Title: A Far Wilder Magic
Author: Allison Saft
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Published: March 8th, 2022 (Wednesday Books)
Synopsis: When Margaret Welty spots the legendary hala, the last living mythical creature, she knows the Halfmoon Hunt will soon follow. Whoever is able to kill the hala will earn fame and riches, and unlock an ancient magical secret. If Margaret wins the hunt, it may finally bring her mother home. While Margaret is the best sharpshooter in town, only teams of two can register, and she needs an alchemist.
Weston Winters isn’t an alchemist – yet. Fired from every apprenticeship he’s landed, his last chance hinges on Master Welty taking him in. But when Wes arrives at Welty Manor, he finds only Margaret and her bloodhound Trouble. Margaret begrudgingly allows him to stay, but on one condition: he must join the hunt with her.
Although they make an unlikely team, Wes is in awe of the girl who has endured alone on the outskirts of a town that doesn’t want her, in this creaking house of ghosts and sorrow. And even though Wes disrupts every aspect of her life, Margaret is drawn to him. He, too, knows what it’s like to be an outsider. As the hunt looms closer and tensions rise, Margaret and Wes uncover dark magic that could be the key to winning the hunt – if they survive that long.
Margaret Welty lives alone in an isolated manor on the edge of town, waiting for the day her mother, an alchemist who frequently leaves on extended research trips, will return. But when she sees the hala, a mythical creature, she knows that the Halfmoon Hunt, a competition to kill the hala, will soon come to her town. The prize is riches and fame, but also the promise of a great alchemical secret, one, if she can win, she is sure will finally bring her mother home for good – except it takes a team of two to register. She herself is an excellent sharpshooter, but she needs an alchemist to enter. Weston Winters arrives at Welty Manor with a last hope of gaining an apprenticeship with Evelyn after being fired from every other opportunity and a reluctant Margaret allows him to stay and wait for her mother to return if he will enter the hunt with her.
When I initially saw this book, the plot sounded really interesting, and the immersive writing style drew me into the story almost immediately. The world building was really good from a fantasy perspective, between the lore surrounding the hala, the information on alchemy and more, but the setting itself leant more towards steampunk which always makes fantasy novels a bit jarring for me. While there was a little info dumping at the beginning, it wasn’t too bad and was fairly easy to follow. For a standalone, there was a lot of depth to the story, in terms of both plot and world building and I particularly enjoyed that.
Maggie and Wes make an unlikely duo as they have such different personalities, but as they spend more time around each other preparing for the hunt, it becomes evident that they are more similar than they realize. The narrative alternates between Maggie and Wes’ POVs and this was an excellent way to see how both of them grew so much over the course of the story.
I think what I found most disappointing about this book is how short the hunt itself was considering that it was more or less the highlight of the story. It only started in approximately the last 15% of the book, and compared to the rest of the story, the climax felt rather rushed. Following Wes and Margaret and watching their relationship evolve was definitely great, but I would have liked it if the hunt had more page time.
I found the ending to be very fitting and it wrapped up things quite well too. I did half expect it, given the direction of the story, but it was well written and made for a satisfying finish to an exciting tale. Overall, this was a really fun read, fast-paced and easy to follow. I would highly recommend this for fantasy fans!
Have you read this book? Let me know in the comments below!