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Review: Root Magic

Root Magic

Title: Root Magic
Author: Eden Royce
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy/Historical Fiction
Page Count: 352
Published by: Waldon Pond Press
Date Published: January 5, 2021
You can find it here: Bookshop.org

Goodreads Synopsis: 

It’s 1963, and things are changing for Jezebel Turner. Her beloved grandmother has just passed away. The local police deputy won’t stop harassing her family. With school integration arriving in South Carolina, Jez and her twin brother, Jay, are about to begin the school year with a bunch of new kids. But the biggest change comes when Jez and Jay turn eleven—and their uncle, Doc, tells them he’s going train them in rootwork.

Jez and Jay have always been fascinated by the African American folk magic that has been the legacy of her family for generations—especially the curious potions and powders Doc and Gran would make for the people on their island. But Jez soon finds out that her family’s true power goes far beyond small charms and elixirs…and not a moment too soon. Because when evil both natural and supernatural comes to show itself in town, it’s going to take every bit of the magic she has inside her to see her through.

Overall Thoughts:

Sometimes getting behind on reviews can be an inadvertent litmus test for the longevity/memorability of a novel. Root Magic is definitely upholding my 5 star rating, even after two weeks I can still remember this powerfully quiet middle grade read.

Written in a methodical, deliberate prose that reminds me greatly of Lauren Wolk’s Echo Mountain, Eden Royce transports the reader to the Southern Carolina swampland in the 1960s. Bringing to life the energy of the bog, the stickiness of the humidity, the vibrancy of hoodoo Black Magic, and, most importantly, the vivid voice of the plight of Black Americans. Root Magic does not sugarcoat or hide in its exposure of brutal racism and it is intentionally upsetting. While I would recommend this read for an older middle grade audience I wouldn’t shy away for content warning, because these conversations with honest, real terminology are so important when talking to our youth about racism. 

The novel is quiet and slow, with beautiful description, but beats with a constant pulse of racial tension that keeps you always on edge, building to a genuine, heartbreaking climax. The combination of Black magic, fantastic characterization and sense of place, is authentic and completely absorbing. Highly recommend. 

Read This If:

  • Looking to have open, honest conversations regarding the brutal realities of racism and what it would feel like to live in fear of police because of your skin color. 
  • Looking for a novel that opens the door to new magic: fabulous Black magic and Gullah-Geechee culture.
  • Enjoyed the book (or movie) Fried Green Tomatoes 

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