‘Sorcery for Beginners’ Is Magical

Images of book cover and illustrations
Image Credit: N Engineer

To get me into the Halloween spirit, I just read Sorcery for Beginners by Matt Harry. You’ll want to, too.

Now, I’m going to issue a spoiler here, and I think it’s totally fair. If you’re an adult reading this review, I’m sure you’ll agree with my decision. Here goes: Adult readers, you will not be able to perform any of the magic tricks whose instructions are spelled out (pun totally intended, btw) in this book. Not a one. Because, as the book makes clear early and often, adults cannot do sorcery. No, this is a book meant for children. So I apologize, but this review is going to have to be incomplete, for I was unable to validate the spell work. So that’s a definite strike against the book, don’t you think? I mean, come on. Who writes a sorcery guide that eager readers can’t even use?? That’s just rude!

So learning this critical flaw in Sorcery for Beginners, I was all ready to leave it in a huff, refuse to read on. Except, well, there’s a story in there, too. And stakes! And compelling, engaging characters. The future of sorcery has been, for centuries, under attack by the Euclidians, a science-focused secret society of brutes who resort to violence to eliminate magic. They are on a quest to uncover and destroy all books of sorcery. Meanwhile, sorceress Euphemia Whitmore (this book’s “co-author” with Matt Harry) is recruiting kids to learn and become sorcerers who will protect the book and its secrets with their lives.

And so we meet Marcus Macready of Rocky River, Ohio, whose mother leaves to lead a more meaningful life, and whose father relocates—with a reluctant Marcus—to Las Vegas, where they can pursue a fresh start. Only, Marcus doesn’t want a fresh start. He wants to go back to when his family was altogether. And the promise of learning how to do a Spell to Rewrite History is what draws Marcus in. Of course, he doesn’t count on the book being magical, so is disappointed to discover that spells are only exposed when Marcus is ready to learn them.

He has no interest in living in Las Vegas, and encountering bullies early on doesn’t help matter. The fact that he uses magic against the bully, and that the bully happens to be the son of a millionaire casino owner, doesn’t make him any more eager to stick around. But really, he has no choice. He, along with newfound friends (and members of the school’s Sorcery Club) Perry and Trish, must protect the book—and Sorcery itself.

Clear stakes, sympathetic characters, and an interesting story make this a fun read. Format-wise, it is broken up with little tidbits of information that, I’ll admit, sometimes distracted from the experience. It was all interesting information, and I guess that’s the problem. I didn’t want to miss anything. But that interfered with the flow of the story. I suppose if I just waited for my phone to ring, or a family member to interrupt my reading, it would be a good way to re-engage with the story. But when I was getting into the story, I’d be conflicted by the desire to continue the main story versus the need not to skip anything. Can’t really offer a great solution for that, except maybe just plan on reading the book twice. And, I guess, if you’re a younger reader who can actually perform the magic in this textbook, you can take breaks from your practice sessions to read the little boxes. So here’s what I would suggest (for younger readers only; this would be an exercise in futility for adult readers):

Read the story once for the plot, so you understand the stakes that you’re facing when you take on this responsibility. This is serious business, and not something to be entered into lightly. If there’s a word you don’t understand, by all means look in the boxes on that page for the definitions. But then, when you’re done, if you’re still up for the task, then go back and learn the spells. You’ll need to practice them carefully anyhow. And if you’re having trouble focusing, maybe reading the other boxes (the Beware the Euclidians sections) will help get you back on track.

All in all, Sorcery for Beginners by Matt Harry is a fun read, and just the thing to get into the Halloween spirit (so long as you’re not some obnoxious Euclidian). It comes out October 10, so go ahead and pre-order it now. (I just discovered the Kindle edition is already available, so you don’t even have to wait! Yay you!)

Disclaimer: GeekMom received a copy of Sorcery for Beginners by Matt Harry for review purposes. But all opinions are my own.

Nivi Engineer is a novelist and playwright in Cleveland, Ohio. She is a mom of three boys, and escapes the never-ending sports calendar through reading. This month, she's learning that the capital of Nepal is Kathmandu. And now, so will you.

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