Monday, November 4, 2019

Review: Unnatural Magic by C.M. Waggoner

Unnatural Magic
Unnatural Magic by C.M. Waggoner
Publication Date: November 5th, 2019
Paperback. 400 pages

About Unnatural Magic:

"Onna can write the parameters of a spell faster than any of the young men in her village school. But despite her incredible abilities, she’s denied a place at the nation’s premier arcane academy. Undaunted, she sails to the bustling city-state of Hexos, hoping to find a place at a university where they don’t think there’s anything untoward about providing a woman with a magical education. But as soon as Onna arrives, she’s drawn into the mysterious murder of four trolls. 

Tsira is a troll who never quite fit into her clan, despite being the leader’s daughter. She decides to strike out on her own and look for work in a human city, but on her way she stumbles upon the body of a half-dead human soldier in the snow. As she slowly nurses him back to health, an unlikely bond forms between them, one that is tested when an unknown mage makes an attempt on Tsira’s life. Soon, unbeknownst to each other, Onna and Tsira both begin devoting their considerable talents to finding out who is targeting trolls, before their homeland is torn apart…"

This book was such a delight! Unnatural Magic is a true breath of fresh air in the fantasy genre. I had no idea what to expect going into this, but it ended being even more charming and exciting than I could have hoped for. The characters are vibrant, engaging, and full of personality, the world is fascinating, and the magic system is one that I truly love.

Unnatural Magic follows three main characters: Onna, Jeckran, and Tsira. The story is sort of split into two predominate POVs, one of which features Onna as she embarks on her own educational-oriented journey to Hexos, and the second follows Tsira and Jeckran, an unlikely pair who cross paths and continue to journey on together throughout the story. Onna was easily my favorite POV simply because I was most interested in her usage of magic, exploring the city-state of Hexos, and the people we meet there, but that's not to say that I didn't enjoy Tsira and Jeckran's journey as well because I absolutely did. In the beginning of the book, however, I'll admit that I was slightly frustrated because switching POVs felt as though as I was reading two completely different books when I really only wanted to read one. Fortunately, the connections in the stories eventually make themselves known and both POVs started to become more interesting and make more sense to me.

Onna is a delightful character to follow and I liked seeing how she interacted with people in Hexos and especially within the new position she takes once in the city. She was raised on the slightly more proper and respectful side (though I wouldn't call her pretentious by any means!), so seeing her deal with those who aren't as trained in etiquette and/or appropriate conversations was highly enjoyable. Onna is one of those characters that you can't help but love because of her thirst for adventure while remaining a bit of an academic book-oriented girl at the same time.

Jeckran, a former soldier, is more on the relaxed side, though he has quite a few anxieties that come out during his journeys that allowed me to better get to know him. His interactions with Tsira were some of my favorite and I loved watching the bond develop between these two characters. And speaking of Tsira, she was easily one of the most interesting parts of this book. As the synopsis notes, Tsira is a troll, which made for a truly fascinating journey to learn more about her and the troll culture. I loved the explorations of how they deal with gender and roles and how relationships work among trolls--Waggoner really excelled in this area.

One of my favorite aspects of this book was the magical system itself, though I do wish we had been able to learn a bit more about it in detail. The way the magic works is fascinating to me. Mages and those who use magic use what are called "parameters" to essentially create the spells and develop their functions. There seems to typically be those who create parameters (who don't have to have any magical skill) and mages who actually use those parameters in order to use spells and magic. The parameters sort of reminded me a proofs from math, which to me added a really unique and sort of solidified magic system that felt grounded and real.

Lastly, I'd like to make a quick additional note on the subtle yet important themes explored in this book related to gender, status, race, and other important political topics. Waggoner weaved discussions around all of these areas in such elegant ways that fit perfectly into this fantasy world while also allowing me to see relevance in our own world.

Overall, I've given Unnatural Magic 4.25 stars! If you're looking for a delightful magical read with exceptional characters and character interactions, as well as some smart discussion on relevant themes, then absolutely pick this one up!

*I received an ARC of Unnatural Magic courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating.*


  1. I'm so happy I have a copy of this book! I'll be reading this month for sure, now that I've read your review:-)