A Far Wilder Magic Book Review
A Far Wilder Magic by Allison Saft drew me in with its beautiful cover and intriguing premise, but I was hooked by the atmosphere and the cute characters. It's been on my TBR for a hot minute, and I'm glad I finally read it.
Genre: YA Historical Fantasy / Romance
Category: Cozy Read
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RATING: 3.5/5 Stars
Plot: 3/5 stars
Characters: 4/5 stars
World: 3/5 stars
Pairings: Spiced honey cake + apple cider
When Margaret Welty spots the legendary hala, the last living mythical creature, she knows the Halfmoon Hunt will soon follow. Whoever is able to kill the hala will earn fame and riches, and unlock an ancient magical secret. If Margaret wins the hunt, it may finally bring her mother home. While Margaret is the best sharpshooter in town, only teams of two can register, and she needs an alchemist.
Weston Winters isn’t an alchemist--yet. Fired from every apprenticeship he's landed, his last chance hinges on Master Welty taking him in. But when Wes arrives at Welty Manor, he finds only Margaret and her bloodhound Trouble. Margaret begrudgingly allows him to stay, but on one condition: he must join the hunt with her.
Although they make an unlikely team, Wes is in awe of the girl who has endured alone on the outskirts of a town that doesn’t want her, in this creaking house of ghosts and sorrow. And even though Wes disrupts every aspect of her life, Margaret is drawn to him. He, too, knows what it's like to be an outsider. As the hunt looms closer and tensions rise, Margaret and Wes uncover dark magic that could be the key to winning the hunt - if they survive that long.
Landing an apprenticeship and killing an elusive mythical beast aren't the only challenges Maggie and Wes face. Prejudice is a hell of an obstacle. Maggie and Wes come from complicated families of mixed heritage and are doing all they can to have a brighter future with their loved ones, in spite of those that would see them fail.
And despite Maggie needing Wes and his alchemy for the hunt, she has reason to not want him practicing. She's seen the horrors alchemy can cause.
People say alchemy is many things.
[…] But Margaret knows the truth. Alchemy is neither progress nor salvation.
The book starts a little slow, and the climax was rushed and needed more suspense. But the rest of the story has good pacing—the characters and world pulled the weight in the meantime.
I was disappointed in the lack of sapphic characters after seeing this book promoted on a video about queer stories. Alas, the closest we get is a side character who wears pants and flirts with other women.
My only other minor complaint is that I got sick of the word "alembics."
Complaints aside, I enjoyed the writing style. The descriptions are beautiful, and I wanted to highlight so many lines in my eBook.
I also appreciate how Maggie's arc shows that getting what you want won't always make you as happy as you think, and Wes's shows that any dream is possible if you have faith in yourself and a good support system.
Maggie and Wes are a precious grumpy-sunshine dynamic couple that reminded me of Percabeth. Their banter is cute, and I adore their descriptions of one another.
In the dim porchlight, she looks like something out of a poem he read in school before he dropped out—or like one of the aos sí from his mother’s stories.
[...] Like this, she looks more wolf than girl—like some magic far wilder than alchemy runs through her.
Weston Winters is as good as having a second, less well-behaved dog.
But what I love most about these two is how they defend each other when they (mostly Margaret) rarely stand up for themselves against prejudiced a-holes, and how they help one another grow and find happiness.
Margaret constantly over-exerts herself to please people who put no effort into her, and traumatic family history has left scars that she battles throughout the story.
Margaret has lived with her fear long enough to know how to cope with reminders of it. She’s learned how to abandon herself, to let numbness slip in and possess her like a ghost.
Wes, on the other hand, struggles with guilt and pressure to take care of his loved ones as he grasps at a dream that keeps slipping from his fingers. He's also crushed by the weight of his emotions as he tries to maintain a cheerful disposition for the sake of his family.
Needless to say, both characters are no stranger to pain, and I was glad to see them get a happy ending.
New Albion is a fictional version of North America, with Wickdon placed in the Pacific Northwest. The redwood forests, nearly-abandoned manor, and fey lore is a combination I am here for.
Welty Manor looks like the kind of place people weren’t meant to live—the kind of place nature clearly wants back.
[…] Ghosts, not people, live here.
But while the name is changed, it very much mirrors our society. Albion has a history of colonization, with elite members of society making up the government and oppressing those “below” them.
The hala isn’t the only monster in these woods. Humans are far worse. The hunt has never been for him and Margaret. It’s never been about protecting this town or about money or safety or glory. It’s not even about God. It’s about the poison at the heart of this country.
One character's story speaks to flaws in the educational system, like how written tests are not always the best way to gauge a person’s knowledge or skill. It also illustrates the harm done to boys/men who are told to “suck it up” because emotion is weakness.
My one complaint in this department is that I wish there had been more magic, though the lack thereof reflects how magic has been all but destroyed.
A Far Wilder Magic is a sweet underdog story packed with emotion. Though the story has its weak points, it's certainly enjoyable and full of powerful messages. If you like opposites-attract romance, grumpy women with guns, haunting and enchanting atmospheres, and protagonists who defy seemingly unsurmountable odds, this story is for you.
Thanks for bearing with me through this long-ish review! If you're read this book, I'd love to know how you felt about it. You can strike up a conversation in the comments below, or on bookstagram or Twitter.