Book Review: Petty Magic by Camille DeAngelis
When I first cracked open Petty Magic by Camille DeAngelis, I had a strong sense of déjà-vu. It was so similar to The Witch’s Daughter by Paula Brackston (which I just finished) that I had to give the cover the hairy eyeball just to make sure I was holding the right book. Both books have main female characters that are witches and immortal. Both authors interpret “immortality” as aging more slowly than a normal human, so that the main female characters are both in their elder years in the books. There are flashbacks to both World Wars in the books and both main female characters managed to have a love affair with a soldier. It was so similar that it was creepy.
Both female characters are haunted by their pasts but, thankfully, that’s where the similarity stopped. Elizabeth from The Witch’s Daughter is hunted by the man who made her immortal. Evelyn from Petty Magic is born immortal, part of a large family of magic-users. And when I say a large family, I very much mean that. There are a lot of people in Evelyn’s family, although the author does not name so many of them that it begins to overwhelm the reader. There are just enough people running around for there to be a few secondary plot lines threaded through the book. Not enough to be distracting from the main story, but enough to be interesting.
Evelyn’s true-love, Jonah, was killed while the pair was acting as spies in World War II. Evelyn never completely heals from the loss and now, appearing to be in her 60’s, Evelyn uses her magic to make herself appear young again, leaving a string of one-night stands behind her. But then Justin falls into her life and Evelyn thinks that her love may have returned to her. There is only one problem; Evelyn is now almost 150 years old. She is no longer the young thing Jonah fell in love with all those years ago. Evelyn uses her magic once again to change her appearance but knows that the deception can’t last.
The ending is happy but bittersweet. I won’t give it away here. What I found most fascinating about Petty Magic was the little details DeAngelis uses to flesh out her magical society. There are rules and laws that we see enforced in the book. Evelyn’s habit of using her magic to turn herself young is frowned upon but tolerated because it’s mostly harmless and she’s part of the head family. It’s nice to see a magical society set in place for the book. My only problem is that the first few chapters were spent bumping all this information on the reader in one go. The information could have been imparted as the story progressed rather than just shoved in our faces at the beginning. I spent the first few chapters wondering when the story was going to start.
The book moves from between present time to World War II and it always takes a few paragraphs for me to figure out which time frame I’m reading in. Petty Magic is entertaining and once you get over the information dump at the beginning, moves along fairly quickly. There are some interesting tidbits of world building in the book. It is a good book, one I give a mid-range grade to, and I would recommend Petty Magic by Camille DeAngelis to anyone looking for an amusing witchy read.