A Wicked Magic is one of those books that I enjoyed whilst I was reading it, but when I was done – I kept thinking about it for other reasons. It crawled under my skin and wiggled in moments I was alone.
First of all, I’ve noticed that there seems to be a new trend of ‘witchy girl gang’ books that’s happened throughout the last year or so – AND I AM LIVING FOR IT! And honestly, despite the title and the blurb on the back, A Wicked Magic is less about magic and more about the complexities of female friendship.
That’s not to say that there isn’t magic – of course there is! But instead of the main focus being on the magic at hand, it’s instead on the girls who wield that magic and their inner thoughts, feelings and flaws.
It’s a really subtle and subversive story and honestly, it was super refreshing. I do LOVE the witchy girl gang sub-genre, but so many of them merely hint at the female friendships, or only give us a surface level exposé on them. In A Wicked Magic we’re shown all the flaws and crappy parts of being human that are usually left out of other stories, for whatever reason.
So our protagonists are ultimately Dan and Liss (although we do have Alexa too, but I’ll come to her soon). Dan and Liss are high-schoolers and best friends who one day find a book that they call the Black Book. This book is apparently magic and doesn’t follow typical book rules – it isn’t linear, it doesn’t show the same things on the same pages and sometimes it won’t show you anything at all. One day it shows Dan and Liss a spell to turn them into witches. Obviously they cast the spell (because duh, wouldn’t you?!) and it’s successful. As they dabble more, shit goes sideways and Johnny, Liss’s love interest, gets abducted by someone, or something, more sinister than they could have imagined.
Fast forward to senior year (whatever age that is – we don’t use that terminology in the UK) and Dan and Liss aren’t friends anymore and the focus is on how they navigate the negative repercussions from their friendship ending. Naturally, there is business left unfinished and magical threads are still being pulled on. The two girls are brought back together to see if they can fix their own mistakes, both magical and human. But of course, there’s something far more dangerous out there.
Sasha Laurens clearly has a great gift when it comes to building characters and their relationships. All of the characters have their own journeys, issues and revelations within the plot as well as intertwining with the other characters. Each of the three girls (Dan, Liss and Alexa) feel like fully realised characters and each is different to the other, with their own darkness and light.
I have to praise Laurens as she gives us some very messy characters that feel 100% real.
I feel like that sort of treatment of human characters is something that is often missing from YA stories, especially those dealing with female friendships. It’s not as simple as ‘this girl was my best friend, she kissed my boyfriend and now I think she’s a bitch, but it’ll work out in the end’. Real life doesn’t work like that, and reading that sort of A-B storyline over and over gets old quickly. So A Wicked Magic was a great break!
As I mentioned earlier, this book feels less like a story about magic, but more about the people wielding it – it’s a human based story in a realistic setting with some fantasy elements accenting it. My big case for this is the difference in storylines between Dan and Liss (as a unit) and Alexa.
Dan and Liss do cross paths with Alexa, (Alexa becomes Dan’s new best friend after Jonny’s disappearance and Dan and Liss part ways) and their stories do link together to be more than a friendship link – eventually. But where Dan and Liss have a storyline that is more focused on the human and friendship side of things, Alexa’s storyline gives readers the magic vibe.
Alexa is dealing with being made into a Warden witch (a different kind of witch to the Naïve witches that Dan and Liss became) as well as a deadly cult and a coven, as well as actually having a familiar. So the actual ‘witchy’ side of this book – although touched upon with Dan and Liss for sure – lies pretty much with Alexa.
We do get chapters from Alexa’s point of view, pretty much as often as Dan and Liss, but as I feel like the main point of the book is the friendships, not the magic ultimately, I consider Alexa a side character – a very strong one, but a side one nonetheless.
Other things I really enjoyed about A Wicked Magic were the portrayals of both healthy and unhealthy ways to deal with grief, depression, low self-esteem and general negative situations. Although many weren’t developed to any great depths (such as the self-harming and parental neglect) there was enough of it present to help justify some of the characters actions, behaviours and thoughts.
Although the blurb will have you thinking this is a perfect Halloween read (and it would be!) I’d feel like I’d be misleading you if I didn’t mention that the book also deals heavily with the mental health of each girl and how they cope with what their teenage life throws at them.
I loved how magic has a cost in this book, and that it just wasn’t the answer to everything – in fact sometimes it’s exactly the wrong thing.
I also really liked that cover – I mean, how can you not?
But – as many of you who’ve been with me for a while know – I don’t believe in perfect books, and whilst I did give A Wicked Magic 5 stars, it’s not perfect.
My biggest gripe with A Wicked Magic was the main antagonist. The big bad. The boss battle. It was all a bit…lame. Which is shit cos the rest of the book was so excellent. But honestly, the main bad guy/demon thing wasn’t that threatening, and I know he was supposed to be. Honestly, this might be because the magical elements weren’t the spotlight in this book, or it could be because the author rushed it, but there was no build up, no tension and no pay off because of it.
It was just…over too quickly.
Another issue was the pacing at times – especially in the beginning. I know that the author very clearly wants us to jump in with both feet here and wants to get to the good stuff, but the beginning is a bit breakneck and, because we don’t know the characters yet, they can come across as a little annoying. The constant flashbacks could be a problem for a lot of people too – depends on what kind of reader you are.
But ultimately the pros WAY outweigh the cons and I’d highly recommend A Wicked Magic for readers who want a complex deep-dive into friendships and the teenage human condition, as well as those who want a bit of a witchy vibe!
I think this is being treated as a standalone, and part of me hopes that this is true because the ending is tied off so neatly, but I’m looking forward to seeing what the author does next!
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