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REVIEW: ‘Blood Like Magic’ by Liselle Sambury is packed with detail

REVIEW: ‘Blood Like Magic’ by Liselle Sambury is packed with detail

After a somewhat overwhelming start, I ended up invested in Voya’s character development as Blood Like Magic eventually got going.

From the Blurb:

After years of waiting for her Calling — a trial every witch must pass in order to come into their powers — the one thing Voya Thomas didn’t expect was to fail. When Voya’s ancestor gives her an unprecedented second chance to complete her Calling, she agrees — and then is horrified when her task is to kill her first love. And this time, failure means every Thomas witch will be stripped of their magic.

Voya is determined to save her family’s magic no matter the cost. The problem is, Voya has never been in love, so for her to succeed, she’ll first have to find the perfect guy — and fast. Fortunately, a genetic matchmaking program has just hit the market. Her plan is to join the program, fall in love, and complete her task before the deadline. What she doesn’t count on is being paired with the infuriating Luc — how can she fall in love with a guy who seemingly wants nothing to do with her?

With mounting pressure from her family, Voya is caught between her morality and her duty to her bloodline. If she wants to save their heritage and Luc, she’ll have to find something her ancestor wants more than blood. And in witchcraft, blood is everything.

Before I begin this review, I would like to include a section of the Author’s Note detailing content warnings for Blood Like Magic:

Content warnings: whipping scene within the context of slavery, gun/police violence, discussion of and character with an eating disorder, blood/gore/violence, death, substance abuse/addiction, mentions of child neglect

Liselle Sambury, Blood Like Magic

Liselle Sambury has undertaken an incredibly ambitious task in Blood Like Magic. An urban fantasy with futuristic/sci-fi elements, that includes a variety of social commentary, a huge cast of characters, a twist on an enemies-to-lovers trope, a cooking competition and magic? It’s easy to feel a little overwhelmed when going into this debut.

Nevertheless, despite a continued feeling of there being too much going on, I still ended up impressed by the novel. Sambury never lets one element slide in favour of another — her characters are diverse, and considerately so, with an impressive LGBTQ+ representation that demonstrates the way things should be done in novels (and society). The novel is about Black witches, which brings even further representation when Voya points out the varied Black cultures that make up her witch community. It is seamlessly, effortlessly done by Sambury.

However, I did struggle with the amount of characters, especially because I didn’t particularly like most of them until late into the book. Voya lives with her extended family, which is fun to read about and yet the way her family regard her and the other children, and the way they treat them, left me wishing for more. For example, Voya often expresses how she loves her mum, and yet there are limited scenes where this can be seen and believed. Nevertheless, family is a huge factor in Blood Like Magic, and Liselle Sambury explores the theme within its context incredibly, detailing the importance of familial love.

Voya’s character development, however, was particularly enjoyable. It took a while for me to like her, but once her personality and her determination — despite what she thinks — began to surface, I really began to root for her. Her struggle with decision-making is perhaps a little overdone though, and in places it felt a little forced into the narrative. Yet her inner monologue, particularly in the latter third of the book where the various plot points come together, is rich and thought-provoking

There is so much more to say about Blood Like Magic. It is chock-full of themes, messages, characters, and genres that leave so much to be discussed, and it will definitely make me want more from books in the future. However, it is arguably a little repetitive and drawn out at times, which had me urging the plot onwards.

Overall, Liselle Sambury has written an incredibly strong debut that deserves an awful lot of attention. I look forward to seeing what she comes up with next — but for now, you can find me shouting about Blood Like Magic to anyone who will listen.

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