Emily Bain Murphy
YA Magical Realism
UK Publisher: Pushkin Children’s Books
Every seven years something disappears in the town of Sterling: people’s reflections, the stars in the sky, the ability to dream. Aila realises that her mother may be to blame for the curse. But some mysteries are buried very deep, and some secrets want to stay hidden - and one young woman’s desire to uncover the truth may not be enough to save Sterling from the past.
A beautifully told story of love, loss, and finding the truth - no matter how difficult that may be.
I have read a lot of magical realism lately, and this one has been by far one of my favourites. With elements of magic, grief, romance, and a fantastically twisted plot, this story had it all.
When Aila and her brother move to small village of Sterling, they begin to notice that things aren't quite normal. Scents have disappeared. Reflections aren't there. The stars no longer shine... and the people of Sterling are certain Aila's mother is the cause...
This is a slow burn story. Time is taken to build the world and the characters, so that when the magic is revealed, it blends seamlessly into reality. I often found myself waiting for something to happen, only to realise that something HAD happened several pages ago, I just hadn't picked up on it’s relevance straight away. That probably sounds strange, but if you read the book I’m sure you would understand.
However I also feel this is a story where you really need to pay attention to the details. There is a lot to absorb so I took my time with it, only reading a couple of chapters each night over a few weeks - crazy considering I read most books within two days, but some stories you really need time to digest. This is one of them.
I also really enjoyed the writing in this book. There were some really poignant descriptions and I liked the main characters quirk of having a “finishing word” for every conversation, which summed up both her feeling and attitude toward things.
However what I loved most about the characters was their ordinariness. Despite suffering under a magical curse, day to day, the tried to continue on with normal lives. Dating, schoolwork, family dinners… while I thought this was sweet, it does keep the pacing fairly slow. That doesn't mean its boring in anyway, but for those of you who like an up and down beat, be aware that the pace of this book stays pretty steady throughout.
In regards to the characters, most of the story is told from Aila's Pov. However there are interludes of another character, whose true motives and identity aren't revealed until very near the end of the story. Huge congrats to the author for keeping the reader guessing so long, it was certainly unpredictable.
This of course meant that the plot had several seemingly unrelated threads, however by the last page, everything does come together nicely, with only a few things left a little open.
Overall, this is a great read for fans of Shakespeare, Magical realism and although witches aren’t ever mentioned, I feel if you like a good story steeped deep in a curse, then this is a book for you. It reminded me a lot of Moira Fowley-Doyle's, Spellbook of the Lost and Found, so if you were a fan of that, then be sure to pick this one up too.
Chat with me
What are your thoughts on magical realism? Anything books you would recommend?