Walton follows The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender with a lyrical and robust multigenerational story set on the fictional Anathema Island in the Pacific Northwest. Now inhabited by hippies and artists, the island was originally populated by a small group of homesteading farmers, as well as Rona Blackburn, a witch. When Rona’s romantic relationship with one of the island’s founding fathers’ faltered, she cast a vindictive spell that forever entwined her bloodline to the island. In the present day, 17-year-old Nor is the eighth generation of Blackburn daughters. Like the women before her, Nor has a single magical power, known as a Burden: in Nor’s case, animals, plants, and insects speak to her. When Nor’s abusive mother, Fern, publishes Rona’s spell book, the wildlife on and around the island flees, leaving Nor and her friends and family to fight the black magic that Fern has begun to harvest. In succinct, evocative sentences, Walton paints vivid scenes while maintaining a gripping plot. Addressing abandonment, self-harm, first love, and other topics, Walton weaves a rewardingly complex tale that brims with suspense and romance. Ages 14–up. Agent: Bernadette Baker-Baughman, Victoria Sanders Agency (Mar.)
Gr 9 Up—Sixteen-year-old Nor Blackburn is just trying to stay under the radar and keep her growing magical abilities under wraps. Nor is the descendant of Rona Blackburn, a powerful witch who helped found the island of Anathema before cursing its inhabitants when they turned on her. Unbeknownst to Nor's loving support network—including her formidable grandmother, exuberant best friend, and the proprietor of the local magic shop—she understands the languages of animals and plants. And though each Blackburn woman is not supposed to have more than a single supernatural power, Nor's own supernatural skills seem to be rapidly expanding. She's also dealing with the lingering trauma of physical and psychological abuse suffered at the hands of her powerful and evil mother, Fern. She copes, in part, by engaging in self-harm; readers observe Nor's ever-present struggle to resist her self-destructive impulses and maintain a safe space for herself. When Fern resurfaces after a long absence, Nor's courage—and her newfound abilities—are put to the test. As in her 2014 debut, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, Walton's writing is atmospheric and ethereal. Anathema Island, with its foggy shores, rich diversity of flora and fauna, and quirky tourist shops, comes to vivid life. The pacing slows considerably at the midpoint and some of the secondary characters are thinly sketched. Nor's wicked and violent sociopath mother is memorable and her scenes are truly chilling. VERDICT Though perhaps not as epic or romantic as her first novel, Walton's sophomore effort is haunting and, especially in the last act, thrilling. Some unresolved subplots hint at a sequel.—Kiera Parrott, School Library Journal
Despite physical and emotional scars, a teenage witch must find the strength to stand against her villainous mother.When the famed witch Rona Blackburn took vengeance against the men of Anathema Island, she also cursed her descendants to heartbreak, diminished magic, and an intrinsic bond to that remote northwestern locale. Now, ninth-generation Blackburn daughter Nor wants only to reach her 17th birthday leaving "the slightest mark humanly possible on the world." But once her viciously charismatic mother, Fern, starts peddling toxic spells, Nor may have to invoke all the powers of her terrifying heritage. After a rousing historical prologue, the pace slows to portray the isolated, quirky, closely knit community, diverse in age, race, ethnicity, religion, and sexuality. Subsequently, straight white Nor's character arc drives the narrative: years of abuse have left her so desperately afraid of being like her mother that neither therapy nor her loving extended family can keep her from suppressing her gifts, avoiding relationships, or cutting herself to relieve emotional pain. Her addiction to self-harm, neither glossed over nor glamorized, provides for potent imagery as the mood gradually intensifies from creepy to macabre to flat-out horrific. (The author appends a list of resources for readers seeking help for self-harm.) The Grand Guignol climax eliminates the immediate threat but not without ominous consequences (including hints of the inevitable love triangle) that leave open the possibility of sequels.An atmospheric, blood-drenched dark fantasy for a cold and stormy night. (Horror. 12-adult)
Walton follows The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender with a lyrical and robust multigenerational story set on the fictional Anathema Island in the Pacific Northwest...In succinct, evocative sentences, Walton paints vivid scenes while maintaining a gripping plot. Addressing abandonment, self-harm, first love, and other topics, Walton weaves a rewardingly complex tale that brims with suspense and romance.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Walton conjures a rich sense of place in her sophomore novel, and the backstory of the Blackburn women is undeniably fascinating. Additionally, she does an excellent job handling the topic of Nor’s self-harm: Nor’s already sought treatment by the time her story begins, and though her compulsive thoughts and anxiety are still there, she’s learned how to manage those thoughts in a healthy way...the eerie atmosphere, lyrical language, and romance subplot will still entrance many.
As in her 2014 debut, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, Walton’s writing is atmospheric and ethereal. Anathema Island, with its foggy shores, rich diversity of flora and fauna, and quirky tourist shops, comes to vivid life...Nor’s wicked and violent sociopath mother is memorable and her scenes are truly chilling...Walton’s sophomore effort is haunting and, especially in the last act, thrilling.
—School Library Journal
An atmospheric, blood-drenched dark fantasy for a cold and stormy night.
Walton’s (The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender) horror tale features a vivid setting, lyrical prose, and engaging characters; Nor’s formidable pipe-smoking grandmother Judd, her best friend Savvy (a “punk rock Pollyanna…with big brown eyes, ocher-brown skin, and wildly colored hair”), and her love interest Reed Oliveira provide comfort and care to a protagonist whose mother is hell-bent on murdering her.
—The Horn Book
Like in The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, Leslye Walton's story is lyrical and atmospheric, and you'll find yourself getting lost on Anathema Island.
Gripping and dark, this bewitching family drama will have you reading to midnight!
—The Kids’ Next List newsletter
The Price Guide to the Occult is a classic page-turner...Dark fantasy fans take note, Leslye Walton has a story here that you will not want to miss.