Strange, But Beautiful | The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton

Friday, March 09, 2018

The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton

Publisher: Candlewick
Publication Date: 3/13/18
Pages: 288
Source: given by publisher (via Netgalley) in exchange for honest review
The Blackburn women are cursed. Ever since the extraordinary witch Rona Blackburn landed on Anathema Island centuries ago and was shunned by the eight "original" settlers, Blackburn witches have been doomed to carry out a brief whirlwind affair with a descendant of the Original Eight. The vengeful curse, however, had unintended side effects: it diluted the Blackburns' supernatural powers. That's perfectly all right with seventeen-year-old Nor Blackburn. All she wants is a quiet, unremarkable life—her powers are blissfully unexceptional, her love life pretty much nonexistent. Nor hopes the curse has played itself out through enough generations that she'll finally be spared the drama. But when a mysterious book comes out promising to cast any spell for the right price, Nor senses a dark storm headed straight for Anathema—and straight for her.

In her second novel, Leslye Walton spins a dark, mesmerizing tale of a girl stumbling along the path toward self-acceptance and first love, even as the Price Guide's malevolent author—Nor's own mother—looms and threatens to strangle any hope for happiness.

Nor comes from a long line of Blackburns, woman who can do unexplainable things. She lives on a small island with her grandmother. When her mother begins selling a price catalogue of magical spells, it is only a matter of time before she returns to the island to torment her family once again. Nor knows these spells her mother is attempting come with a price, a sacrifice. With newfound power, Nor decides to defeat her mother once and for all, to prevent anyone else getting hurt.

  • The prologue is absolutely gorgeous! It opens this unique story in such a mysterious way. The introduction easily takes your breath away. Walton explains the island and some backstory before leading readers into the meat of the story. From the prologue, I came to realize two things. (1) The writing was incredibly gorgeous, almost whimsical. Having never read The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, I was pleasantly surprised to find such an enchanting story. (2) This is no cute, little witch story—no sitcom-happy Sabrina the Teenage Witch vibes. The Price Guide to the Occult is a darker witch story than I’ve ever read before.
  • It was such an unique story, almost bordering on strange. 
  • Despite being such a short book, it does pack a punch. The book dives deep into the backgrounds of the witches’ family, the Blackburns. Though there is a protagonist, Nor, I didn't feel like we got to know her at all. The focus seemed to be much more on the family as a whole than the feelings of Nor Blackburn. Since there is no warming up to Nor, the sense of community—of witches and friends—are profoundly more evident. This could have been the author’s intent. However, I would have loved to gotten more juice on Nor’s romance with Reed. Since we were given so little by way of feelings, instead we guess emotions through dialogue which leaves most of Walton’s characters rather flat.
  • The structure of the book is rather disruptive with a lot of dream sequences interrupting the flow of the novel. Also, the passage of time is used so randomly. Walton mentions the time in passing, making readers easily miss it. One minute, it will be three days passed, and the next, five months passed. This creates, not only, confusion to how long it's been but endless questions of what the characters been doing in that length of time. Passing so much time in an only 288-page novel does nothing to help the lack of depth in any of the characters. 
  • With such superb writing, Walton’s action is high-strung by the end of the novel. Readers will certainly be on the edge of their seats in anticipation of what the ending will bring. Walton built readers up for the war to begin and when it finally did, it was like a dam breaking. The Price Guide to the Occult leaves the ending rather open. There may be a sequel to come.
  • Also, there is a trigger warning for self-harm.
Overall, The Price Guide to the Occult started on such a high note but fell flat with lack of depth and character complexity. The writing was incredibly gorgeous, which makes me want to check out her other novel, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender.

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