Spoilers Ahead! (in content warnings)
‘How can I know who I am without knowing who I came from?’
After a tragedy left her an orphan, Anna was raised by her Aunt. She’s known her entire life that she’s going to be a Binder when she grows up.
The Binders did all they could to prevent magic being exposed to the ordinary world, to keep it locked away behind doors; brushed under carpets; tied in necklaces and tucked beneath blouses.
Now Anna is in sixth form and it’s only a year until her magic, such that it is, will be bound. As the school Nobody, Anna has always tried to fly under the radar. That won’t be as easy to achieve once she joins a coven.
‘We deal in that which cannot be known by the light of day and exact our punishments by dark.’
Attis, resident eye candy/mystery boy, intrigued me, as did Effie, although I couldn’t decide if I wanted to be best friends with her or her archnemesis. She’s kinda prickly so I think I’d want to be cautious around her.
Having a religious girl in the coven initially confused me as I had trouble figuring out how the two could possibly intersect. I don’t think I like Miranda/Manda. There’s something about people who claim religion and then act in ways that fly in the face of their spouted beliefs that make me want to point my finger and hiss, ‘Hyprocrite!’ I know we’ve all been guilty of saying one thing and then doing another at some point in our lives but when it comes from someone who evangelises … I don’t know … it just seems different somehow.
Then there was Rowan, who I absolutely adored, except for the fact that so much time was spent body shaming her. If someone else wasn’t bullying her about her weight, Rowan was pointing it out herself. She was so much more interesting to me than whatever the scales say about her. Also, her mother is an absolute delight and I need to spend so much more time with her!
The Binders gave me cult vibes throughout the book. I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether you think there’s some truth to what they’ve been saying all along or not. I’m a bit on the fence about this and could argue either way. I suspect there’s some truth there but I definitely question (and that’s putting it nicely) their methods and some crucial core beliefs.
I’m usually all for magic, regardless of the form it takes, but some of the magic in this book gave me the heebie-jeebies. I’m not sure if I’ve simply never considered this before or if it was the way some of the magic played out here but it got me thinking about free will. If any spell removes free will from someone, whether it’s their thoughts or actions, then it seems to me that this tramples all over consent.
To force your will on someone else in a way that takes away their freedom to think or act in a way they choose feels really icky to me. My brain helpfully came up with the term ‘magical assault’ and now I can’t get it out of my head. I’m not sure if I’ll ever see certain types of magic in action again without my brain shouting that at me. Thanks for nothing, brain!
The bonds we have with family and friends and how these can be tied to fear and sacrifice are explored in this book. It’s not always clear whether someone is acting selfishly or in another person’s best interests. There are opposing truths at play, which complicates things even further.
One thing that definitely wasn’t complicated for me was my love of this book’s magical library. This could be one of my favourite libraries ever and I want to spend an entire book lost in there.
While I wish I’d learned more about the seven faceless women in this book, there are indications that they will play a vital role as the series unfolds. I am particularly interested in the seventh woman and am not so secretly hoping that we’ve already met her in this book but don’t know it yet. I already know who I want her to be.
‘People think stories are harmless but they are the most dangerous weapon mankind has.’
Content warnings include body shaming, bullying, emotional abuse, physical abuse and slut shaming. Death by suicide is mentioned a few times as a suspected cause of death.
Thank you so much to NetGalley and Harper Voyager, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, for granting my wish to read this book.
Once Upon a Blurb
Within the boroughs of London, nestled among its streets, hides another city filled with magic.
Ever since Anna can remember, her aunt has warned her of the dangers of magic. She has taught her to fear how it twists and knots and turns into something dark and deadly.
It was, after all, magic that killed her parents and left her in her aunt’s care. It’s why she has been protected from the magical world and, in one year’s time, what little magic she has will be bound. She will join her aunt alongside the other Binders who believe magic is a sin not to be used, but denied. Only one more year and she will be free of the curse of magic, her aunt’s teachings and the disappointment of the little she is capable of.
Nothing – and no one – could change her mind before then. Could it?