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{September 29, 2013}   {Review} Conjure by Lea Nolan (The Hoodoo Apprentice #1)

13425130From Goodreads: Be careful what you search for…

Emma Guthrie expects this summer to be like any other in the South Carolina Lowcountry–hot and steamy with plenty of beach time alongside her best friend and secret crush, Cooper Beaumont, and Emma’s ever-present twin brother, Jack. But then a mysterious eighteenth-century message in a bottle surfaces, revealing a hidden pirate bounty. Lured by the adventure, the trio discovers the treasure and unwittingly unleashes an ancient Gullah curse that attacks Jack with the wicked flesh-eating Creep and promises to steal Cooper’s soul on his approaching sixteenth birthday.

When a strange girl appears, bent on revenge; demon dogs become a threat; and Jack turns into a walking skeleton; Emma has no choice but to learn hoodoo magic to undo the hex, all before summer—and her friends–are lost forever.

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This past Spring, I went to a book festival in my area and had the pleasure of listening to Lea Nolan speak on a panel.  Up until that point, I had never head of Nolan, but as she spoke, and then read a snippet from her novel, Conjure, I knew I had to read this book, especially as it dealt with magic, mystery, and a curse that eats the flesh right off the bone.  Sound intriguing?  It is.

This novel follows the adventures of Emma, Jack, and Cooper as they attempt to break a 300-year-old curse that, until recently, they didn’t even know existed.

With the appearance of a beautiful young woman, Magnolia, everything changes for the teens, including Jack’s easy going disposition. As a reader, I really enjoyed the lore behind the curse, and the teens’ attempts to find it, however, Jack quickly moved onto my “hate list” as he began to whine and rage against everyone accept Maggie. For me, it was hard to know whether his change was due to the influence of Maggie or if this was his true character since he changed very early on in the novel, and it think this is one of the reasons that I truly hated him so much.  Not only is he degrading and nasty to his sister and best friend, the two people trying to help him, but he is self-centered, and this is just not endearing by any means.  However, as the story continued, I realized that an outside force had to be making Jack act this way, but as Nolan shields the truth behind it from the reader quite well, it’s virtually impossible to not hate him throughout much of the novel.

Once the curse took hold, dissolving Jack’s flesh from his skin in increments, I really wanted to say good riddance because his words and actions prior had been so hurtful, and he only gets worse as the novel continues.  Yet, both Emma and Cooper prove to be better than I, and with the understanding that Jack will die when the curse finally takes his last piece of flesh, the clock to stop the curse begins ticking.  And this, in my opinion, is where the novel really begins to take flight.  With the introduction of Miss Delia, the hoodoo apprenticeship begins, and readers are brought into a completely different world full of Gullah traditions and beliefs.  This was extremely eye opening and I really enjoyed this aspect of the novel, especially as sweet Emma works so hard to save her whiny, irritating twin, Jack.  Throw in some extremely large black dogs made of pure evil, and a second curse threatening the life of Emma’s love, Cooper, and the novel becomes one of many twists and turns that keep the reader glued to the pages.

What I really liked about this novel was that there were many different events happening, but Nolan worked to explain them and bring about a resolution before moving on to the next big issue.  While the reader initially believes this novel is all about saving Jack, and much time is devoted to this difficult task, this isn’t the only obstacle staring the teens in the face.  Cooper also has a curse, but Nolan waits to focus on this aspect until the time is right, creating a roller coaster effect for readers, without the whiplash.  There is triumph, and there are letdowns in this novel, which makes it all the more real as the fate of Emma’s family and one true love are in her hands, and I loved how the novel continually picked up speed, paving the way for the sequel, Allure.  Four stars.

4 stars

I purchased this novel at a book festival.

Conjure (#1)

Allure (#2)

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