A beautiful setting, wonderful prose, and a magical world with a lot of darkness surrounding it. It’s The Great Gatsby meets Practical Magic with some great witchy vibes, some dark atmosphere, and a little bit of romance. Thanks Orbit Books for the gifted read!
Trigger Warning: murder, blood, gun violence, sexual assault, domestic violence, and drug abuse
On Crow Island, people whisper, real magic lurks just below the surface.
Neither real magic nor faux magic interests Annie Mason. Not after it stole her future. She’s only on the island to settle her late father’s estate and, hopefully, reconnect with her long-absent best friend, Beatrice, who fled their dreary lives for a more glamorous one.
Yet Crow Island is brimming with temptation, and the biggest one may be her enigmatic new neighbor.
Mysterious and alluring, Emmeline Delacroix is a figure shadowed by rumors of witchcraft. And when Annie witnesses a confrontation between Bea and Emmeline at one of the island’s extravagant parties, she is drawn into a glittering, haunted world. A world where the boundaries of wickedness are tested, and the cost of illicit magic might be death.
How can a book be both hopeful and dark? In many ways, this book was definitely one of the darker stories I’ve read. There’s a large number of trigger warnings plus the magic in it gets pretty dark with the usage of blood, zombies, and power grabs, but this book is also about finding yourself, finding your people, and finding the strength to let go.
This book was surprisingly dark and for some reason I went into it thinking that magic was going to be some cute stuff. You know, growing some plants and making people feel happy. But making the magic users in this book deal with complex feelings like the sway of power, the usage of blood to make their magic stronger, making blood pacts really brought a much different feel to the story. There were also body possession, premonitions/visions, and so much more happening in this book! When I think about it now, I’m surprised I was able to read this so quickly.
But I think a lot of that can be contributed to the writing. The story is easy reading and straightforward written with a beautiful language style that really brings a level of magical feelings to the story. I loved the way some things were described bringing a romantic feeling to each phrase. I found myself underlying the beautiful quotes throughout the book and it lends itself well to the way these characters feel.
The book focuses more on the characters than the plot, but the plot was something interesting to behold. I loved getting to know these characters. Annie is my favorite and her precociousness, her innocence, and her strength were greatly admired while I read. The book is written in dual perspectives, but I couldn’t wait to read Annie’s parts. I also loved watching Annie come to terms with her sexuality and by the end, owning it like it made sense the entire time. I loved that!
Emmeline was also such an interesting character. While she comes off as this super strong leader of the group, there’s also a lot of vulnerability to her as well. The author talks about how much anger and hatred Emmeline has from her experiences, but I felt like she was also soft and needed someone like Annie to really bring out her true self.
And both of these characters together, their romance, their attraction was so palatable throughout the story. I wouldn’t say that there were strong romantic elements to the story, but the way they see each other, the way they felt was so prevalent and really engaging.
While the story is supposed to be loosely based on The Great Gatsby, I think that this was more loosely based on Practical Magic. I loved that it takes the same approach with that movie; where there’s this plot happening with Bea and her husband Arthur, but there’s an even bigger plot about magic, Annie and Emmeline’s pasts, and how all that plays out throughout the story.
The only thing I wasn’t fully on board with is the world building. It felt like the author combined a bunch of different witchy pop references (Practical Magic, The Craft, etc) and turned that into the world that these witches lived in. And there wasn’t enough explanation for me. I felt like I was just along for the ride when it came to the witchy world and I wanted to understand it better and really immerse myself in this world, but most of the time I just felt lost. Magic just happened inexplicably and understandings of this magic were arrived with very little context on how, which took a bit of the luster out of my reading experience.
But if you’re a fan of romantic writing, found families with a witchy tinge, and a dramatic crew of characters that you can easily fall in love with, then this is the book for you.