ARC Review: Spells & Sorcery by S. Usher Evans10:00:00 AM
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
Publication Date: October 4, 2016 by Sun's Golden Ray Publishing
Rating: ★★★1/2 3.5/5 Stars
I received this advance e-copy in exchange for an honest review.
Lexie Carrigan thought the weirdest thing about her was she preferred watching documentaries and reading the newspaper to reality TV and Twitter. But on the eve of her fifteenth birthday, her aunt and sisters drop a bomb--she's magical.
Now the girl who never made waves is blowing up her nightstand and trying to keep from wreaking havoc on her school. When a kind stranger shows up with all the answers, Lexie hopes he'll be able to help her control her newfound powers. But Gavon may not be as kind as he seems, and soon Lexie finds out that being magical is the least weird thing about her.
Spells and Sorcery is the first YA fantasy from S. Usher Evans, author of the Razia series, the Madion War Trilogy and Empath.
I'm sure we all can relate to wishing we had magical powers of some sort as we were growing up. As someone who grew up in the Potter generation, among other fantastical shows, books, and movies at the time, I know I certainly did.
But imagine waking up on your fifteenth birthday with actual magical powers... And reality as you know it shifting and changing in the process. That's what happened to Lexie Carrigan, and what sets the stage for this novel. Being a teenager is hard enough to deal with when you're trying your hardest to be top of your class and shouldering the weight of AP and Honors courses; adding witchcraft to the mix after finding out you're a descendant of the original Salem witches doesn't exactly help either.
What I loved most about Lexie is how much of myself I saw in her. She was such a relatable character that it was easy to get lost in this story as I read, putting myself in her shoes. Her personality felt likable and real, and I found myself rooting for her throughout the story. The other characters were just as well-developed, Lexie's family consisting of her two older sisters and her aunt. Nicole was probably my favorite character as she seemed the most grounded and sincere. Jeanie was the "cool aunt" guardian figure, and Marie was the typical snobbish older popular sister. But despite falling under these archetypes, each character was dimensional and felt logical and real. Even the family matriarch Gram and the mysterious man Gavon kept me guessing about who I could trust. No character fell flat in this book.
The plot was unique compared to other Salem-influenced stories. Where most fall into the cycle of history repeating itself, here we see a clan of witches descended from the original Salem villagers who have kept the tradition of their practice alive through countless generations. I loved seeing the story interspersed with blurbs from old tomes and spell books that Lexie studied to hone her magic. My one issue plot-wise was how nobody seemed to want to help Lexie when she came into her powers. They all seemed to expect her to just get the hang of them immediately; but I suppose this was what ultimately added to the plot in ways I don't want to spoil.
The world-building... Sadly didn't cut it for me. Because this book largely took place in a real-world setting, it felt like that didn't leave much room to explore. I still wanted more description, however. For someone who has never been to Salem I wanted to be transported there and smell the salt off the cliffs, the pine trees in the compound. I wanted to know what type of house Gram lived in. Was it a grand colonial revival? Or maybe a barnwood house? World building is so imperative to really sell a story. Without it I feel like a story only takes place in a stark and sterile four walled space. Without it, this story had so much untapped potential.
The writing was well-crafted and the voice was unique. One thing I love about Sush's books is how each book seems to develop its own unique voice based on the characters within it. They make the story tangible and keep it fresh.
Overall, this was a quick read that had a gradual build to a heart-pounding peak. When I wasn't reading, I was itching to get back to it. The plot was gripping and unique, and what it lacked in descriptors it made up for in heart and character. I can't wait to see what comes next for Lexie and the gang in the books to come!
A little about Sush...
S. Usher Evans is an author, blogger, and witty banter aficionado. Born in Pensacola, Florida, she left the sleepy town behind for the fast-paced world of Washington, D.C.. There, she somehow landed jobs with BBC, Discovery Channel, and National Geographic Television before finally settling into a "real job" as an IT consultant. After a quarter life crisis at age 27, she decided consulting was for the birds and rekindled a childhood passion for writing novels. She sold everything she owned and moved back to Pensacola, where she currently resides with her two dogs, Zoe and Mr. Biscuit.
Stay tuned for an upcoming interview with the woman behind the magic herself!