Review: The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton

Some of them were lovers, some of them fighters; a fair few were both.

I read Leslye Walton’s other book The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender four years ago, and i absolutely loved it. This is why I decided to pick up this book, albeit one year later than it was originally published, and I too loved this story. But I loved it for different reasons than Ava Lavender. Both books are marketed as magical realisms, but the two stories are wildly different. So if you go into this book expecting it to be like Ava Lavender, you’re gonna come out of it being disappointed.

That is not to mean that I did not like the book, I did. I might even have loved it. It had the right amount of character development and world building to make the story worth being invested in, while still remaining mysterious and fantastical to read. That being said I think the world building was my favourite part of the story, the way the witch lore was set up, as well as the quixotic way the island itself was presented.

There was something very grotesque in the way Walton described the magic, it was very raw, and at times frightening. It’s not a horror story, but some of the descriptions, especially towards the end of the story seem almost reminiscent of the ways of a horror story.

The sky above them had become a black hole, an insatiable beast with its mouth open wide in a cry of terrible torment. Fern fell to her knees as her skin cracked and flaked like ancient porcelain. “I am the thing that the darkness fears!” she croaked before her jaw unhinged and fell away.

The characters were another aspect of this story i really liked. Walton has this way of writing characters where you never actually learn that much about them, but you still end up caring about them immensely. It’s a very odd way to write characters, and to me it adds a lot of character to the writing itself.

These more flat characters compliment the magical feeling of the writing and setting very well. Everything appears mysterious as you’re reading it, so it makes sense that the characters themselves are also behind this kind of mystery. It is the kind of mystery where you still end up caring for the characters though. Personally i really like this way of writing characters, especially in this magical realism context, because it suits the writing so much. But it is definitely not something that everyone will like.

Nor often imagined that the veins that ran underneath her skin and the tree roots that ran under her feet were one and the same.

This is a very great book, with it’s strongest parts being the setting and world building, along with the writing. The characters feel flat in a mysterious way, but are overall still relatable. It’s a great choice if you’re looking for your next magical realism read.



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