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Spells for Forgetting


Spells for Forgetting

Adrienne Young, whose young adult books include the bestsellers THE LAST LEGACY and NAMESAKE, has written her first novel for adults. SPELLS FOR FORGETTING is a lush, atmospheric work of magic and mystery.

Deep magic runs through the island of Saoirse, off the coast of Washington State. A tourist trap that welcomes scores of couples and families each year to pick apples from their orchards, dine at their homey pub and have their fortunes read at the local tea shop, Saoirse exists unto itself during the off-season, with little influence or connectivity from the mainland. The women of the island have used this magic for centuries to keep their families safe, their island nourished and their bloodlines running. But even the strongest magic often requires the push and pull of the all-too-human acts of alliances, manipulations and betrayals. For years, they have survived mainly under the radar, with the outside world guessing at --- but never quite appreciating --- the depths of the magic that keeps Saoirse alive. Until the murder of Lily Morgan 14 years earlier.

"[I]n her adult debut, [Young] turns down the magic and turns up the drama, focusing on crafting searing human relationships, bonds that both adapt to and withstand every plot twist, and characters who grow and change with believable, relatable pacing."

Lily and her best friend, Emery Blackwood, were two of the shining stars of that year’s graduating class, along with their male counterparts, August Salt and Dutch Boden. Captivating Emery was the heiress to the island’s most thorough book of spells; Lily was the descendant of the original planter and owner of the island’s orchard; August was the predicted heir to the orchard, despite the island’s abhorrence of his family; and Dutch, the son of a feckless layabout, was determined to break his family’s curse and attend college.

But that night a fire broke out in the orchard, putting the entire island’s livelihood and future at risk. As the flames dwindled, Lily’s body was discovered with seaweed in her belly and water trailing her lips, the victim of drowning on dry land. August was the primary suspect. Although there was not enough evidence to charge him, the court of public opinion made their decision about August long before the case was brought to him, and the island was forever splintered by tragedy, distrust and fear.

For years Emery has carried the weight of losing her best friend and her boyfriend in one night, as August and his mother were forced to leave the island after Lily’s corpse was found. The losses have affected not just Emery’s happiness, but also her faith in the people around her and her ties to both her magic and the island. Although she has taken over her mother’s tea shop and entered a heated on-again, off-again relationship with Dutch, she has never forgotten August or their love forged under the magic of a blood moon. And now, impossibly, unbelievably, August has come back to bury his mother on the land she loved most. But whether his return will mean closure or a reckoning depends on the countless secrets hiding in Saoirse’s wind-racked coasts and lush forests…and in the hearts and minds of its citizens.

As August prepares to say goodbye to his mother, the orchard and Emery for good, cracks begin to appear in the careful, community-based facade of Saoirse and its residents. While it becomes clear that no one can be fully trusted in a situation where ownerships --- of people, legacies and land --- are so hotly contested and alliances are formed under the cover of darkness, it also becomes apparent that no one truly knows what happened to Lily on the night she died. No one in Saoirse is who they seem to be, and with magic crackling under the surface of every interaction, its isolated, proud community turns dangerous and dark. As Emery’s grandmother reminds her, magic can do many things, but once the betrayals of the island have been revealed, there are no spells for forgetting.

Adrienne Young is no stranger to creating magical worlds and systems. However, in her adult debut, she turns down the magic and turns up the drama, focusing on crafting searing human relationships, bonds that both adapt to and withstand every plot twist, and characters who grow and change with believable, relatable pacing. The love story between Emery and August is reminiscent of her young adult books. Clearly she knows romance, but the added edge of adulthood and time make this relationship utterly swoon-worthy and deeply heartrending.

Still, it seems odd that the magical inhabitants of Saoirse would not raise an eyebrow at the drowning death of a girl on dry land. The final reveal about Lily’s death feels like it comes a bit too late and is not quite shocking enough to the characters who discover it. That said, there is more than enough magic here to keep you riveted. Any awkward pacing or convoluted plotlines are quickly forgiven thanks to the beauty of the prose, character creation and world-building.

I cannot decide if I want more witchy adult fiction or fantastical young adult fiction from Adrienne Young next. Whatever she chooses to do, she can consider it preordered from this reviewer.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on October 14, 2022

Spells for Forgetting
by Adrienne Young