The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic

The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic

[a Novel]

Book - 2013
Average Rating:
13
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Only magic will set Nora Fischer free in an alternate fairy tale world that offers anything but 'happily ever after.' Illiterate women roam this world gone wrong, and men's spells hold the world in submission. When a mysterious magician teaches Nora the magic she needs to survive, a sudden doorway back to her world suddenly looks like one she may not want to go through.
Publisher: New York :, Pamela Dorman Books/Viking,, 2013
New York, New York : Pamela Dorman Books/Viking, 2013
ISBN: 9780670023660
Branch Call Number: F BAR NVD
Characteristics: 563 pages ; 24 cm

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s
s390325
Jan 26, 2017

This is an amazing, fascinating, stay up all night to finish book! I thoroughly enjoyed it and I am eagerly awaiting a sequel! I read a review that compared Nora to an adult Hermione Granger. I think a better comparison is an adult Hermione stuck in a Muggles only world, who falls into Middle Earth and finds one teacher from Hogwarts, then cross that plot with Pride and Prejudice. The premise was enticing from the start- who wouldn't want to leave a hum drum existence and go into a magical world where everything is beautiful and fun and glamorous? Sounds great and it is great, until Nora realizes she's been enchanted by fairies, who are not really nice at all. Once the enchantments wears off, she realizes that she is basically in the Middle Ages (without one ruling religion) when it comes to government, technology, and attitudes towards women. I was impressed by Nora's perseverance to survive and understand this new world, and to learn how to speak and read the language and learn magic. I found myself comparing the way magic is described and controlled in this book and the Harry Potter books. I don't think any Harry Potter books explain why or how magic works. In this book, there are wizards and magicians. Wizards can be just about anyone who can learn a spell, because a demon or ghost is "caught" in the spell and does the magic. This means many wizards have "bought" the soul of a condemned prisoner, etc., so that they can have an effective spell. If that were the case in the world of Harry Potter, there wouldn't be many people left alive! A magician, in the world Nora falls into, is able to do magic because he or she can connect with some important element- fire, water, earth, stone, wood- and convince it to do the magic. I like that explanation of magic a lot better, it seems more friendly and natural. I knew (from the book jacket) that Nora would have to face a choice between staying in this world or returning to her own. *Spoiler alert* It doesn't seem like she is really given a chance to think about whether or not she wants to go back before she does. I also thought that this choice would come a lot sooner in the book and not just before the end. Although there are references to Pride and Prejudice from the start of the book, towards the end it becomes blatantly obvious that she sees herself as Elizabeth Bennet and Arundiel is Mr. Darcy. I'm pretty sure that Mr. Darcy was older than Elizabeth Bennet, but not by hundreds of years, which seems like it could present a real problem. I am still rooting for them to get together because I enjoyed watching Arundiel's character change as he gets used to this young woman from another world who breaks many social norms, speaks her mind, and has the aptitude and desire to become a magician. He bends for her. She seems like she is getting used to a lot of the status quo and is learning a lot, but I don't think she has changed as much as Arundiel does.
I like the fact that her youngest sister was able to see her and Arundiel when he performs magic so she is able to see her family on Earth, and therefore is the only person on Earth to believe the "I got trapped in another world" story. (I love the part when Arundiel makes the cat able to talk (or that the sister can understand the cat), but the cat doesn't have anything nice to say). I'm glad Nora has one person who is encouraging her to fight to get back to where she wants to be and the opportunities that she has there. It ends on a hopeful note, but I really was hoping for the "happily ever after" ending... maybe we'll get it whenever the sequel comes out!

larissaneale Jul 08, 2015

I loved this book. Would highly recommend.

r
romantique1915
Jun 15, 2015

As auspicious as it appeared, and as favourable the reviews by competent authors were, this mediocre novel with its poorly thought out plot was a great disappointment on so many levels. First of all, anyone comparing the heroine, Nora to Hermione must be either blind or illiterate because this insipid, supposed graduate student of English literature spends much of her story in either complete idiocy ( who in their right mind seeing a glass of punch in the middle of the forest decides to drink it?) or whining about the patriarchal society that she has wandered into. Random seemingly important allusions (who IS EJ, anyway?) which in any other novel would prove to be significant to the climax of the story are here just as unimportant as they appear to be, and are more annoying for their lack of import. One has to wonder whether the editor even bothered to read the manuscript before sending this book, incredible in its redundancy, to print. What makes this all the more confusing is that Barker herself apparently holds a degree from Harvard. Evidently, it is not in either English or Journalism, both of which generally teach their students how to formulate an intelligent written work, and how to do research on the topic at hand.

s
SybilWood
May 31, 2014

Superb. I liked it so much I immediately started listening (to the CD Version) again. I'm hoping for a sequel or better yet a multi-volume series.

c
Citizenofthecosmos
Apr 03, 2014

I kept parceling out the pages to myself during the period in the book while Nora was residing at Arundiel's castle because I didn't want it to end. Perhaps because it reminded me of a love in my own life from a time when I was around Nora's age. I loved this book, have emailed the gracious author to tell her so, and am eagerly waiting for the sequel.

h
hopefoot27
Feb 03, 2014

Amazing book, great escape from the real world! Though a rather lengthy book at over 400 pages, I couldn't put it down and wished for more!

Kittykatkins Jan 31, 2014

I enjoyed this book very much, and found that I easily got lost in the world. The heroine is engaging mainly because she's very dour, and I find that a refreshing change from all the other perky lasses that exist in this type of fiction. There's a little bit of weird stuff (!) at the very end, and I must say I was disappointed that the book was not self-contained, as I don't see a trilogy being anything but way too long-winded. A companion piece to wrap up loose ends and provide a satisfying conclusion would most definitely be welcomed by this reader, however!

crankylibrarian Dec 22, 2013

Good lord. Just as every soap opera about lovers from different social groups is not Romeo and Juliet, not every romance featuring a hardheaded woman and an arrogant, socially superior man is Pride and Prejudice, (are you listening Bridget Jones fans?). Barker is hardly subtle in her hubris: P&P references are sprinkled throughout, even when they don't make sense: why is an honest, good hearted young suitor compared to Wickham? There are charming elements to this story, and a handful of interesting characters: Hirizjahnkinis, Mrs Toristel, Ilissa. But I agree with reviewers who complain of extraneous plot details that go nowhere and add nothing to the story. There are dozens of characters that abruptly appear and disappear, and the lengthy references to Orsian history apparently designed to flesh out this alternate world only drag down the narrative and make it more confusing. A reviewer once cracked that the Phantom Menace felt like watching C-SPAN on another planet; this is like watching the History Channel in an alternate universe. Writers like Tolkien, Zelazny and J.K. Rowling were able to create fully realized universes with characters and histories which were clear, relatable and even funny. Barker is not in that league, nor does she manage the introspection of Lev Grossman's Magicians. The only reason I persevered was to find out whether or not Nora decided to stay with Arundiel, and we don't even learn that, since this overstuffed mess is apparently the first in a series. Oooh, can't wait!!!

c
claireswazey
Sep 26, 2013

I guess I had a different take on this novel. To me, it was a bit reminiscent of The Magicians. It didn't tell the same story or use the same style of prose, but what it did do was have an adult take on the endlessly twee Harry Potter and paranormal romance inspired urban fantasy one finds nowadays. I thought it was well written and fun. Maybe not as good as the other books named, but definitely much better than common garden variety urban fantasy. I liked it and I hope she writes a sequel.

p
ParnassusReads
Sep 13, 2013

Please do not let Goodreads or Amazon, or anyone else, lead you to think that this is anything like, or belongs in the same category as, Lev Grossman’s The Magicians or The Magician King, because it most definitely is NOT. If you are looking for anything other than a WASP-y bit of comfort fantasy reading, you will not find it in this book. Contrary to the title, there’s not much thinking going on either. And that’s okay, because Emily Croy Barker’s The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic does not purport itself to be anything other than what it is: lighthearted escapist fantasy (if you’re a white female, at least). I am a white female, and I enjoyed it for being what it is. Every once in a while, I just need some light & fluffy readerly junk food and this book fit the bill quite nicely. Plots are hatched and exposed, and things continue on their merry way towards a definite but open conclusion that clearly indicates a sequel. After all, Nora’s only just gotten exactly what she wanted, while realizing that she’s Elizabeth Bennett to Aruendiel’s Mr. Darcy. Pride and Prejudice provides a minor plot point and an obvious overlay to the novel, but the publishers must have decided that Austen-themed ironic titles were passé, so they resurrected the equally gimmicky “guide to…” ironic title for this fantasy-disguised romantic novel. There’s no bodice-ripping, or even kissing (only a much brooded on missed opportunity), but there’s plenty of sexism, racism and patriarchal BS. But our girl Nora is from an enlightened world, so she can call BS when she sees it, and even change the hearts of men by showing them their wrong-headed treatment of women and black people, of whom there is only one; at least she’s a BA magician (gasp, a female one! They can exist!). The discussion of the treatment of women and mentions of racism are really nothing more than nods by the author in an attempt to apologize for the fact that she couldn’t do much better than sticking to the status quo for contemporary, male-dominated, white fantasy, that she’s taken as her setting a very non-descript and highly unoriginal medieval England, that her characters are fairly bland, and that her plot is that of Pride & Prejudice (if she mentions it directly, she can’t be accused of plagiarism, right? (Not that this is plagiarism, just a lazy imagination)). Nora isn’t a wholly poor character; she actually does do some stuff, whereas, to my knowledge, the heroine of Deborah Harkness’s novels, to which this book is justifiably compared, does preciously little. The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic adds nothing new to the genre and basically just remixes, a tiny bit, the status quo. If you are looking for something a bit more original, or an author that makes a little more effort with the imagination, look elsewhere. But if you’re looking for a nice, quiet, if a little overlong, piece of readerly comfort food, you could do worse.

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