A Spoonful of Magic, by Irene Radford

I frequently evaluate books like recipes, and it feels particularly appropriate in the case of Irene Radford's new novel A Spoonful of Magic, as it's a story filled to the brim with cooking. Unfortunately, while this particular literary recipe has some interesting ingredients, the finished product is a big ol' mess.

As the novel opens, Daphne "Daffy" Deschants is enduring an excruciating dinner out with her soon-to-be-ex-husband, G. G has been unfaithful, and his explanation doesn't hold much water: he claims to be a magician (which means he has to cheat, I guess?), and that their three children have probably inherited his gifts. Daffy is still determined to divorce him, but suddenly her world is full of developing magic: G's, her children's, and even, possibly, her own.

For every element that I enjoyed about this book, there were two more that made no damn sense. Character motivations are incoherent, everyone (including the children) speaks and thinks like they came of age in 1977, and the plot is so rambling and unfocused that readers never get a strong sense of what type of novel they're reading. (Is it a starting-over-after-divorce story? A fantasy romance? A mystery? Radford never fully commits to any of them.) The book displays flashes of charm and creativity—nearly all of which come from Daffy's talents, both magical and mundane—but not enough to make up for the shambling style and uneven plot. Fans of Nora Roberts's Three Sisters Island trilogy or Alice Hoffman's Practical Magic will still find something to enjoy here, but Radford is crying out for a truly ruthless editor, one who will support her storytelling strengths while simultaneously cracking the whip over everything from half baked world-building to implausible preteen dialogue.

Review based on publisher-provided copy.
Posted by: Julianka


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