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Title: A Pinch of Magic (#1 A Pinch of Magic)
Author: Michelle Harrison
Published: 7th of February 2019 – Simon & Schuster Children’s UK
Format: Paperback – 352 pages
Hello Hello! How are you?
I’m so glad that I have finally found time to post my review of A Pinch of Magic by Michelle Harrison because it was such a great book and I can’t stop thinking about this. I read this book in January with the Middle Grade Marvels book club and we all had a great time reading and discussing it together. We had lots of theories and I’m sure you will too if you decide to pick up this book, so keep on reading for my thoughts!
All Betty Widdershins wants is an adventure–one that takes her far away from Crowstone, the gloomy island where she’s always lived. But instead of an adventure, Betty and her sisters, Fliss and Charlie, are given of a set of magical objects, each with its own powers: a scruffy carpet bag, a set of wooden nesting dolls, and a gilt-framed mirror. And these magical objects come with their own terrible secret: the sisters’ family is haunted by a generations-long curse that prevents them from ever leaving their island–at the cost of death.
The sisters set out to break the curse and free their family forever. But after stumbling upon a mysterious prisoner who claims to be able to help them, they find themselves in great danger. And in order to break the curse–and stay alive–they must unravel a mystery that goes back centuries, one that involves shipwrecks, smugglers, and sorcery of the most perilous kind.
Trigger Warnings: prison, theft, suicide (mentioned and slightly depicted), attempted suicide, betrayal, secrets and lies, crime, a dark atmosphere.
A Pinch of Magic by Michelle Harrison is the first book in the Middle Grade fantasy series of the same name. I read this one all the way back in January and I am still thinking about it. I’m glad it’s a series because it means I can continue reading about these great characters soon.
I saw this book in Waterstones last year and I fell in love with the cover, but when I went back to get it, lockdown was in full swing and therefore, the shops were closed, so I never got around to it. When this book was chosen as the January BOTM, I was so happy!
This book is set in Crowstone, in what I presume is an imaginary setting, so of course, as a fantasy lover, this was perfect for me. Crowstone is a small town that can be found in one of the three isles in the land that this book is set and it was a really intriguing place.
The curse in this book has something to do with the setting, and at first glance, you would think this book would be sweet, whimsical and fun, but it is actually quite dark. I was so surprised by how dark and atmospheric the setting was, you could totally get the spooky vibes from the curse and the place the girls lived.
I really liked this setting and I’m so glad this is a series because I get to travel back to this world. I quite liked the Inn where the girls live with their grandmother, I also found the prison to be really dark and haunting, but my favourite places were when the sisters were walking about on the islands and trying to break the curse, as well as the setting we get in the past (in Sorsha’s chapters). I probably don’t make much sense, but the setting was really immersive.
Betty: Betty is the middle sister and she is basically the ring leader of shenanigans and she is the one that gets the girls into the latest scrape. I liked Betty from page one because she is feisty, she believes that she can break the curse and she wants to travel, to see the world, to live. She is so determined and I was rooting for her the whole time.
Charlie: I have to admit that I actually did not really like Charlie at the start as she was a little whiny and I don’t know, I just didn’t get on with her character. But as the book went along, she really grew on me and she might actually be my favourite character because she is so cute but also spunky, and she has her priorities straight – that’s to say, food and her beloved animals (I’m definitely team Charlie now that I’ve finished the book). She is the youngest of the 3 sisters.
Fliss: Fliss, also Felicity, is the oldest sister and is 16, so she helps Bunny deal with the customers in the Inn the most and is the one basically trying to keep the sisters together and out of trouble. I did like Fliss, but Charlie and Betty were just that little bit more complex, believable and more enjoyable to read about. I did enjoy her character, but not as much as the other girls.
Colton: Colton is a character who only appears around 1/3 to halfway through the book and I wasn’t sure about him to start with because I was very suspicious, rightfully, might I add, but in the end, he turned out to be nothing like I expected. I really like seeing character development and I think the author did a great job of showing this for most of her characters.
Sorsha: We get a few chapters from Sorsha’s perspective which is from the past, and I can’t say more because it will be a spoiler, but I loved her chapters and I also really liked Sorsha. I don’t really know why, but I immediately rooted for her and was on the edge of my seat learning about her story.
Bunny: I’m only going to quickly mention this character, but she is the girls’ grandmother, called Betty but everyone knows her as Bunny. I had a bit of a hate/love relationship with her for some reason. I do completely understand her motives for *things*, but sometimes I didn’t really, if that makes sense. I am looking forward to seeing more of her in the next books though as she seemed to mellow a little at the end and became a bit nicer in my opinion.
Family: This is one of the most important themes in this book, and for reasons I won’t explain, this is kind of the reason for the curse. I am not that big a fan of family relationships in books, however, in middle grade, I seem to get on much better with them. Family is important and especially the relationship and bond between sisters. I think one of my favourite parts of this book was to see the sisters’ relationship evolve and for them to accept one another and love one another more as at the start of the book, their relationship was slightly strained.
Mysterious curse: This was what made me want to pick up the book at first and then drew me completely into the story and I have to say that the way this was explained really took me by surprise – but in a good way. I really enjoyed reading this book and finding out about the curse, where it came from, why, how, etc, it was just such a great plot point!
Determined and complex characters: If there is something I love in a good fantasy book, for whatever audience, it’s complex and determined characters who go on an adventure or have to face something, and in the face of adversity, they pull through and they grow. We get all of this in this book and I really enjoyed seeing how far the girls and even Colton came, even Bunny actually. I think that this story made all the characters shift their attitudes and their personalities during their experiences, and I’m really looking forward to seeing more of them for this reason. I wonder where they will go and what they will become next!
A darker plot that you would expect: Now, I just want to mention this quickly because at least once, all of us in the Middle Grade Marvels chat said how dark the plot and story was compared to that beautiful cover. I was not expecting it to get so dark, so I just want to warn you that first impressions can be deceptive and this is not necessarily a cute story. It gets dark, the characters get in really tough situations, they are afraid and fear for their lives, there is a mention and depiction of suicide, and I was so anxious for all of them, so maybe this is a book for the older side of MG.
MY THOUGHTS AND RATING
Overall, this was such a great story and I’m so glad that I got the chance to read it with the Middle Grade Marvels members. As I said before, there is so much going on in this book and the thing I liked the most was the setting, the fact that the story is so unique and you never see anything coming, the characters are complex and have nicely developed character arcs. This was just a great read.
The writing style and the pacing were also perfect, in my opinion. I was sucked into this world and only let go of when I came to the end of each section I had to read for that week. It’s on the longer side for an MG book, and it is a series, so it might be a tad long for younger MG readers, but it is definitely worth the reading time. I loved the author’s prose so much, it was beautiful but also fairly dark, and I will be picking up all her other books because I am just a little bit obsessed.
I gave this book 4 stars, and you can find my full ASPECTS rating below. This is a book that I thoroughly enjoyed, just some little moments where the story lagged or the characters annoyed me, and I’m missing my special 5-star spark, but to tell you the truth, I’m holding out for the next books in the series! I recommend this book to MG readers and all readers older than 9-10, as it is a bit more on the dark side. If you like stories with complex characters (and some cute ones with animals too), a fun but also high-stakes adventure, a unique plot and mysterious curse, then this is the book for you (just make sure to check the trigger warnings first)!
That’s all for now, I hope you enjoyed reading this post, see you soon, stay safe,
Atmosphere – 7.5
Start – 6
Pacing – 6.5
Ending – 6.5
Characters – 8
Theme – 7.5
Style – 7
Total = 49
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If you would like to purchase this book, you can find it here: Amazon UK – Amazon FR – Amazon US – AbeBooks – The Book Depository – Audible FR – Waterstones – Barnes and Noble – Audible UK – Scrib’d – Kobo – Blackwell’s – BetterWorldBooks