Book Review: The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker

Title: The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic

Author: Emily Croy Barker

Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Magic, Romance, Adult, Paranormal

Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books

Published: August 1, 2013

Page Amount: 576 pages

Blurb From Goodreads: 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.

Why Read: As I’m searching my mind for how or why I decided to read this book, I’m coming up with a blank. The storyline itself sounds like something I would enjoy, and yet I know from my TBR that it’s not something that’s been there long. So I’m forced to conclude that I came across in one of my Book Riot reads and couldn’t help but feel a need to read it.

Review: Oftentimes, paranormal romance stories aren’t done well. They’re cheesy, written poorly and overall: not a great use of time (in my opinion). In being honest, I didn’t even consider this book in that category until I went to read some of the genres and thought back to the themes of the book. Fantasy books always include some element of romance. Even chronicles like the Belgariad continue side plots of forbidden love. The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic is different in that…. well, romance is the premise of the whole tale. We enter Nora’s life as the romance is taking her for ride. Sucks.

Without spoiling too much, romance plays a huge role in why characters do what they do. Their motivations have to do with ultimately who they love or feel a certain lust for. Unexpected? Maybe. It’s almost difficult to catch since the plot of the book is so intriguing. The idea of a fantasy world “too good” and “overly ideal” is one that I often struggle with in even well-written fantasy and fiction. I loved how this book addresses that. Barker writes in a fashion that reminds me of the medieval fantasy “Wheel of Time” books. It’s fantastic.

 What also makes this book utterly fantastic is character development. The book itself does take some time to play out, and I loved how the characters like Nora and Aruendiel change. Their motivations for acting change. At times, the same choice is offered and her characters choose differently depending on their experiences. Shock! Awe!

Without being overly verbose, I loved this book. I liked the way it was written and allowed me to enjoy romance without feeling like it was a full-fledged erotica. The characters were funny, relatable (most of the time), and the author does a great job of making reading fun. If I had to… I would recommend it.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

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