“What will you let go of? What can you not afford to lose?”
I had heard literally nothing about this book or the author when I requested it from PRH’s First to Read program. All I knew, going into it, was what you can read on the GR synopsis, and that it had an intriguing cover.
When three young Irish girls find a mysterious spellbook and carry out a spell to return lost items, they don’t pay enough attention to the line that warns them items must be sacrificed for those items being brought back. Without a sacrifice, the magic takes things – tangible and abstract alike – of its own accord.
While Olive and her best friend begin to unknowingly lose things, Hazel and her brother and childhood friend find the spellbook, and strange forces collide to bring the five teens together. Slowly, diary pages from the trio begin to appear, leading Olive, Hazel, and their friends on an adventure to find the trio, bring back what has been stolen, and put an end to the nightmare that magic can create.
There are a lot of characters in this book. The characters are divided into 3 “groups”, and as the chapters swap perspectives, each group has a singular narrator. The narrators get a great deal of development, while the side characters get a bit less.
• First, there’s the original trio: Laurel, Ash, and Holly. These three are the most influential characters as they kind of started the story, but we spend the least time with them and they’re certainly the most mysterious. Laurel is a likable, sensible narrator with no frills.
• Second, there’s Olive and her best friend, Rose. Olive is the narrator of this duo, and she’s a very enjoyable character. She’s a bit stubborn and headstrong, with a heart of absolute gold, and she’s incredibly concerned with the well-being of her family (including Rose).
• Third, there’s Hazel, her twin brother Rowan, and their childhood friend, Ivy. Hazel is the narrator of this one, and her chapters were probably my favorite. She’s angsty, pissed off at the world, full of regret and shame, and a shameless flirt. She’s fun, but there’s always an underlying darkness beneath her mask.
Moïra’s writing is beautiful. It’s lyrical and full of metaphors, while still being a quick and enjoyable read. She paints incredible scenery around the characters, and leaves so many little bread crumbs throughout the story. There’s a wonderful twist to the story that I did guess about halfway through, but the way it was executed still gave me chills all over.
I went into this book with no idea it was an LGBTQ+ read, so you can imagine my delight when Olive mentions that she and Rose are “the only bisexual girls in town”. Hazel is also a lesbian, and without any spoilers, there is a lovely f/f romance toward the last third of the book. The representation is done really flawlessly and without tropes.
There’s also diversity and self-awareness thrown in here and there: Rose is half Indian (a brief scene involves racism, and is addressed as problematic immediately). Olive is entirely deaf in one ear (and makes mention to her hearing aid a few times).
In one scene I really loved, there’s an entire conversation between Olive and her sister regarding feminism:
I give my sister a baffled look and am not nearly discreet enough to hide it. It’s one thing to find out she reads poetry; it’s another to discover she identifies as a feminist. Maybe I have more in common with my little sister than I thought.
The book goes on after that scene to discuss feminism a few more times, as well as the terror that is rape culture. None of it ever feels like “checking boxes on the list”; you can easily tell that Moïra writes from her heart.
✘ FINAL VERDICT
From the characters to the plot, this book was so much more than I hoped for, and I loved every moment of it. I found myself addicted to the developing twists, and could barely bring myself to put it down. It has a solid ending that doesn’t feel rushed, and the loose ends are tied by the time you close the back cover. I am so pleased to have been given the chance to read and review Spellbook, and I can’t wait to see what else Moïra has in store for her readers!
Content warnings: rape (mostly implied), consensual sex (f/f and m/f), alcoholism, abusive parents.
ARC provided by Penguin Random House “First to Read” in exchange for an honest review.
Releases Aug 8, 2017
Goodreads | Amazon | BookDepository
If you haven’t pre-ordered yet, please consider doing so via the BookDepository link – you won’t pay any extra, but I’ll get a small affiliate commission!