Story magic by Laurel Gale
Age category: Middle Grade
Release Date: August 3, 2020
Story Magic by Laurel Gale has one of the more unique magical systems I’ve read about in a long while. In this world, spells are cast by calling upon invisible creatures known as “listeners” and enticing them to use their powers in exchange for a story. The “words” to the spells are generally a single line, in the form of a request, pulled from the story itself. It’s a novel approach to magic that I really enjoyed, and I found the way this society views stories in general to be fascinating as well. People see stories as a means to work magic but few see them as sources of entertainment or bonding. With her fairly limited worldview at the start of the book, Kaya wonders why anyone would simply tell a story just to tell it. This was something else Story Magic pulls off well: Kaya comes off as a character who was believably raised in this world and holds to its norms and ideas–including the idea that women and girls shouldn’t practice magic–until she’s forced to confront conflicting world views.
The book opens with Kaya being encouraged by her brother to try magic against the ban. This introduces a slow but authentic journey as her confidence in her abilities grows, and her ideas about magic are challenged by the larger world. The quality of her stories improves with time as well, and even though there are quite a few mini stories told within the book, I loved seeing how they evolved, and I was often curious as to how Kaya was going to connect the story back to what she needed in the moment. The listeners quickly became fascinating characters in their own right, and their relationship with humans was developed well.
If I had to offer any criticism, I’d say there were times when Kaya felt a step behind the audience. Often when an event seemed off or strange, the reveal for Kaya would come after it had already been shown, or heavily implied, to the audience. I don’t doubt young readers enjoy those “a-ha!” moments and the chance to figure things out before the protagonist. Nevertheless, I also wanted to give Kaya a bit of a nudge and say, “No, X already mentioned what’s going on! Listen to them!”
Overall, the world of Story Magic was a wonderful place to spend some time in, and I’d look forward to returning to it in the future.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
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