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A huge thank you to Walker Books for gifting me a copy of this book in exchange for an 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.
So I really wanted to love this book. That cover, that synopsis! It all looked and sounded like something I would thoroughly enjoy. It started out really promising and the author has an incredible knack for creating atmospheric worlds. I honestly felt like I could smell the fog and feel those cobblestone streets beneath my feet. But when it came to the characters, something was really lacking for me. I would also like to point out that there is also a fair amount of self harm either happening or being talked about in this book. If this is a trigger for you, I would recommend steering clear of this one.
The Price Guide To The Occult follows Nor Blackburn, the latest witch in a line of cursed witches, and her fight to keep the ones she loves most, safe from none other than her own mother. Nor’s mother is hell bent on getting exactly what she wants and she doesn’t care who she has to kill, or how much black magic she has to use to get it. Nor finds herself with more power than she should rightfully have which is both terrifying and may be the only way of destroying her mother for good.
As I said, I couldn’t fault the world in which this is set, it is beautifully written. I loved it. It had this fantastic witchy, dark, mysterious vibe that I could definitely get into and enjoy. However, when it came to the characters, this was when it went down hill for me. It was such a shame that the author was able to create such a rich world, but filled it with cardboard, one dimensional, cliched characters. I found that some, if not all the supporting characters felt completely unnecessary and were there purely to guide the main character from one plot point to the next. The romantic sub plot felt just as unnecessary and bland. Some of the characters were so glossed over that it almost felt intentional, like I was supposed to be waiting for a plot twist that may have involved them. It didn’t come though, they were just bland characters with very little backstory.
The plot itself was interesting, if not a little rushed. I found that I didn’t find the antagonist all that foreboding, despite all the horrendous things she does throughout the book! Again, this could be because I lacked a connection to any of the characters and wasn’t really that concerned that they may not survive the whole book. Due to the story feeling rushed, it felt as though there was no real struggle for the main character. As if this was mostly just a way to start the story and bridge it over to what this series will really be about.
Overall I didn’t hate this book, but I didn’t love it either. Parts of it where interesting, original and fun and other parts where unoriginal and felt rushed. The part I most enjoyed was actually the prologue more than the story itself, I wouldn’t mind reading more about the formidable Blackburn matriarch, Rona Blackburn. Despite this, I probably will continue the story and read future sequels.
Once again, a huge thank you to Walker Books for the opportunity to review this book.