Spells for Forgetting by Adrienne Young is the perfect book for what I needed this week. A compelling mystery with a strong romantic element, witchy influences and a good dose of betrayal and moral murkiness. That said, this isn’t quite our usual fare here at Grimdark Magazine, and I expect that not all of you will immediately want to pick this one up. But there is much to enjoy here for lovers of dark and twisted stories, and even we long for some good comfort reading and a book that, despite its deep sense of twisted morals, carries that ember of hope.
Set on the isolated Saoirse Island in the Pacific Northwest, Spells for Forgetting is filled to the brim with autumnal atmosphere, evoking a misty and grey landscape in which we meet our characters: August has returned to Saoirse to bury his mother’s ashes after a sudden departure years earlier, Emery has never gotten over being left behind, and Lily, well, Lily was murdered just before August left. And everyone thinks he was responsible. And then there’s the matter of August’s grandfather’s orchard, left to the town on his death. As secrets get uncovered and old relationships rekindled, the characters are confronted with their unresolved pasts and no one is safe.
To be entirely honest, I did not expect to fall for Spells for Forgetting as much as I did. I have been following Adrienne Young’s YA writing for most of her career, and really enjoyed her books, especially in regards to writing multiple points of view. As this is her adult debut, and her first book that isn’t set in a secondary world, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect – and found a story that is both dark and comforting, a disconcerting and cosy read. Spells for Forgetting is character-driven rather than hugely fast-paced, focusing on evoking the atmosphere and relationships to present events in their most powerful form. And the island, the landscape, becomes a character of its own right.
While this isn’t a fantasy novel, it does have a magic element. There are spells, witchcraft, an innate magic to Saoirse Island, which helps cement the misty atmosphere against which the story is set. All in all, Spells for Forgetting is a fantastic murder mystery for readers of grimdark who are looking to take a little breather from the very dark, but do not want to compromise on murky morals. A five star read for me.