The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker

Nora Fischer is a modern, intelligent, well-educated woman, but her life is taking a turn for the worse. Her PhD advisor is not pleased with her latest efforts. Her ex-boyfriend tells her he is getting married to someone he just met. She meets a new man at a wedding rehearsal dinner, but before long his girlfriend is calling him on his cell phone, ring tone “If You Think I’m Sexy.” Then she takes an early morning walk in the woods, and stumbles upon an old graveyard that leads to a labyrinth of beautiful gardens. The magical beings that live in the garden, the Faitoren, are her new best friends. In their company she is more popular and sought after than ever before. But is it all just a little too enchanting? Nora gradually realizes she is in a completely different world, where magic is real and her life depends upon a scarred reclusive magician who can help her understand how to use it.

At 563 pages, this is a relatively long book, but I read it in less time than it usually takes me to read a book half its size because it was so enthralling. It has the perfect balance of fantasy, action, and romance. First time author Emily Croy Barker has created a magical world with a complex history, social system, geography, and characters that I really hated to leave at the end of the book. There is clearly room for a sequel, and I can’t help but think this is the start of a new series that fans of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy) by Deborah Harkness, and even Harry Potter will enjoy. I hope Barker is already busy working on the sequel!

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