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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Strange Alchemy: A Novel


One day, many moons ago, I picked up Gwenda Bond's Strange Alchemy specifically because a friend and I had just finished watching the season of American Horror Story that took place on Roanoke Island. I figured she would love it, but unfortunately it was tucked away on that insane TBR book shelf. I picked it up recently in my quest to find ways to pass books on. 

Roanoke Island is infamous in the United States for originally having a settler colony on it centuries ago. One of the leaders went back to England briefly, and when he returned, everyone had disappeared. They haven’t been seen since, and the legend of Roanoke Island lives on. Miranda was born and raised there, one of the infamous Blackwoods believed to be descended from one of the settlers left behind. She physically cannot leave the island due to a curse laid upon her family’s head. Grant, the sherrif’s son, has his grandmother’s gift of hearing spirits, and he rebelled his way off the island two years ago to boarding school. Suddenly, at the end of the summer, 114 residents vanish — the exact number from the original colony. Where did the go? What happened? Grant is summoned home, and he and Miranda must pair up to use each of their skills to solve the mystery before everyone else on the island pays the price. 

I have loved Bond since reading her Lois Lane series, and I indulged in this book because she is such a great writer. She understands adolescents thoroughly, and her ability to write from their perspective is just astounding. This story toggles back and forth between Miranda’s and Grant’s perspectives, providing the reader with a couple of different ways of looking at the story while keeping a solid through-line. Bond also builds a romance between the two that isn’t cheesy or overwrought, which I believe is under appreciated in current YA literature. 

I’m not the world’s biggest fan of supernatural literature, so I faded a bit in the third quarter around the intricacies of the spirit plot, but I think if I were more into the genre as a whole I would have been super into it. However, as someone who isn’t into it, I still felt that Bond’s creation of characters and writing style lend the book to an enjoyable peoce of work that will hook you early and keep you reading through the end. Great writing transcends genre, and Bond is just about the best you can get when it comes to YA lit.  

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