Review: Wonderstruck by Allie Therin (2021)

Magic in Manhattan, Book #3

Reviews of Magic in Manhattan Book #1 and Book #2

Heat Factor: Extremely low key, still fade-to-black

Character Chemistry: Every time Arthur calls Rory “Teddy” (his real name that only Arthur uses), I turn into a puddle of goo

Plot: We’re finally going to come face to face with the evil baron and save the world!

Overall: I’m glad I read this trilogy.

I was paying attention over on yon bird app when Starcrossed was released, and I thought, “That sounds fun!” But, y’all, my list of ARC books to read is only just getting under control, and my “for fun” TBR has only been getting more and more out of control. So this series was sort of nebulously out there for me when we got an email from our friends over at Carina with the opportunity to read this book. I took it. 

Now, I’m the sort of person who likes to read a series in order. So I figured “now’s the time!” And it is a good thing I did because I do not think this book would be nearly as enjoyable if you haven’t read the other two books first. Therin does recall or recap some prior events, but there are quite a few characters, and not all of their thoughts, backgrounds, and actions are rehashed as we dive into the final segment of the three-book story. 

This book is wrapping up the loose ends that all unraveled for us in the first two books. I’m not sure that I was particularly illuminating plot-wise in my prior reviews (though by all means, go read them), so to summarize:

  1. Arthur found out about magic during WWI when he tried to rescue one of his soldiers who used his magic to save himself. He became friends with a group of paranormals who were then targeted by this power-hungry and probably sociopathic baron. 
  2. All of them now know that there are magical relics in the world that can make paranormals even more powerful, and it’s a race to see who can find them – the Arthur team, who wants to protect the world from people bent on using magic for selfish and destructive reasons, or the baron, who…wants to rule the world? He both wants to control everything and throw non-magical humans into chaos for entertainment purposes.
  3. The core Arthur team: Arthur, Jade, Zhang, and Rory, are purely altruistic, but they run into former friends and current enemies who are a bit gray. An enemy of my enemy is my friend, after all, and they need all the help they can get to save the world.

That’s the primary plot, and it’s very Arthur-centric, I guess, but there’s a lot more going on. Rory, who was afraid of his power in book 1, is still struggling to control what is turning out to be immense power, but he’s a lot more confident and a lot more comfortable now that he’s not the only paranormal of his acquaintance. This results in Arthur, who wants to protect young and inexperienced Rory, feeling like the outsider because all of the paranormals who have superpowers are afraid for the safety of the non-magical people they love, and they want to keep the non-magical folks as far away from the magic as possible. It’s an interesting conflict as it plays out. 

Also, Rory and Arthur seem to be going through a really normal relationship arc. In the first book they’re falling in love and trying to figure out that their feelings are even reciprocated, but in the next books they’re realizing that they have some conversations and issues to work through before they can really be committed to each other on a more permanent level. It’s nice to pretend like “I love you” is enough sometimes, but let’s be honest, what it really is is: “I love you so I am willing to put in the effort to be with you,” and that’s what we get from Arthur and Rory. This book, which removes them from the social inequality challenges they have in New York, sees them cement their relationship as equals more than as Rory being the adorable young innocent and Arthur being the paternalistic protector. 

Because we talk romance here, I have to admit that this runs a bit into romance-adjacent territory. That seems to be sort of the nature of the beast with relationships that exist in trilogies. The nice thing about the way Therin handles this particular trilogy is that she doesn’t make any of the three books end with a cliffhanger or a breakup, so it’s like three versions of a HEA, maybe. 

As this is the conclusion of the trilogy, I also want to talk for a moment about how Therin wraps up everything that she’s been unravelling. I really enjoyed this trilogy, and I think the wrap-up was solid, but I also thought that it was a little bit unconventional. It was as if Therin considered what had to be tied up and got us there without necessarily showing us all the tied up loose ends. For example, one issue is resolved with a conversation along the lines of, “We’ll clean this up and then you’ll go talk to that guy we left behind at the last place about how specifically he wants to solve this problem.” Like it doesn’t have to be resolved on page because they don’t have to stress about the bad guy out to get them now. Which, frankly, is fair. I don’t need a hundred pages of denouement. But as I said, it felt somewhat unconventional.

There are also some characters introduced or re-introduced who don’t necessarily add much, like Arthur’s ex. I like him, and I totally liked seeing him again (he’s very entertaining and I would love for him to find love), but after I finished the book, I wondered if he was doing much work for this story. And he’s not the only one. It’s possible that some of these characters will be featured again in the spinoff that Therin is planning (and I hope my hunch is correct because that would be fabulous), but if so the foreshadowing isn’t especially obvious.

My thoughts boil down to: I wouldn’t recommend this book to a reader who has not read the first two books. I don’t think it would be super satisfying on its own, and I don’t think the first half of this book is fast-paced enough to suck in a reader who isn’t already invested in the story. But if you’ve read the first two books, I think the excitement of watching how everything finally plays out is really fun. And it’s not super predictable, so the three books together is an awesome paranormal read with a great cast of characters.

I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.

Buy Now: Amazon

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