Spells for Forgetting is dark, atmospheric, and mysterious thriller with touch of magical realism but it didn’t turn out as good as I expected. It sure needed spell for speed and magic.
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. Now, she is doing what her teenage self swore she never would: living a quiet existence among the community that fractured her world in two. She’d once longed to run away with August, eager to escape the misty, remote shores of Saiorse Island and chase new dreams; now, she maintains her late mother’s tea shop and cares for her ailing father. But just as the island, rooted in folklore and tradition, begins to show signs of strange happenings, August returns for the first time in fourteen years and unearths the past that no one wants to remember.
August Salt knows he is not welcome on Saiorse, not after the night that changed everything. As a fire raged on at the Salt family orchard, Lily Morgan was found dead in the dark woods, shaking the bedrock of their tight-knit community and branding August a murderer. When he returns to bury his mother’s ashes, he must confront the people who turned their backs on him and face the one wound from the past that has never healed—Emery. But the town has more than one reason to want August gone, and the emergence of deep betrayals and hidden promises that span generations threatens to reveal the truth behind Lily’s death once and for all.
A rural island community steeped in the mystical superstitions of its founders and haunted by an unsolved murder is upended by the return of the suspected killer in this deeply atmospheric novel. Evocative and compelling, Spells for Forgetting is a vivid exploration of lost love and the unraveling of a small town and its many secrets.
Review of Spells for Forgetting
Spells for Forgetting is atmospheric and complex mystery thriller with magical realism that revolves around a tragedy and magical island with secrets that separated two lovers, Emery Blackwood and August Salt, fourteen years ago making August leave the island.
Fourteen years later August is back on the island to bury his mother but the islanders make sure to show he is not welcome, they still accuse him of the murder of Lily, Emery’s best friend. Emery is trying to move on in life, being a quiet part of the community who didn’t entirely forgive her for defending August but the return of August opens the old wound. When she discovers letters in the attic, one by one series of lies and secrets are unraveled. She wouldn’t rest until she gets answers to what happened all those years ago and the islanders would do anything to keep things buried.
The story is about lies, betrayal, secrets, family, community, magic, and young undying love. It was interesting to figure out what happened fourteen years ago. Mystery of murder and why August was accused of murder stays at the forefront of the story.
Writing is dreamy, descriptive, beautiful and atmospheric but slow-paced. It is written in first person narrative from mostly Emery’s POV, there is irregular August’s perspective and a couple from other characters. There are intermittent past chapters that showed August and Emery’s life before fire, their friendship with Dutch and Lily, and their plans for life. It gives another angle on how fire and death changed their life. It also gives hint that not everything seems as it is shown.
This is mostly plot driven story. Characters are equally important but there isn’t big character development. One thing I loved about the characters is the emotional depth, especially of Emery and August. It was easy to feel for both of them and I rooted for them from the beginning.
Emery is heart of the story. She isn’t perfect and I didn’t like some things about her, to be specific, her decisions but as the story progressed I understood her better. She is lovely, empathetic, a responsible daughter and is still trying to redeem herself for defending August all those years ago, still deeply in love with him even though she is dating their common friend Dutch.
She knew her heart but August leaving her behind broke her and all her actions came from that- dating Dutch, her refusal to accept Dutch’s proposal, keeping him hanging, not trying to live for herself or find a future outside the island. I get her suffering, how islanders didn’t make her life easy too. They kept her under scrutiny for years and how hard it was now again on the return of August.
But at the same time, the return of August acted as catalyst. It forced her to make decisions, confront her feelings, live unafraid of what people say and think for once, and find out why he left, what happened all those years ago. I have to say, she was force of nature in last 30%. I admired her the way she confronted everyone and forced everyone to answer her questions, the way she figured out what happened to Lily and why it happened.
Though most of the story is focused on Emery I actually understood August much better and I had soft spot for him from the beginning. It was easy for me to figure out he didn’t have anything to do with Lily even though it was mentioned more than once that he did something that night he feel guilty about. It adds mysteriousness to his character and I couldn’t help feeling sorry for him. I would have left island ages ago if I was in his place. His grandfather was a cruel old tyrant who beat him and worked him tirelessly in the apple orchard that has been in his family. He made August’s life miserable and no one on the island helped him or understood him except Emery. I liked how he strongly believed nothing has changed and the island is still as poisonous as it was before he left. He saw people for who they are and he wasn’t wrong about most of them. I loved him for trying to make things better between him and Emery regardless of what the islanders said or did.
Romance is okay here. I expected much more with second chance arc and undying love but it didn’t wow me. I liked the chapters that showed the depth of love between August and Emery but when it came to actual chemistry they were given small portion of the story which wasn’t enough to feel the chemistry.
The setting of Saoirse island is the best part. It gives gothic feel. Magic runs deep in the island. It was interesting to read about legends, superstitions, and how magic worked and how only women on the island have magic in their blood. Island has small tight-knit secretive community, who didn’t like outsiders or tourists even though their life depends on them. They takes care of their own and like to keep things unchanged and old-fashioned. Everyone is in everyone else’s business, there are no secrets, lots of gossip, prying eyes and nature that might make one feel suffocating and even worse if you get on people’s wrong side. I didn’t understand the mindset of people half the time but it’s the people who made the story eerie and creepy more than the island itself.
Mystery, twist and turns are good but I wasn’t surprised with most of the revelations. Like I said, I knew August was innocent, whatever happened with Lilly was related to him and Emery, and the magic is part of whatever happened… all surprises for me was in ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ that was revealed after the climax in last few chapters. It was most interesting part. I was curious to see what characters are going to do with the truth at the end and to my biggest disappointment it turned out very anti-climatic. It didn’t satisfy me and I was annoyed.
Why 3.5 stars-
It’s really slow to the point that I was very close to skipping chapters and read last few chapters so I finally can get to the point.
There is almost no magic in the book which was so unexpected and disappointing. Magic was all talk, it just made story atmospheric. What’s the point of magical island if I’m going to see the magic only at the end when the mystery is unraveled!!
We see that it’s second chance romance from the beginning but we don’t get much romance! Like I said we see the emotional and romantic depth in character, not the actual chemistry before last 30% of the book.
Mystery wasn’t very much surprising. I could figure out most of things, some from the beginning, while other around middle of the story. It was part reason I was very impatient with the pace.
So the whole point or the motive/reason behind the death or why that person planned the event that lead to death wasn’t explored much. We don’t see solid history or legend that gives enough reason for the motive. I couldn’t buy whatever the reason islanders gave for their actions either. I mean can it be so big enough that they were willing to destroy two person’s lives and on the one hand they kept saying shit like, “we take care of our own”!! but they actually didn’t which is why I felt the end is very anticlimatic. I hated everyone not doing anything about the truth when they kept making it big point of hating August.
Overall, Spells for Forgetting is interesting, dark, atmospheric, and mysterious thriller with touch of magical realism but it didn’t turn out as good as I expected. It sure needed spell for speed and magic.
I recommend this if you like,
Slow build and pace
Second chance trope but not centre of the story
Interesting murder mystery but not very surprising
Lots of secrets
Eerie, gothic, haunting setting of Island
Touch of Magical realism
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