The Magician’s Daughter – Beautiful People With Nowhere To Go

Today we have an interesting historical fantasy book by the name of The Magician’s Daughter, by H.G. Parry. Despite the back of the book describing a plot about the end times and the death of magic, this book had a closer feel to a slow-burn cozy read than a thriller. It focuses on a young girl named Biddy and her relationship with the strange magician, Rowan, who raises her. It is a tale of familial love, romance, and women’s suffrage. 

Set in 1912, magic has all but disappeared from the world. For years the magical council of England has tried to understand where the magic is going and gather it back to itself. But the rogue mage Rowan has other ideas. He finds a girl named Biddy that has some connection to the missing magic, squirrels her away on the legendary magic island of Hy-Brasil, and raises her surrounded by the last remnants of the world’s magic as he tries to figure out where the magic is going and keep the council from ripping Biddy open to answer the same question. Biddy remains hidden on Hy-Brasil for her entire childhood while Rowan sojourns off the island to steal the magic the council is hoarding and patch up the world. Biddy is left alone on the island for large tracts of time, and while she has no ability to use magic herself, she grows up with great familiarity with it. When Rowan doesn’t return one day Biddy must decide for herself what is the best path forward and if she is going to venture out into a complicated yet mundane world she is deeply unfamiliar with.

This book is a coming-of-age story about Biddy as we live through her eyes and get to watch her discover multiple worlds. First, we watch as she grows up on her magical island exploring all its wonders. Then, after Rowan disappears and she must set out to find him, we get to see her jump into 1912 England with no experience and work her way through that world with fresh eyes. It was an interesting choice to make Biddy a non-magic user in my mind. It complicates her relationship with Rowan and adds some depth to the usual master-apprentice relationship in these kinds of stories–blurring the lines and making it closer to father-daughter. Most of the joy in this book is through the slow reinforcement of Biddy’s relationships with a number of interesting characters. We get to watch as she slowly decides who to trust, gives those characters her heart, and witness what they do with it. It is a very heartwarming tale about a child who loves the world and seeing its wonder and beauty through their eyes. 

However, the book is also a very, very slow burn. While I really loved all the characters, even the villains, it often felt like they didn’t do much. They spend so much time circling each other and talking and very little time advancing the plot. The cast moves from location to location, having the same conversations and advancing the story slowly. Additionally, there is a subplot around Biddy working at a factory as a cover in England that works women’s suffrage into the themes. It felt like an odd choice, though I certainly don’t think the topic was handled poorly. It just felt a bit awkward. On the other hand, there is a subtext of Irish/Celtic myth that I really enjoyed. Things like the magical island of Hy-Brasil, the time-old tradition of sticking it to the English, and a fight to escape the overreach of English aristocrats, are blended seamlessly into the story.

As far as magician apprentice stories go, The Magician’s Daughter might be one of my favorites. The Irish lore, the complicated relationship between Biddy and Rowan, and the fantastical prose that Parry stuffs the book with all make this novel more memorable than its competition. But, while the characters are all fabulous, I wish they had been given a little more to do.

Rating: The Magician’s Daughter – 7.0/10

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An ARC of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The thoughts on this book are my own.

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