A Far Wilder Magic

Wednesday Bks. Mar. 2022. 384p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250623652.
Gr 7 Up–The Halfmoon Hunt has come to Margaret Welty’s village and the redwood forest that surrounds it. Hunters from all over the world come to try to kill the last living hala, a legendary fox whose body parts offer incredible magical properties to alchemists. Wes, an unlicensed alchemist with undiagnosed dyslexia, is in desperate need of a mentor, and Evelyn Welty is the last alchemist left. When Wes ends up at Margaret’s door in search of her ever-absent mother, they realize that the Halfmoon Hunt they want no part of could give them exactly what they desire most. For Margaret, that means rare alchemical supplies that would make her mother return home, and for Wes, it means proof that Evelyn would find him a worthy apprentice. Margaret is best described as a cactus with abandonment issues, while Wes works hard for his cheerful optimism as Saft leans into the sunshine/grumpy romance trope. Her sophomore novel has her signature lush prose and evocative settings, with dynamic characters who pull the plot along in its slow moments. The world of New Albion mirrors political-cultural tensions of history, with Wes’s family being Banvish and experiencing similar discrimination to what Irish people faced in early 20th-century America, while Maggie is Yu’adir, coded Judaism, and there are discussions of prejudice and Yu’adir facing massacres overseas, akin to the pogroms of that period. Readers should be aware of this version of anti-Semitism, as well as animal death and injury.
VERDICT This read-alike to Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races is worth purchasing. While there are heavy topics, this fantasy fills a familiar plot arc with a unique setting, cast, and a lovely romance between two characters who are considered outsiders by society at large.

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