The Price Guide to the Occult is delightfully dark. Is it just me or are you also craving some more books with an edge? While it was definitely darker than I expected, there was also some great exploration into the roles of witches and family.
The Blackburn women are cursed. Ever since the extraordinary witch Rona Blackburn landed on Anathema Island centuries ago and was shunned by the eight “original” settlers, Blackburn witches have been doomed to carry out a brief whirlwind affair with a descendant of the Original Eight. The vengeful curse, however, had unintended side effects: it diluted the Blackburns’ supernatural powers.
That’s perfectly all right with seventeen-year-old Nor Blackburn. All she wants is a quiet, unremarkable life—her powers are blissfully unexceptional, her love life pretty much nonexistent. Nor hopes the curse has played itself out through enough generations that she’ll finally be spared the drama. But when a mysterious book comes out promising to cast any spell for the right price, Nor senses a dark storm headed straight for Anathema—and straight for her.
TW: Self Harm
I have some major thoughts about this one – all of them good, but Walton really made me think about the nature of witches here. There’s such a fascination with witches and witchcraft. I’m not talking about magic here, I’m talking about real witchcraft. For me I do draw a distinction. There’s reverence and also incredible fear. Because there’s a real potential for both good and terrible evil – as witches are human. With all power comes the ability to harm and heal. But do we give witches such an added layer of persecution because they are women?
The witches in this book are not only all women, but also cursed to fall in love with one of the male descendants of the original Eight. So we’ve added on to witches, temptress – which was always something witches were accused of before too! And what I really loved is this one quota from Rona that looks at how quickly fear and guilt turn to hatred. And how do we break this cycle? I adored that this book begins with Rona’s story. I know Rona is the beginning of the entire story – but wow, I loved Rona. She is strong and enigmatic.
Another thing I loved about this book was the mother/daughter/family relationship. There aren’t really male children in their family, so this entire thing is about mothers and daughters. And there is diversity within the family as one of them is in a f/f relationship. So it doesn’t mean they are all heterosexual. But there’s such tension and power even in the mother/daughter relationship. While Fern, the mother of Nora, doesn’t have to have any actual spell over Nor, she does because she’s her mother.
So many part of The Price Guide to the Occult are highlighted for me. What I loved is that Walton gives us an intelligently crafted story that makes us think and it’s all written is dark and gorgeous words. There are hidden secrets and it sucks you straight into this almost thriller-esque book. At the same time, this book is about accepting ourselves and our fear. It’s about working with it and not letting it consume us because if we don’t, it will eat us whole and everything we love.
(The title is phenomenal too, because we have this idea that witchcraft will make our lives easier. We sometimes pursue it in desire of a cheap fix, but in reality – all magic comes at a price and often it’s too high).
Make sure to check out The Price Guide to the Occult on Goodreads.