Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Book Review: The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic

The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real MagicAuthor: Emily Croy Barker
Publication Date: August 1, 2013
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books

An imaginative story of a woman caught in an alternate world—where she will need to learn the skills of magic to survive

Nora Fischer’s dissertation is stalled and her boyfriend is about to marry another woman.  During a miserable weekend at a friend’s wedding, Nora wanders off and walks through a portal into a different world where she’s transformed from a drab grad student into a stunning beauty.  Before long, she has a set of glamorous new friends and her romance with gorgeous, masterful Raclin is heating up. It’s almost too good to be true.

Then the elegant veneer shatters. Nora’s new fantasy world turns darker, a fairy tale gone incredibly wrong. Making it here will take skills Nora never learned in graduate school. Her only real ally—and a reluctant one at that—is the magician Aruendiel, a grim, reclusive figure with a biting tongue and a shrouded past. And it will take her becoming Aruendiel’s student—and learning magic herself—to survive. When a passage home finally opens, Nora must weigh her "real life" against the dangerous power of love and magic.

For lovers of Lev Grossman's The Magicians series (The Magicians and The Magician King) and Deborah Harkness's All Souls Trilogy (A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night).

Read this, take heed, and gain from my sad fate.
For you the way is open. I must wait,
Condemned for centuries long to guard this gate.
Make haste, pass through, the hour is growing late.

Voices and music were beginning to filter in from outside. The party had begun.

There were two Noras, one who was about to die, and one who would live and be happy, blissfully happy, because she had surrendered all pain and terror to someone who was stronger than she was. She wanted frantically to be the second woman.

He pulled her tightly against him. Nora rubbed her cheek against the black cloth of his dinner jacket. This close, he seemed to blot out everything else, even the memory of fear. “Do you think I would let anything happen to you?” he asked. “Don’t you know how precious you are to me?”

Nora has reached a dead end. Her boyfriend has left her for another woman, her graduate thesis has come to a halt, and her self-confidence is at an all-time low. The last thing she wants to do is go away with her best friend for the weekend to a wedding, but she almost has no choice. While she is there she decides to take a little walk into the mountains and clear her head. She quickly realizes that she may be lost and not long after stumbles across an old cemetery. Being the lover of literature and poetry that she is, she becomes fascinated by a lyrical message on the front of a tombstone there. Having no paper to write down the beautiful poem on, she then says it out loud in order to help her memorize it better. After that, she magically slips into an alternate universe. One filled with magic and tons of beautiful things!

This book was written like one huge poem! It was moving and completely beautiful. Barker’s descriptions were other-worldly and made me wish that I was accompanying Nora on her journey. Barker’s imagination must be out of this world. This book is rather lengthy, coming in at over five hundred pages, but this world that Nora slips into needs and deserves all five hundred of them! It was somewhat reminiscent of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts just because of all the detail and creativity that went into this place where Nora magically ends up. I felt like it was all one rather long, never ending dream. This story is full of kidnappings, wizards, dangerous places and of course witchcraft!

The only reason that this book did not receive five stars was because of Nora. I wish our heroine would have had a little bit more life and spunk about her. She was so displeased with herself at the beginning of the book that it was very hard for me to like her at all. Within the first chapter, I was unsure that I was even going to enjoy her tale at all. However, this alternate world, in which Nora is saved by a magician, does wonders for Nora’s character. So, if the book stars off slow to you, please don’t worry! It gets better and better as it goes.

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Pamela Dorman Books in exchange for my honest review***


  1. Nice review. I heard about this book, but mixed reviews made me hesitant. Maybe I'll try it.

  2. I really like the way you described the book. Thanks for the honest review!

    Ann@Blogging E-books