Wednesday 10 June 2020

#bookreview: Strange Ways | Gray Williams

Strange WaysStrange Ways by Gray Williams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Strange Ways is a story of guilt and grief, and how you deal with them in an unjust world. It's about personal choices and political choices and taking the higher ground... or not... in a dark, gritty London full of illegal magic.

In some ways, Strange Ways can be read metaphorically. Amidst the Coleman family drama is the underlying question of justice for the oppressed; in this case, magic users. Karina Khurana appears in The End of the Line, but I don't remember much about her there. Here, she's much more central to the story--her political fight to legalise magic forms one of the core themes of this thriller.
'The slightest slip from me, just a frown or a clipped comment, and they analysed it. They picked it apart like it was evidence of something. I couldn't be tired or harassed or angry. Every time I let them get to me, I fed them just what they needed to point and say "there, that's her true nature, that's what they're all like."
... I tried so hard. I played by every rule. I talked, never argued. I debated but never shouted...'
In her fight for magic users' rights, Karina ends up having to act as a sort of "model minority" (model politician?), living under the scrutiny of the nation to prove that magic users are not inherently evil; magic can and is being used for good. As fiction, it's easy to skim over. Magic isn't real, after all. But there's always truth to fiction.

In our current living dystopia, the tension is real: when the laws (written or unwritten, constitutional or societal) are unjust and violence erupts (no matter who starts it or how it starts), where do you draw the line between continuing to claim the moral high ground (you must never give them grounds to accuse you) and retaliating to protect yourself (staying alive vs being a martyr)? Where's that turning point that says now it's okay for you to fight back, not just in words but in action? And once violence has started, who stops it? What's the best way to fight for a right? Do you keep playing by the rules? When do you throw the rules away and agitate for new ones?

In the midst of these charged times, these are especially important and pertinent questions. Violence isn't the answer, but sometimes violence can bring you to an answer. How this looks like in real life is what everyone needs to decide for themselves.

Williams explores this in how Amanda, Karina, Michaela and Steph react to the situations they find themselves in. There's no clear-cut right or wrong; like life, such decisions are messy and ambiguous--and often full of compromise. There's a divide between how the older generation react versus how the younger ones do. Yet the clearest chasm comes in Karina's accusation:
'You were willing to kill for what's important to you. Well, I'm willing to die for what's important to me.'
I'm probably overthinking this thriller, but that's what books are for. At any rate, I liked Strange Ways so much better than The End of the Line mostly because it's dealing solely with magic, and not the demonic aspect that was the core of the first book. Or so I tell myself.

Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Canelo via Netgalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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