The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I am a fan of big fat fantasy books. I read The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance in almost one sitting each. Unfortunately, I struggled through The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic. I found myself wondering 'when will this end'?
I actually liked the way it started off. It was funny. Engaging. I was all oh, poor Nora!. She manages to fight her way out of a bad situation with the Faitorens, through a bunch of enchantments she knows nothing about. She ends up in Aruendiel's castle, struggles through her preconceived notions of what life is and whether magic exists... and somehow loses her brain in the process. Her use of magic is mainly instinctive (and limited), she has her moments of standing up to Aruendiel's old-fashioned, chauvinistic behaviour, she makes progress in a lot of little things... but over all, it feels like the story is meandering and pottering about, making digression after digression.
There are frequent references to Pride and Prejudice (which I read years ago) which isn't all bad, but it gives you the feeling that maybe Barker is trying to emulate it too much. After all, Aruendiel is a well-known magician with land and title (though not much in the way of actual money and definitely no looks) and a mysterious past. He's also proud, rude and sarcastic. Definitely a Darcy figure. Nora Fischer is definitely an Elizabeth Bennet prototype - smart, witty and extremely distrusting of Darcy... I mean, Aruendiel.
The problem really is that the reason I read modern books and not classics these days is to avoid the (often) meaningless meandering that detracts from the meat of the story, slowing it down to plodding pace.
I complained in my review of Legacy about excessive romance, and whilst this isn't excessive - and pretty much fits in with my obsolete romantic idea of star-crossed lovers - it did get to be a little too dragged out. Especially when the whole novel ends in a not-quite-ending.
I am not terribly excited about a sequel to this.
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