Review copy provided by the publisher.
Review of A Far Wilder Magic
When an email popped into my inbox one day and I saw the words “rich and tender YA fantasy romance”, I was sold immediately. Then I went on to look at the plot and discovered a new title that I just had to read, A Far Wilder Magic by Allison Saft.
Publisher: Orion Children’s
Genre: YA fantasy
Length: 320 pages
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher
Spice Rating: 🌶
In the dark, gothic town of Wickdon, Maggie Welty lives in an old creaking manor. Maggie’s mother is an alchemist who has recently left town, leaving Maggie with just her bloodhound for company. But when Maggie spots a legendary ancient fox-creature on her porch, her fate is changed forever. Whoever tracks down and kills the hala in the Halfmoon Hunt will earn fame and riches – and if Maggie wins the hunt, she knows her mother will want to celebrate her. This is her chance to bring her home.
But the rules state that only teams of two can join the hunt, and while Maggie is known as the best sharpshooter in town, she needs an alchemist.
Enter Wes Winters. He isn’t an alchemist … yet. Fired from every apprenticeship he’s landed, this is his last chance.
Maggie and Wes make an unlikely team – a charismatic but troubled boy, and a girl who has endured life on the outskirts of a town that never welcomed her. But as the hunt takes over, the pair are drawn together as they uncover a darker magic that may put everything they hold dear in peril…
Content warnings: animal death, abuse, violence, hate crimes, antisemitism, death, parental neglect, xenophobia
My review of A Far Wilder Magic
The thing that initially drew me into this story from page one, aside from the promise of a top tier fantasy romance of course, was the writing. Allison Saft effortlessly wove together an atmospheric and enthralling tale. It was all too easy to imagine a dark and gothic Wickdon, the dense woodlands surrounding an ageing manor, and our two main characters, brought together over their need to win the Halfmoon Hunt.
The grumpy vs. sunshine character trope is one of my all time favourites, and I was living for that in A Far Wilder Magic. From the moment they met, Maggie was clearly exasperated with Wes, finding him more a hindrance than a help. But, he soon found a place at Welty Manor and the pair begrudgingly found comfort in one another.
“When she looks like this, flushed and hazy and haloed by the moon, he truly can believe God exists, and her name is Margaret Welty”
Over time, Wes and Maggie became more drawn to each another and I loved seeing their relationship develop. From Maggie helping Wes to read, to him teasing her about the smutty books she reads, their friendship blossomed into the sweetest slow burn romance, and it felt perfect to me. Also bonus points for the “he falls first and is infatuated” trope too!
Though Maggie and Wes were both isolated and lonely, each of them dealt with their feelings differently. For Maggie, keeping her distance and maintaining the manor for when her mother returns is how she best survives. And Wes, with a smile for everyone and not shy of engaging in a (not so subtle) flirt, his easygoing manner hid how heavy his responsibilities lay on his shoulders.
Wes is part of a large family who are heavily involved in other’s lives. Ever since his father died he had to take care of his mother and sisters, though he definitely did crave some time apart from them. Maggie, having been abandoned by her mother, had been isolated and alone for quite some time, arguably feeling that way even before her mother left. She was quickly swept up by the Winters family and I loved that she felt included from the very first time they meet.
Admittedly, I’ve never been great with science, and with Wes being an alchemist and the hunt relying on this quite heavily, it was a major theme of the novel. But, though I can’t say I understood every instance, it definitely didn’t draw me out of the story. In fact, I probably would have liked to read more of it, along with learning more about the hala and the lore surrounding the hunt.
“Whatever you want, I swear I’ll make it happen. I swear I’ll make you happy”
It’s also important to note that another major theme of the book is prejudice and xenophobia, towards Maggie and Wes for their beliefs and birthplace. Both characters feel shunned by the townsfolk, with slurs and physical violence used against them. While I can’t speak for any accuracy, it does read that Margaret is a Jewish-coded character and Wes being Irish Catholic-coded.
While the plot was interesting, this, for me personally, felt like much more a character exploration. The hunt itself for the hala only really occurred around the 90% mark, so while I would liked to have read more about it, I did enjoy following the characters along their journeys.
A Far Wilder Magic is an enchanting read about finding yourself and where, and with who, you belong. Packed with vivid descriptions, a tangible atmosphere, tenderness and longing, I’m still thinking about this book long after I closed the last page.