Fabulous. So fun! This is a fantasy-thriller with gothic libraries filled with magical books, and deep, dark family secrets.
Joanna and Esther are half-sisters (same father, different mothers), but haven't seen each other in many years. Joanna, like her parents, can hear magic, and can cast spells by reading the books in her library. Esther, on the other hand, is the only person they know of who is completely immune to magic. Spells do not affect her.
Joanna lives in the family home in Vermont, the sole protector of the books that generations of ancestors have been caretakers for. Ever since the sisters' father died - mysteriously in the front yard, having been sucked dry of his blood by a book - Joanna has lived there alone. Each evening she reads the words of the magical wards that safeguard the home and library.
Esther ran away from home as a teen, and never spends more than one year settled in any one place - per her father's cryptic instructions before she left. On the second day of November she must leave wherever she is living, or she will be tracked down and murdered like her mother before her. Currently, she's living in Antarctica, and has developed a close relationship with a woman who she does not want to leave, even as November 2 rapidly approaches.
And then there is Nicholas, a wealthy young man who is almost entirely confined to his family's massive London mansion. While Nicholas cannot read the spells of books, he can write them - with his blood. He is, according to his uncle, the world's last Scribe. His world consists entirely of writing books, and interacting with a small handful of people - his stony-faced bodyguard, Collins, his Uncle Richard, and the library's director (and Richard's partner) Maram, the closest thing he has to a mother, since his parents died when he was quite young. Oh, and his tiny dog, Sir Kiwi (who has a very cute relationship with both Nicholas and the normally impassive Collins).
When Esther decides to defy her self-imposed rule and stay in Antarctica beyond one year, everything begins to fall apart. All three protagonists are in danger as they careen towards each other, uncovering secrets and lies that completely redefine what they think they know of themselves, their families, and of magic itself.
I found Joanna a little one-note and drab, but thonestly that was probably purposeful. She's the stable one, the one who stayed home and continued to protect the books after her father died, the one who has no life beyond that role. Esther and Nicholas are both more interesting and more impulsive. The secondary characters of Collins, Maram, Richard, and Joanna's mother are all compelling and well-developed - with complicated lives, and contradictory emotions and motives.
Törzs also creates a detailed and comprehensive magical system, with its own rules and limitations, advantages and disadvantages. I really appreciated the thought that clearly went into creating this structure. Törzs does an excellent job of the world-building necessary to allow a reader to just fall into the world without questioning its logic.
UP NEXT: Gallant, by V.E. Schwab