Nora Fischer's dissertation is stalled and her boyfriend is about to marry another woman. During a miserable weekend at a friend's wedding, Nora wanders off and walks through a portal into a different world where she's transformed from a drab grad student into a stunning beauty. Read more...
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Publisher: Penguin Books$12.00The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic (Large Print Hardcover)
Publisher: Thorndike Press$30.99
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Nora Fischer's dissertation is stalled and her boyfriend is about to marry another woman. During a miserable weekend at a friend's wedding, Nora wanders off and walks through a portal into a different world where she's transformed from a drab grad student into a stunning beauty. Before long, she has a set of glamorous new friends and her romance with gorgeous, masterful Raclin is heating up. It's almost too good to be true.
Then the elegant veneer shatters. Nora's new fantasy world turns darker, a fairy tale gone incredibly wrong. Making it here will take skills Nora never learned in graduate school. Her only real ally--and a reluctant one at that--is the magician Aruendiel, a grim, reclusive figure with a biting tongue and a shrouded past. And it will take her becoming Aruendiel's student--and learning magic herself--to survive. When a passage home finally opens, Nora must weigh her "real life" against the dangerous power of love and magic.
For lovers of Lev Grossman's The Magicians series ("The Magicians "and "The Magician King") and Deborah Harkness's All Souls Trilogy ("A Discovery of Witches" and "Shadow of Night").
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-06-03
- Reviewer: Staff
Nora Fischer has lost everything: dumped by her boyfriend, her dissertation going nowhere fast, her life an empty shell. She decides she needs an escape. In this ambitious, densely packed debut by journalist Barker, Nora finds that instead of getting a small break from normality, she has escaped into another world in which magic exists—and is not as cute and cuddly as she might have imagined. Though the story starts with a classic tale of unpleasant fairies working their will, it morphs into something deeper and more nuanced when Nora meets the magician Aruendiel. Barker weaves together classic fantasy and romantic elements (including shout-outs to Pride and Prejudice and hints of Wuthering Heights) to produce a well-rounded, smooth, and subtle tale. Agent: Emma Sweeney, Emma Sweeney Agency. (Aug.)
Through a portal to a dangerous world
The bouncy title of this epic first novel sets up expectations of a certain type of book—maybe one with a pink stiletto or a sparkly diamond ring on the cover. Think again. The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic is a medieval fairy tale with a deliciously dark twist: The heroine is a modern-day woman trapped in an alternate, magical world.
Nora Fischer’s dissertation is going nowhere fast—and her love life is in even worse shape—when she stumbles onto a portal to Semr, an archaic kingdom where magic is in the air and ideas about women’s roles are very different. Nora is enchanted (literally) by a woman named Ilissa, who quickly marries Nora off to her son to produce an heir. But her new family is not what it seems, and Nora flees to the protection of Aruendiel, a reclusive magician whose rough exterior hides a mysterious and painful past. Soon Nora has become Aruendiel’s apprentice, learning basic spells that come in handy when she and Ilissa meet again. Eventually, Nora will have to decide whether to make her way back home, or stay in a world she’s amazed to realize she has come to love.
Emily Croy Barker is the executive editor of The American Lawyer magazine, where she oversees coverage of things like antitrust mass actions in Europe and the population of minority lawyers at big law firms. One can only imagine the fun she had writing this soapy, snappy tale. I’d be a sucker for any book in which Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice played a prominent role (Nora translates that classic novel chapter by chapter for Aruendiel), but The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic stands on its own merits as a thoroughly enchanting read. While Nora and Aruendiel may be more Heathcliff and Catherine than Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, Barker has spun a clever, lush yarn that is uniquely its own.