Book Review: “The Price Guide To The Occult” by Leslye Walton

Warning: If you have not read “The Price Guide To The Occult” by Leslye Walton, don’t read this review unless you don’t mind spoilers!

I’m back with another book review, and this time it’s “The Price Guide To The Occult” by Leslye Walton! Here’s a summary so we know what it’s about:

“When Rona Blackburn landed on Anathema Island more than a century ago, her otherworldly skills might have benefited friendlier neighbors. Guilt and fear instead led the island’s original eight settlers to burn “the witch” out of her home. So Rona cursed them. Fast-forward one hundred–some years: All Nor Blackburn wants is to live an unremarkable teenage life. She has reason to hope: First, her supernatural powers, if they can be called that, are unexceptional. Second, her love life is nonexistent, which means she might escape the other perverse side effect of the matriarch’s backfiring curse, too. But then a mysterious book comes out, promising to cast any spell for the right price. Nor senses a storm coming and is pretty sure she’ll be smack in the eye of it. In her second novel, Leslye Walton spins a dark, mesmerizing tale of a girl stumbling along the path toward self-acceptance and first love, even as the Price Guide’s malevolent author — Nor’s own mother — looms and threatens to strangle any hope for happiness.”

At first when I started reading the book, I thought it would be like “When The Moon Was Ours,” given its elaborate prose and interesting descriptions. The first chapter/prologue was so good! It could even, potentially, stand on its own as a short story!

…And then everything fell apart for literally the rest of the book and made little sense at all, including characters and their development. Nor was just so hard to sympathize with, given her constantly brooding nature, and her mother Fern was just portrayed as straight-up insane, for lack of better words. Fern is a too-typical villainess who is power-hungry, greedy, and had no redeemable qualities about her. There is an attempt at giving her depth by making love her motivation, but it seemed like it’s only an excuse for why she first practiced black magic, and so it came off as lazy. Also, for a character supposedly motivated by love, you’d think there would be emotion when it came to her daughter. Instead, Fern only wanted to use Nor. There were so many opportunities to build Fern into a complicated antagonist with depth, but instead, there were only cliches.

In fact, it was just hard in general trying to feel anything for any of the characters. None of them really felt fleshed out. Reed, the love interest, was just there to serve as a love interest and didn’t have any of his own development at all.

There is definite self-harm mentioned in this book, but I didn’t really catch that it was happening at all until the latter half of the book with Nor.

Going back to the actual plotline, I also didn’t understand why the heck there were zombies in the latter half of the book, as well as how Nor managed to defeat Fern despite not knowing what at all to do to defeat her.

Overall, I’m rating this book 1 out of 5 stars.

This is only because the prologue itself could have been good enough as a short story. If you’re easily triggered by self-harm, you might want to skip this one.

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