Title – The Price Guide to the Occult
Author – Leslye Walton
Series/Standalone – Standalone
Genre – YA Fantasy
Date of Publication – 6th September 2018 (UK)/
13th March 2018 (US)
Number of Pages – 288
Nor Blackburn wants to live as normal a teenage life as she can on Anathema Island, a community so small that everyone knows everyone’s business. She wants to live with her grandmother Judd, work a part-time job at The Witching Hour shop, and get on without anything remarkable happening. However, she is a descendent of Rona Blackburn, an all-powerful witch who landed on the island more than a century ago and cursed its inhabitants as well as every future Blackburn daughter.
Nor thinks she might have narrowly avoided the consequences of her family’s matriarchal curse until she finds The Price Guide to the Occult, a mysterious book which promises to cast any spell for the right price. Its author – Nor’s mother – seems capable of practising magic far beyond her initial capabilities and when she and the book start attracting followers, Nor is concerned by how far her mother will go and the price she is paying for such magic.
Of course, magic always comes back to haunt those who don’t want it, and Nor is caught in the eye of the storm.
Trigger Warning – self harm!
When I heard that Leslye Walton was coming out with a new book, I was hyped. I loved The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. When I heard that the said new book was based on witches, I was even more excited and it became one of my most anticipated releases for this year. If my reading habits with The Price Guide to the Occult indicate anything – the fact that I couldn’t put it down and stayed up until 2am reading it – it is that I love this book! It is full of everything I like when it comes to witches – main characters who don’t like their witch identity and end up going on a journey of discovery, magic that comes with a price, people rallying together, and the love/fear relationship that comes about when people realise the extent of a witch’s power.
The one thing I will say is that the story does take a while to get going and I was expecting a little more from the writing because I kept comparing it to the whimsical and all-encapsulating style of The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. However, The Price Guide to the Occult is a completely different story and once I pushed Ava Lavender out of my head, it worked and did the story justice.
It is a little slow at first with the world building and setting up the Blackburn curse, but once you get to around the 100-150 page mark, it picks up and doesn’t stop until the end. It bugged me in the beginning because I wanted the same amount of witchy goodness right the way through, but increasing it bit by bit with every chapter kept me intrigued as to how Nor and the magic would develop. It also deals with the witchcraft in a very contemporary society so we have these witch and magic-related pop culture and history references here and there which I think helped to ferment the story and give the impression that witches can and do exist in today’s society.
“Just as one must recognise the time to stand and fight, one must also understand when it is better to hide and wait for the dawning of a new day.”
When I think about it in comparison to other witch-related media I’ve consumed over the years, it plays on the same trope of light overcoming darkness. It might sound corny and cliché, but I’ve always appreciated and loved that because it relates to personal choice and how you yourself have a lasting effect on others. Nor’s mother Fern thinks she’s powerful as the more magic she wields, the more she is revered and adored. She doesn’t care about the harm she’s unleashing on society and Nor. However, Nor recognises that when she uses magic, it is at risk to herself and everyone else in Anathema, and to me, knowing when stop or curb that magic is power. She’s making the choice to say “no, this is harmful and the less I use my magic, the better it is.” Obviously Nor has to use her magic, but its her family, friends and other people who are at the forefront of her mind, not her. That to me is also a sign of a good three-dimensional main character because she is drawing on internal strength as well as physical strength, making her feel very relatable.
“Any decent human being, witch or otherwise, had the capacity to do good in this world. It’s merely a case of whether one chooses to do so.”
I also really liked the cast of side characters, because even if they were a little standoffish at times, they’re all bound together through Rona Blackburn’s curse and they will go to great lengths to protect each other. I particularly loved Savvy – Nor’s best friend – as she brought some wittiness to Anathema and reminded me quite a bit of Zuzana from Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (one of my favourite ever side characters)!
All in all, I loved it. I did expect it to be that touch more amazing but it was still the witch-related story I wanted and needed!
Rating – 4 out of 5 stars.
If you are in the US and have read it, what are your thoughts?
If UK based, is it a book you’d add to your tbr?
Thanks for reading and have a brazzle dazzle day!