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The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic    by Emily Croy Barker Amazon.com order for
Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic
by Emily Croy Barker
Order:  USA  Can
Penguin, 2013 (2013)
Hardcover
* * *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic reminded me of a lot of other fantasies, yet was still unique. Emily Croy Barker really knows what she is doing, which is doubly amazing considering this is her debut work.

Nora Fischer is a grad student who is feeling kind of stuck. She wishes her currently crappy life would change. Little does she expect to be whisked away to another world. Taken in by the beautiful Illysa, Nora does not realize what is happening before it is too late and she is wed to the prince of the Faitoren. Saved by Aruendiel from a fate quite possibly worse than death, Nora stays with the curmudgeonly magician while he works on finding her a way back to her world. However, Nora, used to being a scholar not a kitchen maid, is soon bored and convinces Aruendiel to teach her magic, real magic.

Just like its title, The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic is not a short work. Like many similar books on the market today, this is a chunkster and is not meant to be rushed through. Barker takes her time building the world Nora finds herself in - getting integrated into the world along with Nora is half the fun. Not only is the world well-built and interesting, but so are the characters. The only part of the novel that could use some help were the last fifty pages but that may only be my opinion. Barker did not take the ending where I thought it should go, and possibly even opened it up for a sequel.

If you enjoyed Lev Grossman's The Magicians, Deborah Harkness's A Discovery of Witches, or Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norell, then you simply must find time to read Emily Croy Barker's The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic. It is a solid modern fantasy.

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