A Far Wilder Magic – 4.5 Star Review

“All is One and One is All is the fundamental tenet of alchemy. It’s always been an ethical code for him. To help one person is to better the entire world.” — Allison Saft

A Far Wilder Magic is a cozy, atmospheric book with a delicious slow burn romance in which opposites attract. Set in what I think is a 1920s inspired world that is very close to our own world, magic (alchemy) is real and so are mythical creatures called demiurges. For centuries, demiurges were hunted as a means to gain glory and there is only one left in the entire world–the hala, a white fox that creates chaos when it appears. Margaret Welty (Maggie) and Wes Winters join the hunt for the hala together. 

This book keeps being described in reviews (and even in its official summary) as “atmospheric” and there is definitely a good reason why. Saft creates such rich scenes by using color, scent, and other tactile descriptions that really put you within the book. She masterfully manipulates the words on the page to bring the setting and individual moments to life. A few choice words and you either feel on edge with suspense in fog-coated woods, or immediately cozy in the golden glow of a fire. 

Another thing this author does really, really well is her characters and their relationships with each other. Maggie is a tough heroine who is interested only in surviving. She’s described at one point as “the kind of girl who would sooner kill a man than admire one.” Meanwhile, Wes thrives on attention, can talk his way out of any situation, and is a charmer through and through. He and Maggie are total opposites, which only makes the chemistry between them so much stronger. 

My favorite relationship in the book–other than Maggie and Wes’s relationship, of course–is that between Wes and his mother and sisters. He has two older sisters and two younger sisters and despite not having a lot of time on the page, they all four have very distinct personalities. Wes interacts differently with each of them, and you can even see how his relationships with them have shaped him. They banter with each other, support each other, and argue with each other in a way that tells me the author must have at least one sibling. I adored how Wes’s sisters each played a part in the story, and in his overall development. It’s not a spoiler, but to me one of the most touching scenes in the book takes place between Wes and his oldest sister, Mad. 

Saft does an excellent job at showing the characters’ motivations and the reasons why they act the way they do in a particular situation. Sometimes in books with multiple points of view there is a struggle to discern two characters, but that doesn’t happen at all in this book. Maggie and Wes are two very distinct characters and there is never any confusion over whose point of view the chapter is in. 

Another excellent part of this book is the representation. It explores racism and xenophobia pretty deeply, along with other issues that are relevant in the real world today. It also has LGBTQ+ rep in the minor characters–including a funny moment where it’s revealed that Wes’s sister Christine is currently dating a girl he originally wanted to date. 

There are a couple of reasons this book didn’t get the full five stars from me. The main one is that the romance isn’t the only slow-burn part of the book. The summary makes it seem like the hunt for the hala is the main event, but it really only takes place over a couple of chapters at the very end of the book. It’s there and then gone in minutes, pretty much. The plot is definitely centered on the characters much more so than the plot itself. This is not a bad thing at all, but my expectations were for a more magical and action-packed plot than what really happened in the book. I love character-driven books, and this book has such amazing characters (and development for them) that it’s really easy to overlook the slowness of the actual plot. This book also has long chapters, which makes it a bit harder to get through a slow plot. The world was also a little confusing, as there are religions and races of people that aren’t entirely explained; we are just given context clues here and there. It took some time to decipher them, and I’m still not entirely clear on parts of the world. 

These things by no means take away from how, well, good this story is. The characters are well fleshed out, believable, and have solid development and growth as the story progresses. The plot is interesting and unique. The descriptions are incredibly sensory and put you right into the story. The romance is delicious and dynamic and just so satisfying. 

I haven’t read Allison Saft’s other book, but I definitely will be purchasing it in the near future, along with whatever her next book will be. 

*I received a free electronic copy of this book from Netgalley
*Review also posted to NetGalley and Goodreads

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