Reading Level: Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Urban Fantasy
Size: 320 pages
Publisher: Tor Books
Release Date: October 27, 2009
Stand Alone or Series: 1st book in the Blue Magic series
Rating: 4/5 stars
This is the first book in the Astrid Lethewood series. I believe the sequel to this book, Blue Magic, ties up this duology. It was a creative and somewhat ambiguous story that can best be described as a urban fantasy apocalyptic eco-thriller. It reminds a bit of Elizabeth Hand in the somewhat vague writing style. It might not be a book for everyone but I enjoyed the creative ideas in here.
Astrid inherits a house from her dead father. We hear from her both in the present and past. As the story slowly unravels we find out that Astrid’s house hides a magic spring but the magic curses most of the people it contacts. She is supposed to guard the world from it. But her housemates interfere and the magic ends up corrupting the world; resulting in giants animals and human mutations.
This was a really cool concept; it was a blend of fantasy, urban fantasy, eco-thriller, and apocalyptic genres. It is a bit confusing when you start to read it because the chapters are told from two perspectives and those are not designated at the beginning of the chapter. The first perspective is from a negotiator that is sent to question Astrid in the present while the world is in the middle of a magical apocalypse. The second perspective is Astrid’s in the past (which she thinks is the present). It is awkward to get used to the switches at first, but the strangeness of the writing style really matched the weirdness of the story.
Astrid is a fascinating heroine. In the scenes from the past she seems relatively normal. She lives with a childhood guy friend (who obviously wishes that he could be more to her), and her girlfriend from college (who was Astrid’s lover until she left Astrid). Astrid also has a mother who is delusional and thinks she’s a man. Yep, there is a lot of gender-bending in this book…but it really matches the mixed up reality that is thematic throughout the book.
Astrid starts to loose touch with reality as she absorbs more and more magic. She doesn’t know where or when she is at some points. She also starts being able to predict the future and gets confused about what has happened and what will happen. As you can imagine this leads to ambiguity in the story, which might bother some readers.
None of these characters are good characters, they are all very human. They all do noble things and they all do evil things. But all of them are just as interesting, screwed up, and strange as Astrid herself. Sahara is Astrid’s best friend and she ends up so corrupt by the magic she calls herself a god and starts to gain her own following.
I loved how the plot unfolded and loved hearing about how the Blue Magic was causing strange things to happen in the world. The Blue Magic basically causes an eco-disaster of sorts. Humans mutate into part-animals, animals mutate into huge monsters, and the world starts to fall apart. This whole story is about how a few bad personal decisions can destroy the whole world.
The writing is a bit confusing as tense and POV changes are really noted, you kind of have to figure them out. It makes the book hard to read at times. This book is so absolutely interesting, creative, and absolutely crazy though that I really thought it was worth the effort to read. The unraveling mystery about how the magic got out to destroy the world was just super engaging for me.
Overall this was a fascinating read. I will say that this won’t be a book everyone will enjoy. It is a bit confusing at points, the story can get very ambiguous because the heroine is confused about when and where she exists. Still I really enjoyed it because it was so very different from anything I’ve ever read and so far out there. This is a seriously crazy book, but I enjoyed it. It reminded me a bit of Elizabeth Hand’s earlier books (Black Light, Waking the Moon) in style. I would recommend to those who are okay with ambiguity and want to read an urban fantasy that is vastly different from anything else out there.