The story was interesting, the characters were engaging, and the writing was lovely. It is difficult to describe, but there is a sort of poetic feel to the author’s prose that is savory and warm. The social themes of this story were respectfully handled and treated with kindness, love, and understanding. There is a lot going on in this book – murder, intrigue, plotting, magic, love, and betrayal. All of these can add up to a drab boring cliched tropey story, but here they all worked in sync. Teodora is a strega, she has magic – but she doesn’t know much about it. She knows she can transform people into objects, but doesn’t know how it works or how to do anything else. She meets a mysterious stranger, Cielo, who can change their gender at will, and longs to know more. When it becomes necessary for her to become a man – not just dress like one, but BE one – she asks Cielo to teach her. Learning how to use her magic is one of the integral plot points, because as she continues on her journey, she is constantly having to adjust how she uses it. The story builds well and the characters are so beautifully descriptive that it makes it a joy to read because you as the reader want to know how the story will unfold. The magic that is central to this book is a very special kind of magic, it’s shape-shifting, and that’s important to the most wonderful, surprising, and probably groundbreaking part of this novel: Teo (and Cielo) learns to change from a girl to a boy, and back (as a strega), and the conversation about how she/he feels in that body at different times. The power to change the body, and how Teo learns to harness magic is a fascinating part of this book, and Capetta approaches it with a delicateness, and at the same time, boldness, which makes the ‘gender-bending’ so unique and so wonderful to read. I don’t want to give away too much more of the story but I will say being someone who doesn’t often read fantasy this one impressed me and I will be reading book two just to see how beautifully the story continues. That being said this is a sold four stars for me and that is high praise considering this is a new author for me.
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