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Reviewer: Melissa on October 7, 2014
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Gwen, a normal, 17-year-old girl, is settling into her new home in Oregon and looking forward to having a senior year where she finally gets out of her shell. That is, until she is kidnapped by Kian who warns her that she is in terrible danger. He tells her about an ancient war that was fought between magical Celtic warriors and three evil magicians. Not only was she one of those warriors in a past life, but also those magicians are alive and well and need to take Gwen’s magic to regain their full power. If they succeed they’ll be unstoppable, so to save the world Gwen will need to unlock the magic trapped with her memories of a past life in Britannia. In Lucy Leiderman’s Lives Of Magic, her debut novel and the first book in the Seven Wanderers Trilogy, Gwen must overcome the consequences of a soul divided into two lives, travel to New York and England with Kian to find others of her kind, and solve the puzzle of their last days in ancient Britannia. Whether they’re ready or not, a deadly showdown is coming and only by remembering their past will they be able to fully harness their magic.
Whether you’re somewhat new to stories involving Celtic mythology or typically gravitate toward them, Leiderman’s Lives Of Magic should be on your radar. Gwen’s story begins in the typical way for a teen who never suspected that she had magical abilities: she may not believe the strange man Kian who reveals the truth to her, but when her waking and dreaming lives begin to show her vivid memories of her past life, she’s intrigued enough to follow wherever he leads. She also is, initially rather weak and finds that every new memory comes with the possibility of deadly costs since she doesn’t know how to control her powers. Leiderman employs the typical hero arc that moves from a feeling of weakness to strength, but by featuring a teen girl in the central role, she presents readers with a role model that they may be seeing for the first time or that will reiterate and normalize the idea that girls and women can be the hero of a story. Beyond the narrative arc, it’s worth noting that Lives Of Magic is told in a compelling, never-want-to-put-it-down kind of way where most of the chapters end in with a reveal that keeps readers turning pages. Even as an adult, I thought “just one more chapter” more times than I can remember, so there’s no doubt in my mind that both teen and adult YA readers will like it.
Once Gwen and Kian travel to New York and later England, she slowly begins to remember more about her past, even when it brings up more questions than answers, and forces her – and the reader – to think about difficult problems, such as do your choices in a past life reflect on what your present life should look like or denote who you are fundamentally? In fact, these issues caused me to think that this was one of the few potential love triangles that made sense because two parts of Gwen were battling for prominence in her present. When she finds Garrison and Seth, she also is forced to deal with her own jealousy and feelings of inadequacy because they had both already been aware of their past lives. Even though Leiderman’s story is set in a magical present, she allows her readers to explore important questions that may plague their very real lives and thus, gives those who gravitate toward fantasy novels issues that they may never see from contemporary YA.
In addition to the points that I’ve already outlined, there are a few more that need to be said. First, I thought it was quite ingenious that Leiderman uses current problems, like natural disasters of various kinds, as a means to convince both Gwen and the reader to suspend their disbelief about the presence of the evil magicians. Even though I, personally, believe that global warming is real despite what naysayers think, this authorial decision made it believable that the story reflects our current moment rather than the past or the future. While I accepted this and loved the way that Gwen’s memories and magic unfurled, I found that there were a few issues common to first time authors, especially early in the novel, but nevertheless, Leiderman proved to me that she can tell a gripping story and I suspect that her forthcoming titles will improve upon this effort. Furthermore, there were a few sections with incorrect punctuation and, occasionally, a missing word like “the” or “my,” which felt jarring in a finished copy, which may not be completely the author’s fault.
Despite these few issues in Lives Of Magic, I’m sold on the Seven Wanderers series and can’t wait to read (and review) the second instalment in this new, Canadian trilogy, Lives Of Kings, which comes out on November 22, 2014.
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