The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic – Emily Croy Barker Review

The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic 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’ve read a lot of books in my life, but I’ve never been so confused about my feelings for a book. It’s been a day since I finished it and I still don’t know whether or not I liked it. The best way is to describe this book is like a train about to derail, it’s awful but you can’t tear your eyes away from it.

This book is relatively long, it’s about 563 pages. In the first 78 or so pages, the main character Nora is: yelled at by her thesis adviser, goes to a wedding where she runs into her ex-boyfriend who is marrying another woman, transported to another world, goes to lavish parties every night, gets engaged, gets married, gets pregnant and then gets attacked by her husband and loses the baby. This all occurs in the first 13% of the book! Then, the story meanders for another 350 to 400 pages before the “climax” occurs. I literally read 30 pages about Nora repairing plates with magic to buy herself a pair of boots. This book needs some serious editing. Since this isn’t a plot driven book, I was hoping it would be character driven. NOPE!

There was pretty much no character development by Nora, or the male lead Aruendiel. Oh sure, they both fell in love with each other, but both were too bone-headed to admit it or do anything about it. The rest of the characters were so static and bland there was really no point to having them around. For such a “thinking woman”, it sure took Nora a long time to piece Aruendiel’s feelings for her together. Actually, a true thinking woman probably would have avoided him altogether since he killed his former wife after she cheated on him.

It might seem that I hated this book, but I didn’t. Every day, I found myself really eager to continue reading, and perhaps it’s because I’m secretly a romantic and I actually liked the interactions between Nora and Aruendiel even though both of them are horrible communicators. Also, apart from how tedious it was, it wasn’t badly written. However, to compare this book in any way to Pride and Prejudice is just reprehensible. This does not capture the spirit of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy at all.

This book was perplexing, I don’t know if I’ll read the second. I probably will though since the ending was such a cliffhanger and I want to know what happens next. Unfortunately, I think I’m invested in this series even though I don’t want to be.

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