The Compulsive Reader: A Magical Mystery, Grounded in Reality: The Cost of All Things by Maggie Lehrman

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A Magical Mystery, Grounded in Reality: The Cost of All Things by Maggie Lehrman

The Cost of All Things is not like anything I've read before. It's set in an alternate world that's so, so close to ours, with one important difference: the existence of hekamists. Hekamists are spell workers, and they work their hekame (spells) through food. You go to a hekamist, ask for a spell, the hekamist puts the spell in an edible item, you eat it--done. The book bounces back and forth between four different perspectives to tell a complicated, twisty story of spells, consequences, and friendship.

Ari is a talented dancer who has just lost her boyfriend Win to an unspecified accident. She approaches the local hekamist and asks for a permanent spell to erase Win's memory. Every spell comes at a cost, and Ari is convinced she can handle the consequences--but when she loses her ability to dance and can't even remember the reason why she gave it up in the first place, she becomes bitter and pulls away from her friends.

Kay is so hurt by her older sister's abandonment that she'll do anything she can to keep her friends Ari and Diana close to her--even cast a tethering spell on them so they can't travel more than fifty miles away from her. But her friends are pulling away from her, emotionally and physically, and Kay is getting more and more desperate that the consequences of her tether may be their undoing.

Markos is angry at the world after his best friend Win dies, and no one understands. Not Ari, not his brothers, not his mom. The only person who bothers to stick around is Diana, and Markos is afraid at how easy it would be for him to hurt her. As he questions the circumstances leading up to Win's death, Markos uncovers a trail of secrets about his own family that lead back to the hekamist.

Win speaks from beyond the grave in flashbacks that reveal what he didn't tell anyone else about his depression, his strange relationship with the hekamist's daughter, and the events that led up to his death. Perhaps it wasn't quite so accidental...

Lehrman entwines these four voices to create an unsettling novel about action, reaction, and responsibility. Her language is compelling and beautiful, the characters are flawed and fascinating, but perhaps what's most impressive about this story is the scope and subtle complexity of the plot. Everything is connected in small ways that gradually become evident, building to a tension-filled and dangerous climax you really won't see coming, but is also quite inevitable.

If you like character-driven mysteries with a side of the magical, all the while grounded in the real world, then I can't recommend The Cost of All Things enough. Reviewers have been comparing it to We Were Liars by E. Lockhart--that's a fair comparison and the books have similar settings, but I'd also add that it's similar in tone and feel to The Curseworkers trilogy by Holly Black and The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. You really don't want to miss it--and THAT COVER! Beautiful.

The Cost of All Things is out today! I borrowed an ARC from a friend.

1 comment:

LinWash said...

This is really exciting! I was in a workshop with Maggie, so I'm thrilled to see this book!