Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker

The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic is an enjoyable, comic fantasy. During a particularly low point in her life, Graduate student, Nora Fischer, finds herself accidentally transported to a magical world.

Among the Faitoren, Nora feels happy and loved but this is just an illusion. The Faitoren use magic to con and betray her. Fortunately, she is rescued by Aruendiel, a magician, and the two develop a complicated friendship.

In Aruendiel's domain and in other non-Faitoren places, women have traditional roles, much like they did in 18th-century England. Women cook, clean, bear children but aren't expected to get an education or learn magic. This leaves Nora, who is highly educated and naturally curious, in a quandary.

In addition, no one seems to know what Nora's role should be. She's not humble enough to be a servant. Conversely, she's not wealthy or well-connected enough to become a lady-at-court. Unfit for marriage in her own world, Nora finds that she is also unfit for marriage in this magical place.

Nora continually challeges the the treatment of women and rules about social status. She does this all the while studying magic and even returning the favor Areundiel once did for her. When a passage opens, however, that allows her to return to her own world, Nora once again feels conflicted. Should she return to her family or stay in this magical world where she is beginning to feel accepted?

Many questions are left unanswered in this magical adaption of Pride and Prejudice. Hopefully, Barker intends to write a sequel.

Similar titles: The Magician by Lev Grossman and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell by Susanna Clarke.