Title: The Price Guide to the Occult
Author: Leslye Walton
Genre/Themes/Content Warning: Young Adult, Contemporary with Paranormal Twist, Witches, Magic, Curses, Self Harm, Self Acceptance
Blurb from Goodreads
From the author of The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender comes a haunting maelstrom of magic and murder in the lush, moody Pacific Northwest.
When Rona Blackburn landed on Anathema Island more than a century ago, her otherworldly skills might have benefited friendlier neighbors. Guilt and fear instead led the island’s original eight settlers to burn “the witch” out of her home. So Rona cursed them.
Fast-forward one hundred–some years: All Nor Blackburn wants is to live an unremarkable teenage life.
She has reason to hope:
First, her supernatural powers, if they can be called that, are unexceptional.
Second, her love life is nonexistent, which means she might escape the other perverse side effect of the matriarch’s backfiring curse, too.
But then a mysterious book comes out, promising to cast any spell for the right price.
Nor senses a storm coming and is pretty sure she’ll be smack in the eye of it.
In her second novel, Leslye Walton spins a dark, mesmerising 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.
Like many others I read Leslye Walton’s stunning debut novel, ‘The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender‘ and fell entirely in love with it. It is one of my all time favourite books having read it on multiple occasions. So needless to say I was very eager to read her next book and I am delighted to say I found the storyline to be highly appealing.
‘The Price of the Occult‘ follows 17 year old Nor Blackburn, the current youngest of all the Blackburn women living on the fictitious Anathema Island. Each Blackburn woman carries on a curse since the days of the first Blackburn settler on the island, the remarkable and misunderstood witch Rona Blackburn. This curse has diluted the strength of the supernatural powers of the Blackburn women leaving them to live quiet lives on the island…
Leslye Walton has this purity to her writing. At times in the read I felt like I was put under a spell with the beauty of her prose.
I loved the main character of Nor.
She was a character who had to fight both inner demons and outer demons.
In this book the subject of self-harm is explored so if this is triggering for you then prepare yourself prior to reading this book. And perhaps the rest of my review. If it is a topic that you are unable to read about then this is not the book for you.
I feel that Leslye Walton delicately explored the inner turmoil of Nor and her constant struggles with her feelings of control or lack there of and as a reader I utterly connected to her as a character. She was so outwardly quiet but underneath that quietness was this well of immense strength and emotion that I found to be quite moving to read about.
There is also the most emotional and touching paragraph in Leslye Walton’s acknowledgements at the end of the book that I feel truly expresses how the self harm issue is handled in the book. She says she would:
“like to sincerely thank all you brave and beautiful souls who trusted me with the stories of your struggles with self harm. Your courage inspired me to write this story. May it remind all of us that our scars, be they on the inside or the outside, are not proof of our frailty, but of our strength. They are not proof that the dark inside of us is something to fear. No, it is the darkness that should be afraid of us.”
Without wishing to give away spoilers, I loved the plot of this book. It kept me thoroughly engaged and gripped right until the climax of the story.
But the ending sadly fell a little flat for me because I felt that what could have been the most powerful scene of the novel happened off page. The storyline just whimpered a little in the last chapter or two.
And then all of a sudden there was an epilogue that put in place a line of events that could possibly result in a second book…
So I’m just feeling a little mixed about the ending. The journey of the book was so powerful that I guess my expectations were sky high and sadly I didn’t get quite what I was looking for.
However, I still feel as if this book has a rewarding sense of completion so don’t be put off thinking that it ends on some sort of cliffhanger because I certainly don’t feel that way about it.
One of the other things about the book that I was a little unsatisfied with were the identities of the supporting characters. I feel that too many of the supporting characters were almost interchangeable with each other and that they did not have strong enough identities for them to be clearly identifiable at all times. There were two characters in particular that I kept mixing up throughout the read.
Yet even with these few flaws I utterly loved this book. I think that is evidenced by the fact that I have had this preordered in hardback for some time and I will not be cancelling that preorder. In fact I can’t wait to get my hands on a physical copy just so I can read it again. Something in my gut tells me that this is a book that will definitely hold up and further reward me with a second read.
So who should read this book?
- People who loved ‘The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender‘ because that same glorious pacing and beautiful prose is present in this.
- People who love books that are subtly haunting and filled with deliciously mysterious events
- People who love strong lead characters that show their strengths in the quietness of their getting through each day
- People who willingly entrust the wellbeing of their heart to an author for when it’s open to this sumptuous prose and atmospheric reading experience your heart will be touched by beauty.