The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic: A Novel. Emily Croy Barker. Viking: Penguin Group (USA). July 2014. 576 pp. ISBN#: 9780143125679.
Nora Fischer has just been dropped by her boyfriend and her Supervisor has informed her that her slowness with her dissertation writing is proving to be a problem that might mean she’ll be out of the program. All in all, she’s in a bad place, unable to be inspired to do the requisite research and writing and in a surrealistic way unable to accept that her former lover has dumped her. So she decides she needs a break and sets off to a friend’s wedding. One day she decides to take a walk, one that will change her life forever!
For Nora has literally walked into another world, time and place! Ilyssa becomes Nora’s mentor, guiding her with gifts of dress, makeup, and introductions to the “partying” crowd who share love and fun indiscriminately. In time Nora can hardly believe she was the troubled woman of before as now she sees herself in an entirely new way – beautiful, smart, and loving life! Ilyssa’s son Raclin is an artful, teasing and seductive lover with whom Nora becomes obsessed! It all seems too good to be true and so it is – after their wedding, Nora begins to realize that something is dreadfully wrong. Raclin has no time for her and disappears for days, eventually telling her that now she is pregnant, he will have very little time for her. Now Nora begins to realize something is dreadfully wrong and that these people are far from human and are her sinister imprisoners. One ray of hope appears in the magician Aruendiel who will rescue Nora, albeit reluctantly!
Nora longs to return to her own life but must learn the magic she abhors in order to go home. This portion tends to slow down and drag a bit but she will learn what she needs to, to a certain degree. The relationship between Aruendiel and Nora seems to be of growing attraction the never really evolves to reality for some unspoken reason. However, the last portion of the story picks up the pace with a few unexpected and stunning turn of events, leading this reviewer to believe there will definitely be a follow-up to his intriguing novel.
There are allusions to Pride and Prejudice, Game of Thrones, Alice in Wonderland and a few other vaguely veiled connections. I’m not sure these work so well but they perhaps increase the tension-filled plot. The origins and purpose of the enemy are slowly and even lately provided, which is interesting to a point but then inches into frustration. Standard formulaic fare or a new addition to the Harkness, Potter, Martin-style fiction – you the reader must decide!
Interesting, Ms. Baker!