to describe this book:
I received a complimentary copy of this book from St. Martin’s Press, Wednesday Books, through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
| 📖 Content 📖 |
This was a very different read than what I was expecting, but overall I enjoyed it. It is pretty slow-paced, but there are quite a few things that I think Saft did well.
Some of the main things I enjoyed:
📘 The Slow Burn Romance
Like most YA books I open up, I expect some semblance of a romance. I was not disappointed with this one. Margaret and Weston dance around their feelings for an achingly long time over the course of the book. At first, Weston annoyed me with is playboy tendencies. I eventually came around to him when he really started examining his reasons behind this and started to let himself feel the emotions he was trying to suppress.
Likewise with Margaret, her troubles lie in her fear of rejection, the constant emotional abuse she suffered at the hands of her mother making it very difficult for her to rely on another person. The book does not rush her opening up to her feelings for Weston, rightly so, because of the trauma she has experienced. I like that this slow burn wasn’t just for effect. There was reasoning behind it and I respect Saft for writing it this way.
📘 Hard-Hitting Themes
Speaking of trauma! This book takes a really close look at emotional abuse. Margaret’s mother, after suffering a loss of a child, does not handle her grief well and ends up taking a lot of it out on Margaret. She withholds her love, leaves her alone for weeks at a time to fend for herself, shows no interest or support, and uses Margaret’s devotion against her by keeping her in a constant state of walking on eggshells.
Margaret spends her whole childhood having to be an adult, look after herself, and do her best to take care of the house so that her mother doesn’t throw a fit. She becomes so small, clings to the memory of her mother’s love as a way of coping with her utter lack of love in the present, that she is unable to open up to anyone, trust anyone, or even pursue her own interests. In short, she becomes a shadow of a person.
This book also deals with prejudice and hate/violence towards minorities. Margaret is coded as Jewish, and Weston is coded as an immigrant (most likely Irish). In this fantasy setting, both are seen as “other” and as less than. They have to bear the slurs and the mistreatment/bullying from their peers. Saft does not shy away from this and uses much of the book to deal with how these minority characters should deal with these injustices. I think that it’s an interesting take and it adds another layer to both Margaret and Weston’s characters.
📘 Alchemists, Sharpshooters, One Very Good Dog
Though there isn’t much time spent on the magic system in this book, I did enjoy that Saft uses alchemy as the basis for it. I liked the moments throughout the book that depict Weston performing alchemy. The various elements and steps involved in the process are interesting and different from other magic systems I’ve read recently, so it was a nice change.
I also enjoyed the focus on Margaret’s prowess with a gun. She’s a really good sharpshooter, one of the key reasons for her success in the Hunt, a huge plot element. Though I’m not a fan of guns, I can appreciate when authors depict women being competent using them. I think, too often, guns are portrayed as a male weapon and so it’s nice to see that turned on its head in this book.
| 📝 Literary Value 📝 |
I think the writing is probably where this book dips for me. It reads very slowly, at least for me, so I didn’t feel the urge to come back to it chapter after chapter. Though I didn’t mind this, I was set up by the premise to believe this book was going to be adventurous and exciting. I am not very fond of reading slower-paced books, but I didn’t mind this one so much, since I felt that the writing was strong. I haven’t read anything else by Saft, but I think her writing style is quite literary and I appreciated that she took her time developing the characters and crafting moments to portray characters in certain lights because a lot of authors I’ve been reading lately are much more “tell” instead of “show.”
| 🎭 Entertainment Factor 🎭 |
Was I entertained? Yes, I was. Though the pacing was slow, I did enjoy the character focus and the development of these deeper themes like abuse and prejudice. I found the Hunt to be a bit anticlimactic, when all was said and done, but I think the build up of the relationship between the two main characters made up for that a little bit. I didn’t particularly feel the pull to keep reading, but the story was interesting enough that I did, ultimately, want to see where it would take me, so despite taking my time reading this book, I did want to finish it.
| My Rating |
My New Favorite Thing
This book was not as engrossing as I was hoping it would be based on description. I was not prepared for the majority of the book to be focused on the MC having to overcome years of emotional abuse at the hands of her mother, or the other MC having to face his own commitment issues stemming from losing his father and having to grow up sooner than other children.
I think the depth of the characters is truly the main focus of the story, with both struggling to overcome their own hang-ups and emotional blocks in order to embrace a better life, to choose themselves over the ones they’ve been struggling to hold up. Now, I think this is done well, but I think that most readers entering this book not expecting this will be disappointed. The book is billed as a mysterious, adventurous, magical hunt to take down a god-like creature. This takes up probably only 10% of the actual story.
There are characters coded as Jewish and Irish immigrant, the Christianity/Catholic system is also revamped into something fantasy-esque. It feels very much like a 1920s-30s period, just with fantasy elements, mostly the use of alchemy. I do think there could have been more world-building, especially when it comes to how alchemy is used in day-to-day life. I don’t mind that I could trace real-world elements underneath the fantasy ones, but maybe I’m just not generally ruffled by that kind of thing.
I would recommend the book, though it would have to be to readers who don’t mind a slower pace, character-driven plots, and deeply emotional introspection.
How about you?
Let me know what you think! If you’ve read A Far Wilder Magic, share your thoughts! If not – are you going to read it or pass on it? Tell me all about it in the comments. Keep up the reading!
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