Book Review: The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic – Emily Croy Barker

The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic coverTitle: The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic
Author: Emily Croy Barker
ISBN: 9780670023660
Pages: 576
Release Date: August 1, 2013
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 out of 5


There’s no such thing as magic. Nora Fischer knows this, yet when she wanders off a mountain path into a strange world full of ethereally beautiful people, she doesn’t know how to explain it. Every night is a huge party, and Nora doesn’t want for anything. But something in the back of Nora’s mind tells her that this isn’t normal, that there’s something wrong, that there’s a reason she can’t think clearly or hold onto her thoughts. Then Nora meets a man named Aruendiel, who claims to be a magician, and he tells her she’s under a spell and he can help her escape. But why would Nora ever want to leave the paradise she’s found?

Snapshot Review:

A unique read with delightful characters, The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic is a smart novel that takes the reader into a dark fantasy world full of magic, where there really are monsters hiding around every corner.

Full Review:

The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic is a hard book to review. Why? Well, it clocks in at a robust 550+ pages. This means that there’s a lot going on; the story takes some time to truly unfold. The summary I provided above barely scratches the surface of this lengthy tome, yet to reveal and discuss the book’s innards would mean to deprive readers of the joy of discovering just how complex this book is. So, take this review with a grain of salt: there’s not a lot I can discuss, but it’s certainly a book worth reading.

The centerpiece of The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic is Nora, and she’s a great main character. She’s smart and capable, which makes her circumstances so difficult. The reader knows there’s something wrong and desperately wants her to be stronger than she is. But, the fact is, Nora is outmatched and outgunned—at least when it comes to magic—at every turn. But her wits and instincts are strong and sharp, and readers will enjoy watching her navigate this foreign world, especially when it comes to her unique relationship with Aruendiel.

Barker provides an unrecognizable fantasy world in The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic. It’s completely new and different, which is refreshing. She details it well, fleshing out this strange new place for the reader, and helping them understand it. It’s a lot of fun to watch the world unfold, especially as the story can move slowly at times.

While The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic does have a sequel on the way, it’s a book that can very much stand on its own. Readers will enjoy getting to know Nora and reading about her wondrous experiences. It’s a dark read, to be sure, but one that lovers of the new genre of “fantasy-lite” novels (think A Discovery of Witches and The River of No Return, to name two recent hit novels) will thoroughly enjoy.

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