Saturday, August 16, 2014

Book Review: A Minor Magic by Justin R. Macumber


Skylar didn't mean to set fire to her foster parents' dog. It was an accident. But now, decades after The Burning, Skylar is about to lose the only home she's ever known because her sudden powers are too much of a threat. Out on her own in the ruins of Tennessee, she runs across other survivors. One of them just might be able to tell her what it is she's becoming. And how she can use it to save not only the ruined Earth, but a whole other world, too boot.

That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from

Over the course of a single night, mystical fires tore through the sky and reduced most of Earth to ash. Ten years later magical fire burns again, but this time it’s in the hands of a young girl named Skylar. Exiled from her adoptive home, Skylar must now struggle through ruined lands and religious zealots who believe she’s an agent of the Devil. An even greater threat exists in the form of shadowy sorcerers from another world who covet her blood. Along her journey, she meets a motley band of outcasts who not only know the secret of what happened to Earth, but also of Skylar’s true origin. Will Skylar be able to accept this fantastical truth? But more importantly, can her powers and raging heart be tamed in time to stop those who once burned the world and now seek total domination?


There are tons of apocalypse and dystopian post-disaster/post-calamity postulations out there, thoughts of how the world is going to be destroyed and just how humanity will survive afterward. Macumber's disaster, the Burning, is an interesting take in that we didn't destroy ourselves by creating nuclear weapons, zombies, or anything like that. We don't know what happened to us. But humans are still aching to survive, raiding hotels, gas stations, and big department stores with blue signs for food and supplies. I found the post-Burning world true and intriguing, sparsely populated (at least within this story) and full of danger and depression. Let's pray the magical fires don't actually come and kick our butts.


Macumber writes clearly, but I didn't actually read A Minor Magic. I listened to the audio version through, narrated by Veronica Giguere. Macumber's style is very open and crisp, with good imagery and a good sense of place and mood. It's hard not to picture his characters and settings, and the plot is linear enough that it's easily followed, with enough little side threads and questions to keep it from being a straight and narrow path. Macumber writes a very clear conflict and is constantly working toward its resolution while still acknowledging that his characters are people who have other needs.

Giguere's performance is very well done. She does alter her voice for each of the characters, so it's very easy to tell them apart, and her Southern accent (since most of the characters are in or from Tennessee) isn't bad. At the very least, it's understandable and not over the top at all. There's no overacting here, just differentiation. I wouldn't have really needed any dialogue tags, since her voices are so clearly different in tone or accent, and it helps that Macumber wrote the speech patterns for the characters well.

My Thoughts

A Minor Magic is set in a vivid destroyed world ("vivid" definitely not meaning "colorful" in this situation, since the world's covered with dirt and ash). The characters are true to life and intriguing in what their stories were before the events of this novel, and there are plenty of surprises in the plot and world that will grab your attention.

That said, the book surprisingly wasn't for me. I can appreciate how well it's written, the love and effort Macumber put into it, but there was never really a chord struck with me in this book. That's not to say the book is bad. Far from it. I just never really got sucked into it or had my interest plucked in any significant way. This is a personal opinion and does not have anything to do with the quality of the book itself, which is actually a first for me. Normally, if I don't like a book, it's because it's poorly written or just plain bad all around. It was odd to me to have this sort of relationship with a book.

Would I Recommend This Book? Sure! The book itself was well-constructed and interesting, but while I can appreciate how it was crafted, it didn't resonate with me personally. It just wasn't in my interest, which honestly surprised me a little. I didn't get drawn in as I had expected to. Still, it doesn't deserve a bad score for that. I'm giving it a Burning 3.5 of 5 stars. Give it a shot and see if you like it yourself!

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