Back to top

The siren song of Puget Sound

Cover of Spells for Forgetting
A review of Spells for Forgetting by Adrienne Young

When I think of an atmospheric novel from here on out, I'm going to be thinking of Spells for Forgetting. The story of Saiorse Island off Puget Sound and the residents who live there and listen to her calling weaves together magic, belonging and longing, loss and betrayal, and good and evil. On the surface, Saiorse Island is a lovely ferry ride from Seattle with an apple orchard that attracts a tourist crowd through spring, summer, and fall. The quaint downtown offers a village pub, an apothecary, the herbarium, a tea shop, candles, jams, and other authentic items handcrafted by the villagers. The island is said to be enchanted and there are some "light" magical offerings, like reading tea leaves and selling charms and balms to tourists to keep them coming back year after year.

The orchard is also the focal point of the island for the residents, providing the economy that sustains them and the history that binds them together. The islanders resent the tourists that come to the orchard, but know what it's like when the ferries stop bringing them. It took many years to rebuild the orchard after a fire and it's clear early on that some folks on Saiorse will do anything to protect the orchard and their intertwined livelihoods.

Told in multiple voices spanning several time periods, the action follows Emery Blackwood, whose best friend Lily Morgan was found dead on their high school graduation day, and Emery's childhood sweetheart, August Salt, who was accused but never convicted of Lily's murder. August disappeared from the island without a trace shortly thereafter, and fourteen years later, he's returned to Saiorse to bury his mother. The island shows signs of turmoil and upheaval with August's arrival. All of the leaves on the trees turn red overnight. The starlings don't leave at the end of the season like they normally do. The clues the island leaves for the reader serve as red herrings and cool premonitions depending on how you look at things. 

I was swept up in the suspense of not knowing who on the island was trustworthy, who was misguided, and who was willing to sacrifice anything. There are a lot of reasons to betray each other: passion, jealousy, revenge, greed, madness. All of these show up on Saiorse, trapping the residents together in a wicked and confusing web with no escape after the ferry leaves for the mainland. If you are looking for a reading journey full secrets, lies, and long lost love on a windswept, magical island a world away from the mainland, this book is just the ticket. 

Jan 23, 2023