Saturday 19 November 2022

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Review: Spells For Forgetting by Adrienne Young (#Ad)

Spells For Forgetting by Adrienne Young is on a deep blue scarf with metallic silver moons and stars. The book is on a diagonal from top right to bottom left. An upside down dried rose is laid along the left side of the book. The book is surrounded by dried rose buds. It's also surrounded by a pale grey mortar and pestle with dried herbs inside, a large rough rose quartz crystal, an unlit tea light, and a jar of black salt.

I was received this eProof for free from Quercus via NetGalley for the purposes of providing an honest review.

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Spells For Forgetting by Adrienne Young

Published: 27th September 2022 | Publisher: Quercus | Source: NetGalley
Adrienne Young’s Website

From the New York Times bestselling author comes an evocative, compelling novel of ancestral magic, an unsolved murder, and a second chance at true love.

‘There were tales that only the island knew. Ones that had never been told. I knew, because I was one of them.’

Emery Blackwood’s life was forever changed on the eve of her high school graduation, when the love of her life, August Salt, was accused of murdering her best friend, Lily. She’d once dreamt of running away with August, eager to escape the misty, remote shores of Saoirse Island and chase new dreams together. Now, she is doing what her teenage self swore she never would: living a quiet existence among this tight-knit community steeped in folklore and tradition, ruled by the seasons and ancient superstitions.

But when August returns after fourteen years to bury his mother’s ashes, Emery must confront her first love and the reason he left so abruptly. But the town wants August gone again. And as the island begins to show signs of strange happenings, the emergence of deep betrayals and hidden promises threatens to reveal the truth behind Lily’s death once and for all.
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I had wanted to read Spells For Forgetting by Adrienne Young since I first heard about it. It sounded so mysterious, so atmospheric, I knew it was going to be right up my street. And I absolutely loved it!

Saoirse is an insular island. The people have magic, their own traditions and superstitions. They don't like outsiders, and yet depend on the mainlanders who come every autumn to pick apples from the orchard. It's what keeps them afloat. Fourteen years ago, Emery and August were going to leave. They were going to escape and find futures of their own, rather than accept the roles that had been given them.But on the evening before they're due to leave, everything changes. The orchard caught fire, risking the island's livelihood, and Lily, Emery and August's friend, is murdered. The truth about the fire and the murder are never uncovered, but August was the prime suspect. Never changed, he was nevertheless tainted by the accusation, and no-one trusted him. Except Emery. But when the island turns their back on you, and makes your life a misery, there's only one option. August and his mother leave the island - without Emery. Fourteen years later, the island is still haunted by that night. With the return of August to bury his mother's ashes, the hatred and suspicion bubbles up again. And with his return comes strange, unnatural occurrences on the island. It seems Saoirse is finally ready to reveal the truth.

Spells For Forgetting is mainly told in dual perspectives from Emery and August's points of view. Occasionally we get chapters from their perspectives from when they were teens, and occasionally we get chapters in the present day from other characters. This is such a stunning book! You know not everyone is being honest, that people at least know things that have yet to be revealed to the reader. You question everyone, including Emery and August; are they unreliable narrators? #AdrienneYoung has a brilliant way of keeping the reader in the dark, hinting at just enough to keep you turning the pages, with secrets and lies, things just below the surface, without really giving anything away. What actually happened that night? Who killed Lily? What is everyone hiding? It's so beautifully written, and so atmospheric, it was just gorgeous! Plot aside, I really enjoyed simply reading this book, revelling in it. It's all vibes, and those vibes are everything I want. Plus there's Emery and August's relationship. Their love was all encompassing. This epic love alongside Young's writing, it's just stunning. The yearning! The heartbreak! The chaos! I adored it!

As I said, Young manages to keep everyone's cards close to their chests until it's time to reveal them, so you're turning the pages wondering what the hell is going on. When the answers do come, there are some, "Ooooh!" moments. I did have a strong theory as to what happened to Lily, which was correct, but I never figured out the how or the why. And there were other aspects I found quite shocking. It's the kind of book that will always stick with me because of the vibes, so I've been thinking about it the past few days, and I have to be honest, there are something that just don't hold up to scrutiny. It doesn't make sense to me, given who the people on the island are and what is their norm, that the cause of Lily's death was never a consideration in the first place. Once you're aware of certain details, I feel like it's pretty obvious, but it isn't to anybody on the island. And with the other reveals, I had other questions. I could maybe understand the reasons behind certain things that happened in the past, but not about what happens present day. An antagonist's motivations in the present day just felt kind of flimsy, given the situation they find themselves in. Unless it was because of obsession, and they just couldn't let it go.

But it's not exactly clear, because the reveal happens so quickly, and then we're at the epilogue. Which I found quite frustrating, because I was left with certain questions. The real and actual truth comes out, and I would very much like to have known what the consequences of that were for the wider community of Saoirse, and all the other reveals that would have an impact, but we're never told. The focus is more on Emery and August, and what the truth means to them - for them. And yes, I was satisfied with that. But I definitely feel like there should have been more of a conclusion. So much is left open. Perhaps there are plans for a companion novel, I don't know. But that would definitely be my hope, because I want those answers. And there was another smaller thing that I was slightly disappointed in, and that is, for an island where the women have magic and family spell books, and real earthy witchcraft, there is quite the lack of magic actually taking place in this story. Honestly, I feel the magic could be removed, and certain elements rethought to a degree, and the story would still stand. I just expected and wanted more, especially with Spells in the title.

If you want a book that has a real thought out mystery that's tightly plotted and makes sense, and a lot of witchcraft, maybe give Spells For Forgetting a miss. However, if you're looking for a book that is all vibes and atmosphere and stunningly beautiful writing that you can float away on, Spells For Forgetting isn't one to miss. For all my issues with it, I bloody loved it, and I'll definitely read more by Young if she writes more books in a similar vein.

Thank you to Quercus via NetGalley for the eProof.

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