You know that scene in Jerry Maguire when he looks at Dorothy and says, “I love you. You complete me”? I sincerely hope no one is too young for that reference because that scene captures exactly how I feel when I look at A Far Wilder Magic.
Margaret Welty has been abandoned once again by her alchemist mother, Evelyn. Margaret locks herself away in the secluded Welty Manor, tending to the house and trying to survive until Evelyn returns from her travels. Her quiet existence is disrupted the day Weston Winters arrives at her doorstep pleading to become Evelyn’s apprentice. Wes has been rejected by every alchemist in the city, and this is his last chance to find a way to support his family and his future. The two are as compatible as oil and water, but Margaret and Wes make a tenuous partnership to join a legendary hunt to kill a demigod creature known as the hala. The victors of the hunt will receive fame and fortune; Margaret hopes this will win back Evelyn’s love and Wes can use the money to support his family and land him an apprenticeship. The stakes are high but the choices Margaret and Wes make will determine if they swirl in the past or create hope for the future.
I truly had no expectations for A Far Wilder Magic and it served me well. The premise of a magical foxhunt combined with alchemy sounded strange yet unique. Whatever Saft did, it worked, and I am incredibly delighted by this unassuming standalone story. The book’s magical elements were as elusive as the secret to making the philosopher’s stone, but Saft created her own wilder magic with Margaret and Wes. I did not expect to go on an emotional journey with these two but it happened and I feel so complete. The foxhunt and all the highs and lows Margaret and Wes experience along the way are integral to the story, but this book is so much more than the plot. The hunt doesn’t take a backseat per se, but the character growth and self-discovery that takes place is an entire entity on its own.
As much as I enjoyed the unique plot, my love for this story is rooted in the characters. There is a lot going on with and between these two. Margaret is a damaged girl, living in a home full of ghosts. Her brother passed away, her father left, and her mother is a cold shell of the woman she used to be. Margaret doesn’t know warmth or love, and her only companion is her hound, Trouble. Wes is a charmer that can smooth talk his way in or out of any situation. He seems flippant and shallow, but he has a heart of gold and cares deeply about his family. He tries his best but it’s never good enough. When Margaret and Wes collide, they’re both messy individuals trying to make the best of their situation. Fortunately for them, they each bring out the best and worst of each other. Their predicament forces them to examine their traumas and the hidden pieces of themselves. Saft tears them both down and builds them back up so beautifully my heart aches just thinking about it.
Religion plays a huge role in this story. The country is dominated by devout Katharists who view the legendary hala as a false god that must be killed, hence the epic hunt. However, the Yu’adir view the hala as a gift from god, and the Sumic believe the hala is a child of god. Imagine the chaos that ensues when a Yu’adir and Sumic join the hunt. Margaret is half-Yu’adir and Wes is a Banvishman who follows the Sumic faith, and each grapples internally with their decision to join the hunt. Both have had a lifetime of harassment from the Katharists, and they are so fearful of revealing this knowledge to people that it’s something they hide from one another as well. The hatred they encounter is heartbreaking, but there is also a beautiful understanding that blossoms from their shared experiences.
I feel so fulfilled after reading A Far Wilder Magic, and that is saying something because I rarely find this level of satisfaction in standalone stories. The book is so close to being perfect, but with only so much space there are elements that definitely weren’t fleshed out enough. It doesn’t matter though, the law of equivalent exchange would consider the effort that went into this story a fair trade for the number of feelings it gave me. Allison Saft crafted a magical foxhunting transmutation circle and it created an alchemical reaction of love so pure it hurts my heart.
Rating: A Far Wilder Magic – 8.0/10
I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an unbiased review. The thoughts on this story are my own.