A Dark YA Fantasy with Romance, Alchemy, and Overcoming Prejudices
“Any alchemist worth their salt considers themselves a scientist, but there’s something inexplicable about alchemy, too. Something magical. At the core of each of us, one of his first teachers said, there is a spark of divine fire.”
Including this lush cover, A Far Wilder Magic by Allison Saft had me intrigued as soon as I read the blurb. All of my favorite elements of storytelling have been included: fantasy, YA, romance, historical as it’s set in the era of the 1920’s, and it’s even categorized as a “Dark Fantasy”—basically I could not beg for this book hard enough.
I wanted to be immediately pulled into the story itself, but there is so much world building and character backgrounds that needed to be laid out first. All that was told needed to be there, but it did make the beginning overly heavy. Fortunately, it was broken up by the interactions between Margaret and Weston. Like oil and water, or fire and ice, these two characters share similar aspirations—wanting to be better or do better for their families, but unfortunately have fallen short time and time again. Their personalities clash. Margaret is stalwart and steady. She’s stoic, and a bit surly according to the town, and has a routine that she adheres to in her mother’s absence. Weston is a dreamer. There’s always hope on the horizon and even in his failures he perseveres. Where Weston is clumsy and clunky, Margaret is keen and cunning.
“Girls like her don’t get to dream. Girls like her get to survive. Most days, that’s enough. Today, she doesn’t think so.”
While they have different personalities, both characters are outsiders in their own way. Weston is the son of immigrants, which are looked down upon by many of the residents in the area. As an aspiring alchemist, he arrives on Margaret Welty’s doorstep seeking an apprenticeship with her renowned mother, Evelyn Welty. While her mother travels seeking a way to further her own alchemy-based aspirations, Margaret is left in a pinch, but hope shows up in the form of the mystical hala—a demiurge in the form of a fox said to be the last bit of naturally occurring alchemical magic gifted by the gods. With its presence made known, the Halfmoon Hunt begins and teams of hunters and alchemists join together to be the team to take down the magical fox.
It is during the qualification of the teams and then preparing for the Hunt itself where Weston and Margaret begin to put their own prejudices aside and realize that they are truly more similar than they realize. Both Margaret and Weston realize that they are harboring some unresolved hurt and trauma from the hardships that they had experienced in their earlier childhoods. While Margaret is reluctant to share that she has heritage of the Yu’adir, Weston uses his charm in order to offset the reaction many people have when they learn he is of Banvish descent. Both Margaret and Weston make some questionable decisions on their path to trusting each other, but all those things can be chalked up to youthful naïveté as well as relying on skills that have helped them in the past, and not necessarily using their heads or hearts.
“For so long, she has survived. Now, she wants to live.”
A Far Wilder Magic brings religious prejudices as well as anti-immigrant sentiments to the forefront of Weston and Margaret’s story in a truly meaningful way. While both are at an age to start questioning their places in the world, it makes the acknowledgement of casting aside questionable familial traditions, and even generational traumas in the wake of more modern and progressive ways a form of rebirth. Allison Saft wrote Margaret and Weston’s character storylines beautifully, and the ending was truly so satisfying.
I highly recommend reading A Far Wilder Magic. There is something truly special here in this story, and I can guarantee by the end you will have learned something about yourself while you root for Margaret and Weston during the Halfmoon Hunt. A Far Wilder Magic is available now, so don’t wait to get your very own copy!