“If you believe it, you can achieve it. That’s like the number-one rule of magic.”
You know, The Fascinators was a really interesting book that for some reason or other, I just didn’t connect to. It wasn’t written too young, which is my complaint about a couple of other YA contemporary reads. The plot had an interesting premise, the characters were neither annoying nor immature, and the setting was a fairly believable southern town that both had character and natural flaws.
So why didn’t I love this book, despite every point it had going for it?
It’s a question I’ll definitely explain, even as I talk about the good in the book– and there was quite a bit of good.
There are also some flaws that I do view with indulgence, since I know Andrew Eliopulos is primarily a children’s author and that may well bleed into some of the things I think The Fascinators did wrong.
But let’s first explain the book, shall we?
The Fascinators— the name coming from the club a couple of teenage magic users came up with in order to separate themselves from the boring “Magic Club” most high schools tend to use– is about three-ish teenagers living in a world that a natural magic affinity is looked on with the same mix of curiosity and semi-revulsion as veganism or cross-dressing. That’s to say, some people are hella judgemental and close minded. But anyway, each of our main characters have shit going on: Delia is obsessed with getting into the top magical school, Sam is stressing about his feelings for his best friend James, and James has just stolen a magical artifact from a cult who are Not Amused.
Yeah, it’s James’s issue that lends to the main plot.
The writing style is solid; it’s not lyrical or flowery, which is fine since this is a fairly straightforward book written for teenagers to consume in a day or two. The characters do sound very true to their ages, which I very much appreciate. Even the way they are written to interact with each other does seem fair; friendship is at the forefront of the novel and it is clear from every page that despite their main issue, each MC loves each other very much.
The way magic was written was pretty normalized. Essentially people are either born with talent or not, and those who are are sort of looked down upon for it– especially in southern towns where magic is seen as an affront to God. The spells take schooling and work and have different tuts and phrases that lead to success. People have natural affinities for different types of magics etc etc.
All in all, I think I would have really liked more attention paid to this aspect of the novel: world-building. Has magic always been a thing? Were there laws in place? How is it passed down in families or is it random? There were small things like that that bothered me throughout the novel; tiny niggling questions that took me out of it. Had this been answered, I think I would have more thoroughly understood Liv’s choices at the beginning of the book and Delia’s at the end.
Plot-wise, it was interesting. I liked the dual POV between Sam’s crew and the occasional glimpse into the cult. I liked that we saw James’s struggle with partying and how his inebriated choices messed with his magic and his group. I think Delia’s one track mind to become as successful as she can be, made sense. Sam’s identity crisis in who he was and his feelings for both James and later Denver made sense.
What I Did Not Love was James and Sam’s relationship; or really, lack thereof. As the novel starts, we’re told that something happened between them. But we aren’t told what until nearly halfway through the story. All we know is that Sam feels bad, James feels weird and suddenly has a thing for a girl from church. I’d go so far as to say that James treated Sam kind of crappily throughout the book; passive aggressive jealousy about Denver on one hand, flaunting his thing with Amber in the same breath. It was petty and it NEVER really gets resolved. It’s half-assed.
And the climax/end of the story is… kind of anti-climactic? I can’t tell if Eliopulos was setting up for another book or just got tired of writing.
All in all though, it was an easy, direct fantasy that doesn’t take much brainpower to read. Certainly not super dark, but with enough fantasy elements that it was fun to read.
I just wish it had… more. More of… A little bit of everything.