Dust Spells by Andrea Lynn

Dust Spells by Andrea LynnDust Spells by Andrea Lynn
Published by CamCat Publishing
Published on 7 May 2024
Genres: 20th Century, Girls & Women, Historical, Paranormal, Romance, United States, Young Adult
Pages: 392
Format: ARC
Source: BookSirens
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RRP: $19.99 US
5 Stars

She thought a dust storm was getting in the way of her dreams, but there are storms more deadly than dust.
Ever since the dust storms arrived and turned her world upside down, ambitious Stella Fischer spends her mornings hiding moonshine in laundry stacks for delivery before returning home to help her sisters—Lavinia and Mattie—run their family home turned boarding house, hoping to make enough money to finally escape to Hollywood. She has no time for distractions, especially from Lloyd, the handsome drifter who works as a hired hand at the boarding house.
When the group decides to forage for building materials at an abandoned cider mill, they discover a magical passage that sends them back to the mill in its prime. There, they meet Archie, a man trapped in the realm who can conjure lavish parties and bring back a world of joy and splendor. But Archie isn’t all he seems, and Stella must discover the truth before a storm more deadly than dust destroys her and everyone she loves.
For readers who love The Twelve Dancing Princesses fairy tale or enjoy The Diviners by Libba Bray, When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore, and Hotel Magnifique by Emily J. Taylor.

I received a copy of this book from BookSirens in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Dust Spells by Andrea Lynn is a young adult historical fantasy novel that I think is best described as 12 Dancing Princesses meets The Diviners by Libba Bray. It’s set in the 1930s in the Dust Bowl and tells the story of three sisters and one vagrant who discover a magical world where not all is as it seems.

The book has an intricate plot that combines elements of the supernatural, horror, and mystery, with a touch of romance. While you can recognise the original inspiration of 12 Dancing Princesses, there are only 3 sisters, but the story of them being drawn to a world that offers freedom, comfort, and joy so different from their everyday lives of hard work in an almost apocalyptic world due to the massive dust storms and drought has its similarities. Both the real-world setting and the magical world are drawn in vivid detail, and I could very easily see the raucous parties, grand mansions, and feel the oppression of the dying town that had once thrived where the girls lived.

The writing itself was masterful and I often found myself stopping to marvel over the way the author chose particular words to craft her narrative, and strung them together seemingly effortlessly to create on-page magic:

“Over the last three years, Stella had grown used to the jagged scars that covered the left side of Lavinia’s face: a patchwork of puckered, white gashes that clawed their way from beneath her left eye to the hinge of her jaw, as if she were a porcelain doll whose left side had been smashed and pasted back together by a hasty, trembling hand.”

But it wasn’t just the technical writing that I loved. The main character, Stella, is the kind of main character I just adore reading about. She has her strengths and weaknesses, and as someone blessed with good looks, she knows how to use them to her advantage, even though they sometimes seem more of a curse with unwanted male attention. This makes her blossoming relationship with vagrant Lloyd absolutely adorable, because while he makes no effort to hide how attracted he is to her, he is always very respectful of Stella and what she wants, and I really enjoyed seeing Stella’s confusion over meeting a man that didn’t just treat her like a piece of meat. I also really enjoyed their witty banter, and sometimes the romance was so utterly delightful that it made my own heart beat faster.

While the first part of the novel spent some time building up to the inciting incident, I loved every second of it. I felt completely immersed in the world, and I loved seeing Stella’s day to day life. I also loved the paradoxically complicated yet very simple relationship Stella had with her two sisters, Mattie and Livinia. While they were effectively orphans, they loved each other fiercely, even though they fought and disagreed. It felt like a real sibling relationship to me, exacerbated by the harsh reality of living in the Dust Bowl. By the time we found the magical world, I was ready to see them enjoy themselves, and part of me even hoped that nothing would ever go wrong and they could just go on being happy forever.

I really don’t want to give too much else away, but if you liked The Diviners because of the era and the mystical aspect, I really think you’ll enjoy Dust Spells and its supernatural mystery. This is easily  a 5 star read for me!

Nemo
Nemo

About Nemo

A lover of kittens and all things sparkly, Nemo has a degree in English Literature and specialises in reviewing contemporary, paranormal, mystery/thriller, historical, sci-fi and fantasy Young Adult fiction. She is especially drawn to novels about princesses, strong female friendships, magical powers, and assassins.

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