I received a free physical copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Meet Rosie Strange, the unlikely inheritor of the Essex Witch Museum. When someone asks her for help tracking down the bones of the long-since-dead witch Ursula Cadence, it isn’t long before Rosie is drawn into a dangerous world, far outside her comfort zone, where strange magic might just have been unleashed.
Having recently inherited the Essex Witch Museum from her late grandfather, Septimus Strange, Rosie is intent on selling on this burden in order to make a quick buck. With her mind set in her ways, Rosie doesn’t expect to be dragged into a witch-hunt, tracking down the remains of Ursula Cadence following the possession of a young boy by Ursula’s son. As Rosie embarks upon this adventure with the museum’s curator, Sam, Rosie begins to see that she has a knack for this sort of situation and finds herself enjoying the ride, and the company.
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from this novel. I’d given it a passing glance as it sat on my shelf for a few months waiting for the right time to read it for it’s publication today. However, having read the book I found it to be a mixture of haunting, thrilling, humorous, and sarcastically witty. All of this comes together thanks to the description and atmosphere brought to the novel by Moore as well as the strength of personality in each of our main characters.
Syd Moore is really good at describing haunting, disturbing scenes that gets your heartbeat racing and your hackles standing on end. Many a time the characters are put into a situation that they just cannot explain and it is these moments that bring these emotions forward and make you realise just how good a writer Moore is. These scenes always appear in the more mundane settings such as hotel rooms, times when you’re more at ease and more likely to hear noises and voices which is what really got to me. I’m one of those people who, when alone in my flat at night and I hear a noise, will freak out and start contemplating the many different scenarios that could play out, and these scenes really latched onto that thought process.
In terms of humour and witticisms, these all come from the interactions between Sam and Rosie as they are forced into a situation where they must make conversation and work together as a team, bringing to the job their own relevant skill sets. With Rosie having worked in benefit fraud, she is used to handling tough characters and putting pressure on those who do not comply. On the other hand, Sam has both worked in, and studied, witchcraft for many years providing the brains and knowledge needed to understand the job at hand and the events taking place. It is clear that there is some sort of connection between the two characters, clearly one that both do not wish to fully acknowledge. Their quick banter and witty, snappish comments back up this point as Rosie’s thoughts frequently comment on Sam’s looks and the various ways in which he annoys her, but you know she secretly likes.
Much of their adventure provides Moore with ample opportunity to provide reams of information regarding Ursula as well as the witch hunts that happened during that time period. It becomes clear that a lot of research has taken place which helps to present Sam as a knowledgeable character with a deep-seated interest in witchcraft. I found all of this knowledge fascinating and it helped that the information wasn’t all provided by one character but a multitude who all held some form of expertise on this subject matter. However, some of the scenes did seem a bit out of it and far-fetched, though this did add to the general humour of the novel thanks again to Rosie and Sam.
Strange Magic was definitely a fantastical novel alongside all of these elements, playing on the various elements of witchcraft and providing a lot of background information on the topic itself. It was a light-hearted read in some places, but deep and haunting in others. I enjoyed the way in which the relationship between Rosie and Sam progressed throughout the novel and the ways that they overcame any obstacles that got in their way – and there was a lot of them! This isn’t a novel I would ordinarily have picked up but it was one I enjoyed.