For the witchy fashionistas: a review of Secondhand Spirits

Too giddy and stunned from our triumph to go to bed right away, we popped popcorn and brewed nothing more magical than hot chocolate.

Secondhand Spirits by Juliet BlackwellConfession: I usually consider the mystery section one of the “passable” parts of my bookstore browsing. That might have to change.

A couple weeks ago, when shopping with a friend, I decided to venture into the unloved rows, only to spot a colorful and fun book by Juliet Blackwell. Secondhand Spirits won me over with its gorgeous cover — an inviting blend of blues, yellows, greens, and pinks with a smoky wisp of glitter around the illustrated girl with long, wavy black hair. “Love the vintage, not the ghosts,” the tagline reads.

I was charmed.

This 325-page paperback — a great breather from the near-1000 page A Clash of Kings, which I had trouble fitting around my hectic schedule — is quickly addictive. I went in not expecting much and found myself loving every page. Blackwell knows how to keep the reader going with a cliffhanger at the end of nearly every chapter.

If you like Harry Potter, then you’ll probably like Blackwell’s first book in her Witchcraft Mystery series — not that it is anywhere near a ripoff of Rowling’s books, but Blackwell does share a few tools of the witchy trade. The main character’s familiar reminds me a lot of Dobby the house elf, and one of the plotlines deals with a screaming mandrake and how to pull it out without going insane (remember that part in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets?). Blackwell invents her own rules, too, and I adored her every time she compared real witchcraft to superstition and stereotyping within the fiction she creates. The book also explores the paranormal, and the combination gives the book so much potential and room for expansion.

I can’t recommend it enough. And not to mention, the hunky mythbusting character is named Max Carmichael. :)

The story isn’t anything particularly amazing: Lily Ivory is a witch who recently moved to San Francisco, and little by little she assimilates into a nice circle of friends and wiccans as she opens up and helps the community. She also puts others in touch with their inner fashionistas by tapping into the auras and vibes that clothes give off to a witch of her caliber, and that’s a talent that any girl knows can’t be undervalued. But what’s great about Secondhand Spirits is that there is a lot of emphasis on community, both culturally and in terms of companionship, and it’s just a heartwarming book. The quote at the top comes from the beginning of the last chapter, and it really made me smile. That’s how well Blackwell will have you invested.

Bottom line: A quick, endearing mystery for beginners or those who love to shop and dabble in magics on the side.

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