Title: The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic
Author: Emily Croy Barker
Publisher: Penguin Books
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Number of pages: 563
First line: Much later, Nora would learn magic for dissolving glue or killing vermin swiftly and painlessly or barring mice from the house altogether, but that morning – the last normal morning, she later thought of it – as she padded into the kitchen in search of coffee, she was horribly at a loss when she saw the small brown mouse wriggling on the glue trap in front of the sink.
Goodreads blurb: 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.
I remember reading a lot of fantastic reviews of The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Magic when it was released in hardback, but my public library never got a copy. I am so envious of people who live in big cities with fantastically funded library systems! Our little rural library district has limited funds, and while they will sometimes purchase books on request, they aren’t always able to do so. When I was offered a review copy for the paperback release, I jumped at it – and am so glad I did.
Emily Croy Barker has created a wonderfully imaginative fantasy world, and thrown an equally wonderful character in the middle of it. Nora is a character many women will relate to – she’s a bit unsure of where her life is headed, and things never seem to go quite the way she wants them to. Then she is makes a wish that her life would be different, and is suddenly transferred into another world – a world of wizards and magicians (there is a difference), evil and manipulative faerie folk, and a completely immersive setting. I adored reading of her adventures in this world, and the relationship between Nora and Aruendiel unfolds with delicious slowness, leaving me wishing I knew the release date for a sequel.