March 18, 2018 • Cee • Reviews

The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton • March 13, 2018 • Candlewick Press
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When Rona Blackburn landed on Anathema Island more than a century ago, her otherworldly skills might have benefited friendlier neighbors. Guilt and fear instead led the island’s original eight settlers to burn “the witch” out of her home. So Rona cursed them.

Fast-forward one hundred–some years: All Nor Blackburn wants is to live an unremarkable teenage life. She has reason to hope: First, her supernatural powers, if they can be called that, are unexceptional. Second, her love life is nonexistent, which means she might escape the other perverse side effect of the matriarch’s backfiring curse, too. But then a mysterious book comes out, promising to cast any spell for the right price. Nor senses a storm coming and is pretty sure she’ll be smack in the eye of it.

In her second novel, Leslye Walton spins a dark, mesmerizing tale of a girl stumbling along the path toward self-acceptance and first love, even as the Price Guide’s malevolent author — Nor’s own mother — looms and threatens to strangle any hope for happiness.


I received this book for free from Candlewick Press for review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

First sentence: “Nor Blackburn wasn’t afraid of blood.”

When you come from a family of cursed witches, you try not to fall into the same patterns as your ancestors. Nor Blackburn tries to avoid the trappings of being a Blackburn, but it’s hard when she’s a teenager, trying to survive while having an unexceptional Burden she can’t do anything with and fearing that her mother will return to Anathema Island and wreck havoc once again on her life.

To be a Blackburn in The Price Guide to the Occult means:

  • You come from a cursed family.

It all started with Rona Blackburn, the matriarch of the Blackburn family, when she arrived on Anathema Island in the Pacific Northwest and “disrupted” the lives of the island’s original eight settlers. By “disrupted,” she fell in love with one of the men, who turned on her and tried to burn her alive, and after that happened, she took her vengeance and unintentionally cursed her own family.

The curses:

  • The Blackburn family are a vital part of Anathema Island’s survival (so they can’t really leave).
  • No Blackburn woman possessed more than one Burden—or blessing—unlike their ancestors.
  • If they fall in love, that love story lasts three days.

The history of the Blackburn daughters will have readers hooked to the story. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned because men are fools.

  • You’re a witch.

If you came from the Blackburn family, good news—but maybe bad news depending on who you talk to—you’re a witch!

For Nor Blackburn, the eight of the Blackburn daughters, being a witch isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be, considering y’know she comes from a cursed lineage. It’s tough when she doesn’t have an exceptional burden—communicating with plants and animals? Meh. On top of that, she can’t be a normal teenager who can fall in love and not deal with the repercussions of the curse, AND she can’t confide in her best friend at all (who’s brings Nor outside her shell). She’s had a difficult childhood, and I love how strong she is despite it.

  • You don’t practice outside your Burden. 

Ever since Rona Blackburn cursed their family (unintentionally), each woman has one burden that they can wield like healing or communicating with animals. Nobody has more than one burden since Rona. To practice outside of your Burden is dangerous and forbidden because that involves black magic.

No Blackburn daughter practiced outside their Burden until Nor’s mother, Fern, who wanted more power than she was allowed. She turned to black magic, which involved sacrifice and blood, and abused her own daughter, burning her and cutting her to do so. She released Rona Blackburn’s spell book to aid in her quest for more power. She is not a witch to mess with because she will kill anybody who serves no purpose to her. She’s pure evil, and despite how one-dimensional she is, Leslye Walton did a good job building this feeling of fear and foreboding in Nor’s narrative.

  • You gotta be careful about falling in love.

Love is a dangerous feeling, especially when you’re a Blackburn daughter. Nobody since before Rona has ever had a love that lasted three days. Every time a Blackburn daughter falls in love, the men leave after three days, wanting nothing to do with them.

Living your entire life with that is difficult. It’ll make you weary of falling in love. For Nor, she had—and still do—a crush on Reed Oliveria, a boy who kissed her before moving out of Anathema Island. The romance between these two is minor; it doesn’t focuses heavily on them, rather on Nor and her mother, which I liked.

Should you read The Price Guide to the Occult? Sure. How can you say no to witches?

The Price Guide to the Occult is a slow book. It’s a dark atmospheric book instead of a pure action type of book where something is always happening. It’s quite fitting to the overall mood of the book—this sense of fear and darkness that looms like a storm. Heads up, this does have self-harm and abuse in it. Readers who those who want something that isn’t slow may want to pick a different book because the story doesn’t pick up until the last chapters. 

As someone who hasn’t read Leslye Walton’s debut book, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, I didn’t have a lot of expectations of the book, so it made it easier for me to enjoy the book despite the slowness. I’m sure for people who’ve read that book, it’s not up to par with the writing in Ava Lavender, but not for me. 


3 Responses to “REVIEW • Spells for a Price (The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton)”

  1. Vivi says:

    I LOVE AVA LAVENDER. I hoping this book lives up to my expectations!

  2. Wendy says:

    Oooh, I am behind on my books because I didn’t even know Lesyle Walton had a new book! This is going on my TBR list.

  3. Tasya says:

    I am lucky enough to be approved for this ARC and I am really intrigued with this! I’ve been putting this off because I’m waiting for the mood to strikes, but after reading your book, I am so going to read this next! Amazing review Cee!

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