Hi, loves! 🥰 A few years ago I read Adrienne Young’s debut novel, Sky in the Deep, and fell absolutely in love with it. When I heard this pitch for her adult debut, I knew I needed to get my hands on it as soon as possible:
“A deeply atmospheric story about ancestral magic, an unsolved murder, and a second chance at true love.”
A huge thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for making that possible! I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Spells for Forgetting takes place on Saoirse Island, a setting that is magical at its core–literally. The island often seems sentient and enables the women who live there to practice magic. The families that inhabit Saoirse have been there for centuries and they’ve passed their magic, family businesses, and distaste for outsiders down through the generations. Despite disliking the tourists who take the ferry over from Seattle, the residents of the island rely on them for income, the main source of which is the orchard.
Although we get to read from multiple perspectives, our main character is Emery Blackwood. Growing up, Emery was inseparable from August, Lily, and Dutch, until tragedy struck one night in their late teenage years. A storm hit the island and a strong gust of wind knocked over a lantern, setting the orchard ablaze. In the midst of the chaos, Emery’s best friend, Lily, was murdered. Shortly after, the love of Emery’s life, August, was accused of killing her. Although no one was able to prove that August was guilty, everyone but Emery turned against him. Early one morning, August and his mother left the island without a word and didn’t return.
The events of Spells for Forgetting begin fourteen years later when August reluctantly returns to Saoirse Island shortly after his mother passes away. He simply wants to honor her final wish of having her ashes returned home, however, his arrival stirs up the past that everyone on Saoirse Island has tried to forget. When the island itself shows signs that something is wrong, Emery is forced to confront the losses that have plagued her for years, investigate what really happened to Lily, and consider whether the townspeople may have had other reasons for wanting August gone.
I absolutely loved Spells for Forgetting! As a mood reader who can never decide between a mystery, romance, or fantasy novel, I was immediately intrigued by a premise that promises a combination of all three. Adrienne Young blended these genres skillfully and managed to fully develop all three of these aspects. Through both flashbacks and their present-day interactions, we truly get a sense of the profound love between Emery and August. As I became invested in their romance, my desire to know whether August was really involved with Lily’s death grew desperate. The mystery of her unsolved murder was so compelling that I couldn’t stop turning the pages. Additionally, the expertly written magic system kept me captivated throughout the unraveling of the story.
Saoirse Island is arguably another character in this complex novel. Adrienne Young’s writing was so incredibly beautiful and atmospheric that it brought the island to life. I was able to vividly picture the island, shrouded in fog as the leaves changed colors, as well as imagine the chill in the air and the sensation of magic buzzing beneath the surface. Her amazing descriptions of this setting emphasize its importance to the story.
I loved experiencing life in Saoirse through the eyes of its many residents. Although most chapters are written from Emery’s and August’s perspectives, we occasionally get the points of view of other characters. A common complaint I hear about books with multiple POVs is that they’re too confusing and don’t leave enough room for the full development of any of the characters. However, in this case, Adrienne Young managed to make each character’s voice distinct, and each new perspective added necessary context rather than detracting from my overall understanding. Therefore, I believe that even readers who don’t typically like this narrative style will be able to enjoy Spells for Forgetting.
Spells for Forgetting is a beautifully written novel that discusses first love, second chances, grief, tradition, familial expectations, and so much more. I truly enjoyed it and I would highly recommend picking it up as soon as possible as it is the perfect fall read!