Originally posted on Leah’s Books.
Spells for Forgetting
- Author: Adrienne Young
- Genre: Mystery
- Publication Date: September 27, 2022
- Publisher: Delacorte Press
Thank you to NetGalley and Delacorte Press for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
CONTENT WARNING: mention of death of a parent, blood, mention of murder, mention of abuse, violence, mention of alcoholism, mention of domestic violence
From New York Times bestselling author Adrienne Young comes a deeply atmospheric story about ancestral magic, an unsolved murder, and a second chance at true love.
Emery Blackwood’s life changed forever the night her best friend was found dead and the love of her life, August Salt, was accused of murdering her. Years later, she is doing what her teenage self swore she never would: living a quiet existence on the misty, remote shores of Saoirse Island and running the family’s business, Blackwood’s Tea Shoppe Herbal Tonics & Tea Leaf Readings.
But when the island, rooted in folklore and magic, begins to show signs of strange happenings, Emery knows that something is coming. The morning she wakes to find that every single tree on Saoirse has turned color in a single night, August returns for the first time in fourteen years and unearths the past that the town has tried desperately to forget.
August knows he is not welcome on Saiorse, not after the night everything changed. As a fire raged on at the Salt family orchard, Lily Morgan was found dead in the dark woods, shaking the bedrock of their tight-knit community and branding August a murderer. When he returns to bury his mother’s ashes, he must confront the people who turned their backs on him and face the one wound from his past that has never healed—Emery.
The town has more than one reason to want August gone, and the emergence of deep betrayals and hidden promises spanning generations threaten to reveal the truth behind Lily’s mysterious death once and for all.
I haven’t read much of Young’s work, but the few books that I have read have been immensely enjoyable. And this one was no exception. It kind of gives me The Wicked Deep for grown up vibes, in the sense of the strongly atmospheric island setting, And like a lot of the books I’ve been reading lately, I wasn’t quite sure how to categorize it—it’s mostly focused on a mystery, but there’s elements of fantasy, magical realism, paranormal, thriller, and even hints of romance.
The story is told through the POV of various characters on the island. We get to see through the eyes of so many characters, which was intriguing, since it allows us to put things together slowly, and the narrative takes place mainly in the present, although there are flashbacks that help explain the events of the past. It shows us the dynamics between not just Emery and August, but many of the characters in the story, as well as piecing together what happened the night of a huge fire and the mysterious death of Emery’s best friend, which led to her boyfriend suddenly leaving the island.
It’s easy to get lulled into the different pace of the island, where things feel far removed form the mainland. There’s an undercurrent of magic running through Saiorse Island, and the woman all seem attuned to it. And while people in the community all seem to stick together and be supportive, they also seem to be gossipy and petty, turning against those that they view as “outsiders” or “not one of their own.” Plus, there’s a sinister feeling that’s so strong it can be felt throughout the story, so that the island feels as though it’s a sentient character.
It’s easy to empathize with both Emery and August. We get to see who they were as both teenagers and adults. And as adults, they’ve both been facing the consequences of decisions they made fourteen years ago. It hasn’t been easy for either of them, and my heart broke for both of them. It’s so clear that these two are meant to be together, even if it takes them both so long to realize that the way they’re living (read: apart from each other) isn’t sustainable.
On a side note, one of the side characters was born blind, and is portrayed beautifully. She lives independently, and is able to do everything that all of the other characters do, without any assistance, including cooking, gardening, living alone, and practicing magic. I loved her character, and especially loved that she’s written as a strong woman who doesn’t rely on anyone, and everyone just accepts her as she is and doesn’t baby her.
This book sucked me in right away, and the pull only grew stronger the further I read. I realized how incredible it was when I was reading as I waited to be called into the office for an appointment, and was actually disappointed when my name was called mid-chapter. The plot twists were a bit slow to appear, but towards the end they started coming faster, and all of my questions were answered about everything. And I loved how the story ended.