The Price’s Guide to the Occult is a paranormal YA novel and probably not a standalone, but no sequel has been announced yet. It’s the second book I read by Leslye Walton.
If you’re a romantic person and love slow-paced paranormal stories, you need to read this book. I’m not, but I have to say that this book surprised me in many ways, despite being flawed and not exactly my thing.
Also, it’s about witches, and that aspect was great.
I haven’t read a book as atmospheric since Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moïra Fowley-Doyle. The Price Guide to the Occult is set in the Pacific Northwest, on a rainy island with its own history and secrets. I loved the descriptions of the landscape, and the writing was whimsical and detailed without being too heavy. The transition between scenes, however, often felt too sudden and awkward.
I loved Nor. She went through a lot because of her abusive mother, and self-harmed because of that (TW: self-harm, blood) until she started therapy. She’s already in recovery at the beginning of the story, but she still has to fight the urge to hurt herself from time to time. She’s a character with depression and an abuse survivor in a fantasy book, and it’s mentioned that she went to therapy and got better because of it. Mental health is rarely explored in speculative fiction, and often therapy isn’t even mentioned, or is portrayed negatively without nuance. Nor is also a high school dropout and isn’t shamed because of that.
The side characters were really interesting as well. Nor lives with her grandmothers, the healer witch Judd, who is bisexual, and her wife Apothia, who is Chinese. There’s also a minor m/m couple, and it’s mentioned that the alpaca farm on the island is owned by a woman and her girlfriend (…always there for lesbian farmers).
Nor has a crush on Reed, a boy she’s afraid to approach because of the curse, who was very sweet if not a bit too one-dimensional, and a best friend, Savy, who is black and has the best outfits. I loved that Nor and Savvy’s friendship was as developed as the romance.
What I didn’t like was how Savvy implied that no one wants to die without having been in love first. I’m aromantic, I’m fine with it, and it would be nice if people just stopped with this kind of assumptions.
I could have done without the love triangle. I hated the second love interest, Gabe, who was rude for no reason, and love triangles between a girl and two boys are just not that interesting anymore, they haven’t been for years. But my main problem with The Price’s Guide to the Occult was the plot, which was really predictable. So predictable I think I can tell the directions a sequel(s?) would probably take. And I hope there will be a sequel, because that ending is really unsatisfying otherwise – I love Leslye Walton’s writing style, but I don’t think she’s good at writing endings, or action scenes.
Another thing that didn’t convince me was the villain. Fern Blackburn was really one-dimensional and there was no motivation for her actions. She… wants to conquer the world with magic? Why? I may not need a tragic backstory, but I wanted her to have more character traits aside from evilness.
My rating: ★★★¼