You are invited to take the following short quiz:
- Was Prisoner of Azkaban your favorite Harry Potter book?
- Do you enjoy small children, MMORPGs, and/or cookies?
- Do you prefer a story that walks the line between realism and idealism?
If you answered yes to one or more of the above, then you will love Debora Geary’s books. All of them.
I found A Modern Witch all on my own last year during a lazy search on Twiggy, my then-new Kindle, a Christmas present from Thor. I used the small bits of feet-up time my pregnancy with Platypup earned me (a respite from tackling toddler Owlet) to blow through all of her available books like the sinfully delicious chocolate truffles they are. I was soon delighted to learn how frequently new books and short stories are released, and as my crowning achievement, in the week or so leading up to Platypup’s birth — including early labor! — and the week or so following, I reread them all.
I mention Prisoner of Azkaban because to me, it is this golden moment in the Harry Potter series where J. K. Rowling has really found her stride, the plot is deepening beyond a simple children’s book but at the same time it is a brief respite — the only book without a climatic battle scene against an evil wizard.
Somehow all of Debora Geary’s books occupy that same rare ground. Each one has charm and delicacy wrapped effortlessly into an intricate story arc that rises and falls with organic perfection, requiring no propulsion by super-villain. In fact, every Geary book I have had the pleasure of reading has similar pacing, but the material in each is fresh enough that it remains unpredictable. Light enough for beach reading, deep enough for book club — and just about perfect for a pregnant woman on the cusp of birth.
In case you enjoy/are addicted to World of Warcraft and others of its ilk, you will be pleased to find Geary’s witches own and operate a flourishing MMORPG, “Enchanter’s Realm,” complete with spell-coding (using magic to affect game play) in the witches-only levels. In addition, several truly genius internet-based developments are sprinkled throughout the books.
As much as I love the typical fantasy novel with its medieval setting, quest-based plot, and epic scope, I adore Geary’s work for being the polar opposite: her witches coexist peacefully in our modern-day western world, and the stories spun are comfortably mundane despite their magical trappings. If you are married with children like me, you grow weary of books and movies ending happily ever after before “real life” sets in; the majority of tales hardly make it to the beginning of a romantic relationship; a hardy few end with a wedding, or possibly a first child’s birth. Not with Geary at the helm! Real life is her canvas; one of her favorite heroines is a mother of five, and her characters are diverse in age, gender, and sexual orientation, and often ambiguous in race. And such characters! Their thoughts and moods, loves and frustrations are so honest, they seem culled from my own life. No stark realism here, however — the grace with which they eventually pull through is idealism at its best, serving to inspire with its very plausibility.
Geary also stands out from the pack with her willingness to pursue concurrent and overlapping plot-lines from book to book. She began with a main series, added a trilogy that takes place partway through the main series, and also has a few short stories tucked away as well. She even takes suggestions from readers under consideration — one of the short stories was prompted by a wedding no one wanted to miss. The result is a pleasantly sprawling history in which characters ebb and flow from central protagonist status to minor background figure and back. This character flexibility uniquely blends freshness with cohesion to great effect. In Geary’s world, one is never bored yet somehow always feels at home.
While reading Harry Potter, I felt a connection between my own formal music training and the classes at Hogwarts. In Geary’s books, that affiliation explodes. The more detail she provides on the shapes of spells and the way they are cast both by one witch and by a group or “circle” of witches, the more analogies my music-nerd-brain draws. The same balance of focus and creativity to get a phrase/spell just right. The tight control of the conductor/spellcaster over the power of their ensemble/circle. The feeling of momentum, of pure joy dancing under one’s fingertips. And pride in a skill honed to ever-approaching perfection. There may not be much actual music in the plot, but the spirit of music is embodied in Geary’s well-thought-out brand of magic.
As I mentioned awhile back, I emailed Geary a couple of minor typos and was thrilled when she asked me to serve as a final-stage proofreader in the future. Well, the future arrived last week in the form of the not-yet-released A Different Witch. (Yes, I was paid to proofread; no, I was not paid to write this review.) I wouldn’t want to spoil a single moment of it, but I will say this — Debora Geary pulls her readers inside a character’s head like nobody’s business, a fact that becomes particularly poignant if that character is, well, a different witch. But don’t you dare start with this newest one! Go get A Modern Witch and start properly at the beginning. When you’ve guzzled your way through the lot of them, come back and thank me. And bring cookies.