YA Weekend: Blood Like Magic by Liselle Sambury
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: urban Fantasy, Young Adult
Series: Book 1 of Blood Like Magic
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry (June 15, 2021)
Length: 496 pages
Meet Voya Thomas. She’s a Torontonian teen, with the magic of her Trinidadian ancestors running through her veins. At sixteen, she must now face what every witch in her family had had to go through in order to come into her power—the Calling. During this trial, Voya would be assigned a task, and only if she completes it will she pass the test and become a full-fledged witch.
Given the intense pressure to succeed, Voya has been preparing for this moment her entire life. Still, she can’t help but be worried. She’s always been indecisive, and just her luck, the Calling always involves making a difficult choice. Of course, whatever it is, she could always choose to refuse…except, doing so would mean that no one in her family would ever be Called again. Worse, those who have their powers now would also lose them, and a life without magic is simply unthinkable to Voya.
So, the Calling it is. And just as she feared, the challenge her ancestors have chosen for her is a doozy. In one month’s time, coinciding with the city’s Caribana festival, she must kill her first love. Needless to say, Voya is devastated. While she’d be willing to do anything to save her family’s magic, taking a life also goes against everything she believes in. On top of that, how could she ever hope to fulfill her task, if she’s never even been in love?
Fortunately, Voya has hatched the beginnings of a plan. Everyone’s been talking about a new matchmaking program, one that promises to pair you with your perfect mate based on your DNA. Voya intends to join this program, get matched with her one true love, then sacrifice him to fulfill her destiny, all in the span of one month. This should go off without a hitch, right?
Yeah, no. Things start off poorly right away as the genetic program matches Voya with the insufferably arrogant Luc Rodriguez, whom she can’t stand. But, a plan is a plan. More lives than hers are at stake. Putting her trust in technology and magic alike, our protagonist sets out a path to secure her family’s future.
So, I didn’t really know what to expect from Blood Like Magic, but I ended up being pleasantly surprised. Also, I feel I need to make a confession: the main reason I was drawn to this book, at least initially, was the setting. Lately, I’ve been real picky when it comes to YA, but a novel that takes place in my hometown of Toronto? Still going to be irresistible.
And wow, if nothing else, author Liselle Sambury has written a love letter to the city that holds my heart. It’s been years since I last lived there, but this book transported me right back. All the neighborhoods, landmarks, and vibrant communities are represented. Even my old haunts at the University of Toronto, uptown in Richmond Hill, even good old Pacific Mall! And the cherry on top was of course Caribana. Ah, the memories of dangling our feet from apartment balconies overlooking Yonge Street, watching the parades from above. Of course, this being an urban fantasy story set in the future, we’re also looking at an incorporation of paranormal and sci-fi elements, but deep in its bones, this is still the Toronto of diversity and culture that I know and adore, and reading this book made me realize how much I miss it.
Then there are the characters who gradually grew on me. Voya is a fun and refreshing voice, and realistic in her uncertainties and fears of failure. It’s also clear how much she loves her family and cares about preserving their traditions. Admittedly, it took me longer to find a connection with Luc, but perhaps that’s not so surprising considering he was a character who held himself at a distance, at least at first. It was certainly a while before Voya could get through to him, and only then was I able to see deeper beyond his haughty and aloof demeanor. I also can’t say I was crazy about the whole genetic matchmaking concept, which reminded me of the premise to The One (as it so happens, I thought it was completely ridiculous there too) but thankfully that only turned out to be a minor aspect, and ultimately I became curious to see how Voya would resolve her conflict of having to fall in love with Luc knowing that she’ll end up having to kill him.
My only big point of criticism? I thought the book was kind of slow. I found as I read there would be pages and pages going by without any real advancement in the plot. I suppose everything came together in the end, but for all that there was plenty going on, sometimes it just felt like we were zipping back and forth yet still not getting anywhere fast.
That said, despite its flaws, Blood Like Magic was still a promising first book to what I think will be a very successful series. While the ending didn’t go exactly the way I wanted, the fact it mattered to me hopefully shows how much I was invested in the story by that point, and the leadup to the climax was definitely riveting and I want to know more. I just love how central the themes of family are in this one, and it’s one of the main reasons why I’ll probably continue with the series. Something tells me there’s still much more in store for Voya, and I want to find out what.