My summer of witches has extended into an autumn of auguries by dint of my reading schedule attenuating in these waning days of 2023. What Became of Magic is a book I was looking forward to reading on my deck at the end of August, but it also worked well in the cooler days of September. Paige Crutcher brings a dazzling dash of creativity to her storytelling. Alas, I didn’t enjoy her narrative style or her characterization. My thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Griffin for the eARC in exchange for a review.
Aline Weir was always the loner kid. One day at a sleepover, a ghost of a girl named Dragon befriends her. Aline grows up and grows into her witchy power to help spirits cross over. An accident with a boy her age, however, reverberates across the world and will have consequences for more than Aline. Practically raised by Fates, she finds herself drawn to the magical town of Matchstick. Soon she is in a pitched battle against an ancient enemy who has designs on the personifications of magic themselves—unless Aline and her allies can find a way to restore the balance.
What Became of Magic keeps insisting that Aline is special—indeed that she is inextricably bound up with Magic, who is both a force and a man. But I don’t see it. Aline is boring, at least from the distance at which we get to know her. Crutcher’s narrative choices don’t work for me. There is a veritable montage of Aline’s childhood at the beginning of the book. Instead, bits and bobs of flashbacks spread out through the narrative might have kept me more interested. As it is, I never felt myself connecting to Aline. Like, Crutcher makes it very clear that her parents were always distant and never thought Aline would amount to much of anything—but we never really see Aline feel it, you know?
Then, after Aline leaves the bookstore for the town of Matchstick, the plot spins wildly out of control. Suddenly Crutcher throws us into a quest-like structure. Again, she puts a lot of work into establishing both allies and enemies, as well as laying out the stakes. It should all come together to create a great story. Yet it’s messy, convoluted—the rules are constantly shifting. And none of the characters are three-dimensional enough for me to care about them. Not even Aline.
I also can’t stand romantic subplots premised on destiny, for it veers uncomfortably close to removing agency (or even consent). To be clear, that’s a personal preference of mine; I’m not trying to say that is what Crutcher implies happens here. Indeed, if anyone is going to enjoy this chaotic book, it’s going to be romance fans who want to swoon over the idea of True Love between a witch and a magic man.
As it is, there was just nothing for me to grab onto as I read this book. I felt like I was listening to a child tell me the fantasy story they had just made up—each time they jump to a new scene, I need to stop them and ask questions because I cannot keep it straight in my head. Crutcher’s imagination is unquestionable—but the organization of this book, its editing, the plotting and pacing and protagonist—none of it works for me.
In the end, What Became of Magic felt like a missed opportunity. I say this not to be harsh. I don’t think it is a bad book. But I came really close to DNFing it.