A Far Wilder Magic by Allison Saft
Publication Date: March 8th, 2022
Hardcover. 384 pages.
About A Far Wilder Magic:
"When Margaret Welty spots the legendary hala, the last living mythical creature, she knows the Halfmoon Hunt will soon follow. Whoever is able to kill the hala will earn fame and riches, and unlock an ancient magical secret. If Margaret wins the hunt, it may finally bring her mother home. While Margaret is the best sharpshooter in town, only teams of two can register, and she needs an alchemist.
Weston Winters isn’t an alchemist--yet. Fired from every apprenticeship he's landed, his last chance hinges on Master Welty taking him in. But when Wes arrives at Welty Manor, he finds only Margaret and her bloodhound Trouble. Margaret begrudgingly allows him to stay, but on one condition: he must join the hunt with her.
Although they make an unlikely team, Wes is in awe of the girl who has endured alone on the outskirts of a town that doesn’t want her, in this creaking house of ghosts and sorrow. And even though Wes disrupts every aspect of her life, Margaret is drawn to him. He, too, knows what it's like to be an outsider. As the hunt looms closer and tensions rise, Margaret and Wes uncover dark magic that could be the key to winning the hunt - if they survive that long."
A Far Wilder Magic is an atmospheric and compelling new YA fantasy that incorporates a variety of well-loved tropes with some compelling new characters.
Margaret (aka Maggie) Welty lives alone with her dog near the edge of town while she waits for her mother, an ambitious and career-driven woman, to return from her research. The only problem is that Maggie has no idea where her mother is or when she’ll return–and it’s already been longer than she expected her to be gone. One day, Margaret spots the legendary Hala, a mythical fox-like creature, in the woods, which means the annual Halfmoon Hunt will begin soon, a competition in which teams of two compete to take down the Hala first. Every team requires an alchemist, which Maggie is not, and she is unable to enter to participate in the competition until an unexpected boy named Weston (Wes) shows up with hopes of becoming an apprentice to Maggie’s mother.
A Far Wilder Magic is an enjoyable fantasy with plenty of well-loved tropes that made this a fun book to read. All that being said, I actually had quite a lot of issues with this book which means this review is probably going to sound overly critical. This wasn’t a bad book by any means, but it’s one that suffered from a lot of the common issues I’ve been seeing in some YA fantasy lately and want to be honest about my reading experience and thoughts on this book. For me, the fact that I was actively engaged in the story and didn’t DNF it shows me that there was enough about the writing and the story itself that were engaging enough for me to want to complete the book, and I’m not one who shies away from DNF-ing if I’m feeling that way.
The story switches between both Maggie and Wes’ POVs and I really liked getting to know both of these characters. I definitely think I preferred Wes’ chapters simply because he was a bit more lively and humorousMaggie and Wes’ growth was enjoyable to watch and I think Saft did a pretty good job of showing them slowly grow and begin to trust one another over the somewhat tumultuous events of the book, but I’ll be honest: I feel like I was duped into reading a light fantasy romance for the most part. This isn’t necessarily bad, but I was expecting a bit more in the way of fantasy and plot, and instead I got more of a relationship-focused story, which just wasn’t what I was expecting.
The pacing and plot development of A Far Wilder Magic was a bit weird to me, and without giving away too much, just know going in that if you are reading this book because you love competitions, this book is probably not what you might be expecting. The competition itself does not truly start until the very end of the book, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that–it got to the point where I saw what little pages were left and was starting to feel genuinely concerned over how Saft would fit the competition in. There are small pre-competition events before the Halfmoon Hunt actually begins, but they are littered only occasionally throughout the story. I was also pretty dissatisfied with the result of the Halfmoon Hunt as well and felt that what happened was a huge letdown, so that was a bit of a disappointing way to end the novel.
In addition, the world-building was also rather confusing and bit muddied, and I never really felt like I understand what this world was like or the general time period it was meant to evoke. There is are some big folkloric/mythical elements to the background of this story, especially involving the hala, gods, and demiurges, that I feel needed just a bit more explanation than we got. Similarly, the religious aspects and inclusion of different ethnicities was not explained overly well, in my opinion. It felt like we were told a lot about who people were and what they believed, but this was never actually seen in practice and therefore felt more like filler for background without actually being applicable to the story itself, if that makes sense.
Overall, I’ve given A Far Wilder Magic 2.75/3 stars. As I said, if you are really excited for this book then I wouldn’t let this totally dissuade you, but rather give an idea of what to expect. As this was the second book I’ve tried from Allison Saft (the first being Comes the Night, which I DNF’d), I probably won’t continue with her books, but am grateful for the opportunity to read A Far Wilder Magic! I just don’t think her books are my cup of tea.
*I received a copy of A Far Wilder Magic courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*