Review: The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton


Price Guide to the Occult // VBC ReviewThe Price Guide to the Occult
Leslye Walton
Published: March 13, 2018 (Candlewick)
Purchase: Book Depository or Amazon
Review source: copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

Reviewed by: Amy

Rating (out of 5): 3.5 stars

Generations ago, Rona Blackburn landed on Anathema Island and was henceforth shunned by the original eight settlers. When Rona finds herself pregnant, the settlers’ aggressively turn on her for being a witch. Being every part the powerful witch they think she is, Rona doesn’t let the settlers’ violent actions go unpunished. Unfortunately in Rona’s rage she also unwittingly curses future generations of Blackburn women: each woman will be doomed to carry out a brief, illicit affair with a descendant of the original eight. From this affair the next generation of Blackburn witches will be born, but this also dilutes their magic until each woman is only gifted with one “Burden.” To cast magic outside of one’s Burden is considered to be black magic.

Nor Blackburn, the ninth Blackburn witch, is happy with her less-than-extraordinary gift of being able to communicate with nature. She’s ok with a non-existent love life, and she’s hoping the curse has just run its course. After suffering years ago at the hands of her power-hungry mother, Nor would almost prefer to just disappear completely. But when a book shows up, written by Nor’s mother no less, offering to cast spells for anyone who can pay the right price, Nor sees the glaring red flag. As the threat of her mother’s reappearance in her life looms large, like it or not, she’ll have to embrace the gifts she was given if she even wants a chance to save those she’s cares about.

A little background: Leslye Walton’s debut book The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is a book that I hold very near and dear to my heart. We’re talking desert island type book. So while I went into Price Guide not exactly wanting Ava Lavender 2.0, I would be lying to say that it had no bearing whatsoever on my expectations. Keeping that in mind:

With Leslye Walton’s writing style I wouldn’t be surprised if Price Guide is truly infused with some kind of magic. The descriptions of the manifestation of the Blackburn’s magics and the images they conjure simply fly off the page with such uniqueness and beauty, yet it never overpowers the narrative. As with her previous work, Walton doesn’t shy away from the grotesque or difficult subject matter as shown by Nor’s struggle with self-harm, but these topics feel like they’re handled with such care in the way they’re conveyed on the page.

Nor has survived a lot in her sixteen, going on seventeen, years of life, and for much of that survival she’s still struggling. We see her contemplate the ease in which she could hurt herself pretty consistently throughout the book, but each time she keeps from going back over that threshold. This speaks to a great strength in character, and shows her strong will. I do wish that Nor had confided more in regards to her power, especially to her grandmother. I also thought it felt a little off center that Nor was surprised that people (namely her best friend) knew about her family being witches. I mean pretty much the whole town is an homage to the mystical and magical. This should be no surprise.

Where the book lost a little for me was the incongruity between this being a story about generations of a family of witches overcoming a curse, and battling a power-hungry bad seed in the family. This book could clearly lead into a series if the author so chooses, which makes me think that’s the reason the latter is the main conflict of the book.

Leslye Walton is definitely an author who needs to be on your To Read list no matter what. While Price Guide was a bit unexpected for me, I was drawn into the story, and the writing is spectacular. I look forward to whatever Leslye Walton writes next.

Trigger warning: self-harm
Sexual content: kissing, references to sex

One Response to “Review: The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton”

  1. Beth C. says:

    So glad to hear this, as I recently borrowed a copy of this book to read!

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