Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Book Review: Spells for Forgetting

By Becky Gulc

‘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.

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.’ (Courtesy of Adrienne Young's website.)

This is a fantastic novel that had me hooked from the very beginning. It’s such an atmospheric and eerie novel that Saiorse Island will remain in my memory for a long time after reading this. The island is up front and centre as a character in itself and it’s executed so well. I definitely felt the darkness and possessiveness of the island through the writing.

When August Salt reluctantly returns to the island to honour his mother’s wish of scattering her ashes and to sell her house he is hoping to do this quickly and quietly. Afterall, he and his mother left the island abruptly many years ago straight after the fire and death of Lily. Fingers were very much pointing at August despite a lack of concrete evidence, so his return would never go down well with the local community. However, word soon spreads that August is back and this doesn’t end up being the quick, under-the-radar trip he had envisaged.

August and Emery were joined at the hip back in the day, they’d even been planning to leave the island together in secret, until the fire. Instead August left without saying a word and Emery was bereft that her future plans had changed in an instant. Emery remained on the island, she never wanted to see August again after everything, or did she?

The bond between August and Emery was clear throughout the novel, how united they’d once been and so in love, and how sometimes love never really goes away. There’s such tension between the pair after so many years, and so many questions. As a reader you are left questioning what happened on the night of the fire and Lily’s death, who is lying, why is anyone lying, and was August involved despite Emery’s insistence? Although I somehow immediately felt for August and had a longing for him to be innocent and be exonerated. 

The narrative worked really well for me. Chapters are short, going at a nice pace, and they switch mainly between the viewpoints of August and Emery, both in the present but also pre-fire. The viewpoints of other characters are cleverly woven in as needed and there’s even one for the island itself before we finally learn what happened on the night of the fire. I felt tense as elements were revealed slowly; it kept me guessing and I couldn’t predict what unfolded.

One of the things I liked most about this novel was that it doesn’t sit neatly in any particular genre and I loved how it encompasses a murder-mystery, a love story and a decent splash of magic and folklore. It must be really tricky to get a good balance between the different elements and it just worked perfectly for me. Oh and the ending, yes! 

Thank you to Quercus Books for the book in exchange for an honest review. Purchase Spells for Forgetting here.

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.

Listen to this book on Speechify!

No comments: