I’ve read a few of Usher’s books, and, honestly, I think YA is where she shines. By far this was one of my favourite narrative voices of any of her works. Lexie read like a very real, very tangible 15-year-old protagonist to me. I knew people like her in high school, the somewhat awkward, anti-social folks who buried themselves in work. You didn’t realize they had a whole shitstorm happening in their personal lives because they kind of just shuffled in, shuffled out, killed it on exams, and then were gone. I understood who Lexi was and what she was all about immediately. Her impatience, her frustration with suddenly not being the best at everything… it made her all very human to me.
I can see where people might get annoyed with this book. Spoiler alert: this is a highly character-driven read. Plot obviously happens. A lot happens, but it doesn’t seem like it in the grand scheme of things because we are so focused on Lexi growing into her magic. If you’re not a fan of character-driven books, where it is more about growth and exploration than explosions and backstabbing, maybe this isn’t for you. I really enjoyed it. Lexie made me laugh and roll my eyes, and I enjoy that in characters.
A quarter of a star was knocked off because of all the secret-keeping from Lexie in the beginning, along with her sisters and aunt being insanely annoyed by Lexie not able to control her powers right away. Guyz. You know she’s a big deal. You know her magic SPOILER has been suppressed since she was born and now it’s just waterfalling out of her. Have a little compassion and understanding, ffs. That was my primary issue with the novel, though it was a small one that didn’t detract from my reading experience.
Overall, Spells and Sorcery almost reads like a prologue. We’re getting introduced to the world, the characters, the magical system, with a hint of action toward the end that I’m sure will ramp up in the next book. The writing was strong and nuanced, particularly with the relationships between the sisters. I admit that I got a little misty-eyed when Lexie was actually upset when Marie said she planned to get the hell out of there ASAP. It was a really well-done moment.
I recommend this for folks who want to get behind a character and cheer her on through her successes, failures, and growth. Looking forward to book #2 (which is available now)!