Spells for Forgetting by Adrienne Young

My Five Word TL:DR Review : Murder Mystery with ancestral magic


Well, yesterday I was reviewing a cosy horror story(Cackle) that was about finding oneself and discovering magic along the way. Today I’m reviewing a book that takes place on a small island where the inherited magic is so deeply rooted than no one questions the reality of it, in fact it’s as natural and everyday to the inhabitants as breathing, although some of them are trying to move forward and live without it (the magic,not the breathing).  What Spells for Forgetting has is an abundance of atmosphere and a very easy to imagine setting.

As the story begins we meet August as he returns to Saiorse Island to bury the ashes of his late mother in accordance with her last wishes.  This isn’t a happy return.  August and his mother left the island 14, or perhaps more, years ago under something of a stormcloud.  A young girl called Lily had died on the same night that the Island suffered a terrible fire.  August was the main suspect for a time but lack of substantial evidence prevented any further action.

Emery was Lily’s best friend.  She was also August’s girlfriend and the two shared an intense relationship, plotting to leave the island together as soon as they could.

So, there’s the mystery of Lily’s death and trying to uncover what actually took place on the ill fated night of the fire.  You could be forgiven for imagining that on such a small island it’s impossible to keep a secret but on Saiorse there are plenty of skeletons tucked away in closets.  Resentments, grudges, hidden jealousies, desires and so forth.  Most of the islanders are angry that August has returned believing his presence will stir up bad feelings, in fact it does appear that the island itself is rebelling and although August has no intention of sticking around longer than necessary some people are afraid that his return will stir up things from the past that should remain hidden.  August also needs to see Emery and make his peace with the way things were left.

Now, I do have slightly mixed feelings for this one.  On the one hand I think the writing is superb.  I love the way that we jump back and forth to explore events that took place on the run up to the fateful night of the fire. I think the author does an excellent job of writing the relationship between August and Emery.  On top of that the island is such an unusual place.  Years of history relating to witchcraft bring in flocks of tourists, as does the orchard and it’s need for fruit pickers and, well, a murder on the Island also proves to be a curiosity for some.  The magic is interesting.  Emery’s family still keep hold of the grimoire that has been passed down through the generations and still uses recipes from within to make candles and soap.  There’s plenty of tension and so much history between the inhabitants of Saiorse that it’s easy to see, and believe, how deeply the resentments lie.

In terms of the areas that gave me mixed feelings.  The story felt a little YA to me which could be because for part of the story we flit back to August and Emery’s teenage years. Although, in actual fact, I think their early relationship is really well portrayed even if it was perhaps a little overdone and drawn out in the middle section. That being said their teenage selves were easier to get along with than the more adult versions which were a little juvenile and ill at ease (I mean I do understand that they had unspoken issues but I kind of wished they’d just decided to get on with it and have that discussion.)  Which does lead me to another issue, the lack of communication that seems to exist here simply to prolong the mystery.  It felt too protracted to me. I also really would have liked to have seen more use of magic, even if it had been in a way that was vague and I felt my curiosity about the actual island itself and its history wasn’t really touched upon at all.

I hope that doesn’t come across as overly critical.  I enjoyed reading this.  I like the author’s style and the setting is really good.  The atmosphere and tension are so intense you can positively taste them and the island is like an additional character in itself.

If you fancy cosying up to a dark murder mystery story based on a strange island where tensions run deep then give this a shot.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 3.5 of 5 stars

4 Responses to “Spells for Forgetting by Adrienne Young”

  1. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    A truly intriguing story, indeed, and one I might enjoy reading, even though your comments about some situations being dragged on longer than necessary require some… caution 😉
    Thank you so much for sharing!

  2. Tammy

    I think this is her debut adult book so that’s probably why you got YA vibes. I’ve read one of her YA books and loved it, but I’m leary of books that feel too “young” these days, so I’ll probably pass on this one.

  3. pagesandtea

    Love the sound of the setting for this one, an island with secrets is always a great starting point.

  4. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    I was curious about this one since it’s her adult debut, but hmm, I’m not sensing a great difference from her YA lol!

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