Review of Conjure, by Lea Nolan
by Lea Nolan
Published by Entangled Publishing
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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.
Conjure is one of the most entertaining young adult novels I’ve read in a long time. It is a light, fun, and sometimes spooky read filled with sympathetic characters, intriguing hoodoo magic, and turns and twists that will keep you turning pages until the very satisfying ending–one that is open and hints at what will happen in book 2. That said, the novel pretty much stands on its own and only one problem is left unsolved.
Fifteen-year old Emma is an utterly likable character, strong, brave, sensitive, and forever loyal to her beloved twin brother, for whom she will go to he ends of the world for in order to save him from the terrible curse that threatens to destroy him. Her brother Jack is just as likable but very different from her; he’s quirky and quick-witted and at times impossible and selfish just like brothers usually are. The romance subplot between Emma and Jack’s best friend, Cooper, is sweet and refreshing and adds spice to the main story–not that it needs any extra spice. Plenty of dialogue make the pace move quickly and there’s lots of interesting information about hoodoo.
I usually dislike the use of flashbacks in a story but Nolan did a good job with them. I also enjoyed the Southern setting descriptions quite a lot; they certainly bring to life the South Carolina Lowcountry with its steamy, white-sand beaches and lush vegetation. Adult intrusion is kept to a bare minimum, so the story is centered around Emma, Jack, Cooper, the old hoodoo ‘witch’ who helps them and the mysterious beauty who has suddenly, out of nowhere, appeared in their lives and who has Jack mesmerized.
There are lots of exciting scenes in Conjure, especially when the teens are forced to bend the rules and cross the line for the higher good. Though there’s magic, witchcraft and curses involved, this isn’t a horror story and the tone is kept light throughout. There’s no bad language or sexy scenes either; Nolan keeps everything pretty sweet and proper. I certainly look forward to reading more from this talented YA author.