The Magicians' Daughter by H.G. Parry
Publication Date: February 21st, 2023
Paperback. 400 pages.
About The Magician's Daughter:
"It is 1912, and for the last seventy years magic has all but disappeared from the world. Yet magic is all Biddy has ever known.
Orphaned in a shipwreck as a baby, Biddy grew up on Hy-Brasil, a legendary island off the coast of Ireland hidden by magic and glimpsed by rare travelers who return with stories of wild black rabbits and a lone magician in a castle. To Biddy, the island is her home, a place of ancient trees and sea-salt air and mysteries, and the magician, Rowan, is her guardian. She loves both, but as her seventeenth birthday approaches, she is stifled by her solitude and frustrated by Rowan’s refusal to let her leave. He himself leaves almost every night, transforming into a raven and flying to the mainland, and never tells her where or why he goes.
One night, Rowan fails to come home from his mysterious travels. When Biddy ventures into his nightmares to rescue him, she learns not only where he goes every night, but the terrible things that happened in the last days of magic that caused Rowan to flee to Hy-Brasil. Rowan has powerful enemies who threaten the safety of the island. Biddy’s determination to protect her home and her guardian takes her away from the safety of Hy-Brasil, to the poorhouses of Whitechapel, a secret castle beneath London streets, the ruins of an ancient civilization, and finally to a desperate chance to restore lost magic. But the closer she comes to answers, the more she comes to question everything she has ever believed about Rowan, her origins, and the cost of bringing magic back into the world."
The Magician's Daughter is a delightfully magical story that is full of charm and all the cozy vibes you're looking for in a winter read. This feels very classic in a sense that reminds me of Dianna Wynne Jones' books where you are stepping into a world of magic, but with a slightly more modern style to it.
In The Magician's Daughter, we follow Bridget (Biddy) who has grown up on the secluded magical island of Hy-Brasil after being orphaned by a shipwreck when she was just a baby. The magician Rowan found her as a baby and whisked her to safety on Hy-Brasil where he raised her with the help of his rabbit familiar, Hutchinson (Hutch). Now seventeen, Biddy no longer is content with staying secluded on Hy-Brasil and instead yearns to discover more about the world outside of the island, something that becomes a large point of contention between her and Rowan, who refuses to let her leave. Rowan, however, leaves the island every night by transforming into a raven and flying to the mainland for some secret reasons that he never tells her about. When he doesn't return one night, Biddy decides that she has to get involved.
Biddy is a really fun character that full is full of life and excitement. She came across a little young at times, which made me forget that she was almost seventeen, but I think this fit well with the idea that she had grown up relatively secluded on one island and therefore likely had a different perspective of the world and those around her. She's a very respectful and kindhearted girl, but also rather confident in herself and bold in being not afraid to speak her mind or make her feelings known. Since Biddy doesn't know much of the world outside of the books she reads, when she actually travels to London for the first time her excited view of the world is unfortunately forced to come back down to reality as she is thrust into the world and forced to realize that things aren't quite as lovely or exciting as thinks they are.
I didn't end up feeling as connected to Biddy as I might've expected to, and I honestly wasn't all that enamored with Rowan, either. Something about Rowan seemed to bother me, and I have one theory as to why. It's one of those situations where we are told about this brilliant, amazing person (Rowan), but when we jump into the story it's right when they start making mistakes or do certain things that paint them in a bad light, so then when the protagonist tries to defend them and say things like "Oh but they're great, they'd never do that," etc., I have a harder time believing or caring about their relationship with one another because I haven't actually ever seen it. This might be a very specific issue that I have with some books, but I noticed it happening a lot in The Magician's Daughter and it always pulls me out just a bit. I did, however, adore Hutch and would consider him to be my favorite character for his personality and the fact that half the time he's a rabbit!
Hy-Brasil is an incredible island setting that seems absolutely lovely and magical and not a little bit enchanted and mysterious. It is hidden by ancient magic and thus can only be found every seven years by those who know how to find it. There is a strong mystique surrounding the island that I think wasn't explored quite as much as it could have been, as I loved spending time there and learning more about it's history and present inhabitants. I found myself desperately wishing to live with Rowan, Hutch, and Biddy on Hy-Brasil and will be forever disappointed that I have to live out here in the boring real world. There is even a mnysterious forest of sorts that houses the devious puca and a variety of other creatures. A good portion of the story takes place off the island of Hy-Brasil, so I think that is the main reason why I wish we spent more time on Hy-Brasil, but I understand that the plot required moving elsewhere and that this is solely a personal wish.
Parry always excels in creating strong characters and exquisite prose in her books, and The Magician's Daughter is no exception. I also found that she was particularly deft at taking the plot in directions I never really expected at various points throughout the story. I can't really share what some of those directions are because I don't want to spoil anything, but I was genuinely surprised by some of the places we went in this book–including literal physical places we went.
The magic system seemed very interesting and I liked learning about it generally, but I'm still not entirely sure that I full understand it. I'm also a little confused about Biddy's role in and the fact that she's not technically a witch, but can possibly use magic anyway in more ways than made sense to me? I'm not entirely sure where I got lost, but I have to say that it didn't bother me overmuch because the way the magic was interwoven in the story was done in such a whimsical manner that it felt like soft enough to where it was okay to not know every fine detail.
Overall, I've given The Magician's Daughter 4.5 stars! I adored this whimsical and engaging new fantasy and would love to revisit this world.
*I received a copy of The Magician's Daughter courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*