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  • queer magical YA

    I wasn't sure what this book was about when I requested it. It had appeared on quite a few lists as having queer content. I'm all about queer content so I requested it when I saw it on Edelweiss. I have mixed feelings about this novel. Let's start with the good stuff. I really enjoyed the writing style. It was great: tight prose, and well-edited. As far as the characters went, I really liked Sam. Most of the novel was told from his perspective. He's struggling with an on-going crush he has on his best friend. It's been made worse by a couple of strange moments they've had together. Sam hasn't the foggiest if his best friend, James has feelings for him or is completely straight. In the world of The Fascinators, there is magic. It's not really explained in any great detail, but it seems as though most people are born with magical ability. There are some references made to one's magical ability being tied to how "in tune" you are with emotions and feelings, but it's never made very clear. I wished that the author had put a bit more time into explaining the nature of the magic that people have within them. There is a cult-like organization in the book. Their purpose seems to be to steal magic from people. Again, it's not really clear what type of magic they are after or if they have an end goal for what they want to do with the magic they are after. At the center of the book, is the longstanding friendship between Sam, James, and Delia. They've known each other for a long time and they are part of a magic club together. Things have started to go a little sideways for them and it seems to be because of confusion. Sam's confused about his feelings for James. James seems to be drifting away from his friends and towards the Church that he previously wasn't involved in. Delia is so obsessed with magic and getting into the best school that she doesn't seem to have time for her friendships anymore. Denver appears early on in the book and I think he was my favorite character. He's the new kid when he shows up for the Fascinators meeting. It's clear from the beginning that he is interested in Sam but Sam's mind is still on James. He does provide a bit of a prompt for Sam to try and get to the bottom of his feelings. I did like that the fact that there were gay characters in the book wasn't the plot... it was just who they were. It was authentic and natural and a delight to read. I felt as though I didn't really have enough from all the characters though. I wanted to know more about them, to learn whether or not I liked them or didn't like them. They felt a little flat to me at times though. The thing that most unsettled me was the way the book finished. I was reading along, had a real feel for the pace and then suddenly, bam! the book was finished. I don't want to give away the ending, but I genuinely thought that I had missed something. I flipped back a few pages and reread parts and then found that no, I hadn't missed anything. I'm not sure if the author is setting this up to be the first book in a series but there are certainly some things that aren't resolved by the end of the book. All in all, this is a good read. Some of the things that I didn't like may well be resolved if there's a continuation planned in the future.

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    11 person found this review helpful

    11 people found this review helpful

    11 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • 'Us against the world' with hopeful love and magic

    "I've always loved this volatile quality that magic has. This ability to create meaning and defy meaning. To be real and not real. That's how it feels when you're waiting for your life to start and yet somehow, impossibly, having to live it at the same time." -- Andrew Eliopulos It's strange, give me a book and tell me there's a sorcerer in it.. and I'm all about it. Normally though, if instead you swap that word out for magician, I'm going to reflexively just make a face and hesitate. I don't know why. In my head a magician is a performer and while I enjoy a good magic show as much as the next person, I really don't usually want to read a book or watch a film about it. There have been exceptions, of course. Both The Prestige and The Illusionist were great films and I loved them, but I'm hard pressed to think of a single book until this year that has labeled magic wielders as magicians, that I've actually been interested enough to read. That being said, since I've gone back to reviewing.. and this time with books, I've required myself to keep an open mind.. to try concepts I might normally skip when my reading time is more limited. 'The Fascinators' by Andrew Eliopulos is a story about 'magickers' that I didn't even bat an eye at before deciding I needed to read it. From the synopsis alone, I knew I had to go on this adventure. There's something even about the cover that for me radiated late summer/early fall friendships and an 'us against the world' feeling. It made me think of Breakfast Club and Goonies.. even Stranger Things a little bit. "If you've ever cast a spell alone in your room in the dark, wishing you were somewhere--or someone--else, this book is for you." -- Andrew Eliopulos (Dedication) Sam, our protagonist, lives in a small town where pretty much everything marks you as an outcast. Magic, religious beliefs, sexual preferences.. anything that doesn't align with the majority of the community is frowned upon. He's got two best friends, James and Delia, that he's counting on to see him through his senior year. Though the three teens have been friends for ages, early on the group starts to splinter. Sam is having confusing feelings for James, Delia is finding their amateur magic club disappointing, and new elements are at play.. causing rifts between them. Turns out that over the summer, James also got mixed up with some shady magic users and that's making everyone's lives difficult too. Difficulties that even magic can't fix. (His mom always countered that his relationship with James was less like a fire and more like Schrodinger's cat, and Sam was just afraid to open the box to find out whether it was alive or dead.) I have to tell you, Sam is just the sweetest boy. He's tormented by his feelings and by the pressure of not fitting in.. even in places where that was never the case for him before. I found myself genuinely hoping for him to find love and happiness. Dynamically, the group evolves quite a lot from the start to the finish of the novel and though I wasn't always pleased with the actions of every character, I felt satisfied with the results of their choices. I enjoyed watching them evolve. Their dialogue feels very natural, in some cases it's filled with easy banter and in others, the discomfort is like a physical thing between them. The funny moments really stand out, they're not rare.. but they are fabulous. "Mary Ellen's has the best biscuits and gravy you have ever eaten or will ever eat. It's like gravy soup with biscuit croutons. It's like a gravy landslide over biscuit city." "I'm not sure you're convincing me by comparing the food to a natural disaster." "It's like a natural disaster that's making way for a better civilization." "Wow, Sam. Didn't peg you for a kill-all-humans type, but I guess we all have our dark sides." The magic itself, is fairly wide-ranging.. though most of what we see is elemental in nature, magic also surprisingly, doesn't play that much of a role in the scenes. It's a major part of the story, but the scenes are really all about the group and how the magic they use changes their circumstances and their core beings. Honestly, I can easily say I loved this book. It's fun, but not too light-hearted. The relationships are warm, but imperfect. And even the parents vary from dismissive and narrow-minded to supportive and loving. I feel like it's easy to see the paths each character is set on and how they become who they are. What a great story.. (More reviews like this at BetwixtTheSheets.com) (I received this title as an ARC. All opinions are mine and freely given.)

    Thanks for your feedback!

    4 person found this review helpful

    4 people found this review helpful

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • magical, charming

    The Fascinators by Andrew Eliopulos reads like a contemporary young adult novel but has soft magical elements, a touch of romance, and a bit of suspense. I enjoyed this sweet book! I don't know if sweet is the right word. It certainly has darker aspects, but they're handled with a light touch. It's a unique piece, perhaps unsure of what it wants to be. It felt brief, like none of the book's components were fully explored. Yet for the tone, the brevity feels right. I could also see this same story told with a darker tone, denser prose, and more exploration of the characters and themes. Part of me wonders if that would've been a better route for this story. However, the author's voice shines through his quirky, insecure protagonist, Sam. And his journey is delightfully magical, angsty, and charming. The story also touches on important themes, like marginalized identities, complicated friendships, and dealing with change.

    Thanks for your feedback!

    0 person found this review helpful

    0 people found this review helpful

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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