There's more than one way to be powerful . . .
It is during a routine school project that Abby Silva--sixteen and nearly friendless--makes a startling discovery: She is descended from women who were accused of witchcraft back in 1600s Salem. And when Abby visits nearby Salem, strange, inexplicable events start to unfold. Objects move when she wills them to. Candles burst into sudden flame. And an ancient spellbook somehow winds up in her possession.
Trying to harness her newfound power, Abby concocts a love potion to win over her longtime crush--and exact revenge upon his cruel, bullying girlfriend. But old magic is not to be trifled with. Soon, Abby is thrust headlong into a world of hexes, secrets, and danger. And then there's Rem Anders, the beautiful, mysterious Salem boy who seems to know more about Abby than he first lets on.
A reckoning is coming, and Abby will have to make sense of her history--and her heart--before she can face the powerful truth.
I enjoyed reading this so much. It's exactly the sort of book I would have picked up off the shelf of my middle school library and devoured in a day. This book is well-paced and very much devour-able.
In preparing this review, I discovered Maya Gold is not your standard debut author cutting her teeth on a YA paranormal romance. She's written two handfuls of novels already for the younger YA crowd, and yes I plan to read all of them! Her skill in weaving a story is evident in the pages of SPELLBINDING.
I finished reading this a few hours ago, so I still have that happy little buzz from reading a magical story with a great ending. Here's what I loved about SPELLBINDING:
- It is so refreshing to read a book that ends well and doesn't hint at some massive franchise to come! Spellbinding appears to be a standalone novel. Huge props to the author, Maya Gold, for fitting an entire character arc and romantic arc (love triangle, even) into one book. That's no easy task, and she did it beautifully. (If there are more books to come, I welcome them. It's just nice to read a book without a cliffhanger for once.) :)
- The main character is introverted, something we don't see so often anymore in YA (I recently read an article about this, using Disney princesses as an example.) Yay for personality diversity! (This doesn't mean she is shy necessarily, just that she doesn't crave popularity. Even though Abby is sweet on the popular guy in school, she's not seeking hordes of friends and admirers, and is more content with one or two close friends.)
- Neither guy in the love triangle is a grade-A jerk. They are both (Travis and Remy) sweet guys (though one runs hot and cold for paranormal reasons) with individual personalities and flaws. In the end we feel one is better for our heroine than the other, but nobody is disqualified on the basis of being a horrible human being. I love this because it's truer to real life, and it requires the heroine to make an actual CHOICE, rather than having that choice made for her by one of her romantic leads doing something unforgivable.
- Good old fashioned MAGIC! Ever since I was tiny, I have been head-over-heels in love with magic. All kinds, but there's a soft spot in my heart for the spell-casting kind. The classic trope of girl-discovers-she-has-inherited-magic just hit the spot for me. I noticed many reviewers knocked off a few stars for this, calling it "unoriginal," but for me it was a plus. Note: the story is original; it's the trope that's a classic. Fans of the TV show CHARMED will love it.
- Solid setting and sense of place. The first thing Maya Gold did in her acknowledgements in the back was to thank her travel companions. It wasn't surprising at all to me that she'd visited Salem or talked with the locals about "local flavor." I felt I was in Salem, anchored solidly in Abby's world by details like local museums, libraries, parks, bridges, town history etc. Descriptions of these places weren't distracting or overly florid, either, as I've seen in a lot of books about real places. Maya Gold does Salem proud.
- The ending. The lessons learned. The completion of the character arc. Abby begins insecure, miserable, yearning for some identity, purpose, and for close relationships after her best friend moved away. She ends secure in who she is, understanding where her power comes from, and having several close and healthy relationships (family, friends, and boyfriend).
People are calling this young YA, but all that means to me is that it's not edgy. I would read this with my niece... when she's 12 or 13.
My one hang-up was actually the cover. I'm a huge marketing buff, and when I realized Abby's eye-color, elemental power, and prom dress all had something in common, I had to wonder why the cover artist didn't use that color at all! It's still a beautiful cover, but seems like quite a missed opportunity. Also, the model's hair is too tame to be Abby's wild tresses. :)
Cover gripe aside, I loved this book. I look forward to more from Maya Gold, and plan to read her backlist. Fans of Ally Carter-sized romances will also enjoy Maya Gold's work.