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Marianne Curley – Old Magic

September 23, 2011

117. Old Magic by Marianne Curley (2000)

Length: 372 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction

Started: 07 September 2011
Finished: 09 September 2011

Where did it come from? One of the last books I bought at my local Borders before it closed.
Why do I have it? Katie’s post on Read What You Know as part of the Best YA Books You Haven’t Read event a year and a half ago.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 19 November 2010.

Falling in love is
like magic, but not always
so literally.

Summary: Kate Warren believes in magic – she might try to hide it from the rest of her small town, but she and her grandmother can both do witchcraft. So when the new kid, Jarrod Thornton, starts demonstrating power beyond anything Kate’s ever dreamed of, power that’s out of his control, Kate’s the only one to recognize it for what it is. But Jarrod doesn’t believe in magic, and thinks the strange outbursts that occur whenever he’s angry or worked-up are just part of the bad luck that’s plagued him and his family his whole life. Kate knows better though, and thinks that the root of it might be in a centuries old-curse placed on Jarrod’s family. But how can they break the curse when Jarrod doesn’t even believe that it’s real?

Review: I didn’t go into this book with particularly high expectations – the blurb and the cover (and probably my summary up there, as well) all make it look like pretty run-of-the-mill YA paranormal romance. And, for the first half of the book, that’s more-or-less what it delivered. I mean, good YA paranormal romance, but nothing particularly standout, other than the paranormal part was witchcraft rather than vampires or werewolves or what have you.

But the good news is, the book wound up pleasantly surprising me. About halfway through, the book takes a left turn into time travel and historical fiction, which added a very interesting layer onto the standard YA romance that I haven’t come across before. I mean, I’m not sure that the metaphysics of time travel would play out like they did in this book, but there’s something undeniably charming about forcing your two leads, who haven’t even admitted that they like each other much, to play-act at being married, because why else would they be together unchaperoned in the Dark Ages? It was a fun twist to the story, and it’s a much stronger book for not sticking strictly to formula.

I did have a few issues with this book. My primary one was that there was too much tell-but-not-show-ing going on, particularly when it came to the character development. Kate’s chapters involve a lot of her telling Jarrod (and the reader) how much of a coward he is – primarily because he doesn’t believe in magic – when his actions, even in the beginning of the book, don’t really match that assessment. After a while, I was at the point of grumbling “He’s not being spineless, he’s being rational, you daft girl.” every time it came up… which was a lot. I get that Jarrod developing his courage was supposed to be his major character arc, but I never entirely bought it, mostly because I didn’t think he was that bad in the first place.

I’m also ashamed to admit how long it took me to realize that Marianne Curley was Australian. I spent an embarrassingly large part of this book thinking that it took place in the Pacific Northwest – my only reference for somewhere that has both rain forest and seasonal snow – and it wasn’t until someone mentioned kookaburras outside their window that I finally twigged. And then I realized that what I’d been taking for strange narrative tics and weird turns of phrase were probably actually Australian colloquialisms. Whoops! 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Even if you’re feeling burnt out on teen paranormal romance, I think Old Magic is a good choice for a light, fun read that manages to have a number of unique elements but still feels comfortable at the same time.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Bart’s Bookshelf, Charlotte’s Library
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: His name is Jarrod Thornton.

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. September 23, 2011 10:01 am

    This sounds pretty good. Thanks for the review!

  2. September 23, 2011 3:09 pm

    I’m not into the paranormal romance, but would be willing to try the book for the time travel aspect. The cover is gorgeous!

    • September 27, 2011 11:20 am

      Kathy – It’s less paranormal than most paranormal romance, since both leads are human… just humans who can do magic. :)

  3. September 23, 2011 3:32 pm

    I do remember pretty much enjoying this one when I read it a couple of years ago.

    • September 27, 2011 11:21 am

      Darren – That’s my general takeaway, too – not a game-changer, but a solid, fun comfort read.

  4. September 23, 2011 4:02 pm

    Based on the cover alone, I’d probably give it a shot. I like the time travel mixed up with witchcraft too. I might see if my library has this one.

    • September 27, 2011 11:21 am

      Amy – If you try it, let me know how you like it!

  5. September 23, 2011 4:21 pm

    I read this book when I was a teenager. The fact that it’s still in print surprises me, but it was a pretty good book. Like you I went in with low expectations but wound up enjoying it. I know I kept it for a while, but I’m not sure if I still have it or not.

    • September 27, 2011 11:24 am

      heidenkind – When I realized that Curley is Australian, and that the original publication date was a decade ago, I was also pretty surprised that my local Borders had a recently-published American version.

  6. September 24, 2011 3:17 pm

    One of the most annoying things that books can do to annoy me is when everyone reacts to a character as if they are X (whatever — irresistible, or stupid, or cowardly), and the book has done nothing to make the reader think that character possesses that quality. The disconnect drives me crazy.

    • September 27, 2011 11:25 am

      Jenny – Agreed. Jarrod was a little spineless, I guess – there’s the whole “won’t admit he’s friends with the unpopular girl” aspect – but Kate kept calling him spineless when he didn’t believe that he could do magic, and that was just infuriating.

  7. September 25, 2011 1:30 pm

    I am burned out on YA PNR, but okay you mentioned historical fiction and time travel and that totally CAUGHT MY EYE, it now sounds appealing to me.

    • September 27, 2011 11:27 am

      April – If you’re well-and-truly burnt out, then the first part of this book will probably feel like a bit of an overly-familiar slog, but stick with it! About halfway through it takes a total left turn into historical awesomeness.

  8. MissMurder permalink
    January 30, 2013 8:57 am

    Thank you so much for this review! I remember getting this from the library about seven years ago and it’s one of the very few books that have stayed with me since. As a result, not being able to remember either title or author, and the book being removed from my local library, I’ve been searching for it for five years. Thanks to you I’ve now found it, and will be reading it very soon!

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