Spells for Forgetting by Adrienne Young

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

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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

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Can’t Wait Wednesday : Spells for Forgetting by Adrienne Young

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“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is: Spells for Forgetting by Adrienne Young.  Here’s the cover and description:

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A rural island community steeped in the mystical superstitions of its founders and haunted by an unsolved murder is upended by the return of the suspected killer in this deeply atmospheric novel.

Emery Blackwood’s life was forever changed on the eve of her high school graduation, when the love of her life, August Salt, was accused of murdering her best friend, Lily. Now, she is doing what her teenage self swore she never would: living a quiet existence among the community that fractured her world in two. She’d once longed to run away with August, eager to escape the misty, remote shores of Saiorse Island and chase new dreams; now, she maintains her late mother’s tea shop and cares for her ailing father. But just as the island, rooted in folklore and tradition, begins to show signs of strange happenings, August returns for the first time in fourteen years and unearths the past that no one wants to remember.

August Salt knows he is not welcome on Saiorse, not after the night that changed everything. As a fire raged on at the Salt family orchard, Lily Morgan was found dead in the dark woods, shaking the bedrock of their tight-knit community and branding August a murderer. When he returns to bury his mother’s ashes, he must confront the people who turned their backs on him and face the one wound from the past that has never healed—Emery. But the town has more than one reason to want August gone, and the emergence of deep betrayals and hidden promises that span generations threatens to reveal the truth behind Lily’s death once and for all.

Evocative and compelling, Spells for Forgetting is a vivid exploration of lost love and the unraveling of a small town and its many secrets.

Expected publication : September 2022