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2 Stars: The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker eARC

The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker looked like an excellent choice for me on the surface. I’m in graduate school, so a character dealing with similar issues sounded perfect. I always love a good fantasy, so another book in that genre was nothing to worry about. However, I ended up with a character that I could not identify with at all and a story that made me yawn more than want to continue. I haven’t actually read A Discovery of Witches, so I don’t know if the comparison is accurate, but I sincerely hope it isn’t.

Note: I received an eARC of The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Some things might be different in the final copy.

2 Stars: The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker eARC

The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker
Published by Pamela Dorman Books on August 1st, 2013
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
Page Length: 576 pages
How I got my copy: NetGalley
IndieBound - Book Depository - Goodreads
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Nora Fischer’s dissertation is stalled and her boyfriend is about to marry another woman.  During a miserable weekend at a friend’s wedding, Nora wanders off and walks through a portal into a different world where she’s transformed from a drab grad student into a stunning beauty.  Before long, she has a set of glamorous new friends and her romance with gorgeous, masterful Raclin is heating up. It’s almost too good to be true.

Then the elegant veneer shatters. Nora’s new fantasy world turns darker, a fairy tale gone incredibly wrong. Making it here will take skills Nora never learned in graduate school. Her only real ally—and a reluctant one at that—is the magician Aruendiel, a grim, reclusive figure with a biting tongue and a shrouded past. And it will take her becoming Aruendiel’s student—and learning magic herself—to survive. When a passage home finally opens, Nora must weigh her "real life" against the dangerous power of love and magic. --Goodreads

2 Stars


  • The magic system in The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic is actually quite interesting. During the info dumps, it is explained that a magic user has to have a deep understanding of the object/element they are working with in order to perform magic. For example, in order to repair a broken bowl, Nora must deeply connect with the broken pieces and pull on the pieces’ desire to be whole again. This was cool, too bad we didn’t get to use it in many fun ways.
  • As a graduate student, I could identify with a couple of moments in Nora’s life and there are fun literary references for book geeks, so that was cool when it happened.


  •  The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real magic appears to be long just for the sake of being long. It so easily could have been cut down by a couple hundred pages and told the same story.
  • There is a horrendous lack of action in The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic. Nora makes very few conscious decisions to act, and instead is generally reacting and discussing events. I remember how excited I got during the one real actionable decision she makes in the book, but then she changes her mind and goes back to not doing anything.
  • The tone used in The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic is very much a tell not show type of writing. Even when certain important characters die, the deaths are reported after the fact instead of in any sort of interesting and emotional death scene. That style of storytelling happens over and over, to the point that I felt like I was reading a report of events instead of seeing them as they unfold.
  • If you like romance or meaningful endings, you will be disappointed in The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic. While there is potential for a slightly disturbing romance, nothing actually happens on that front. Similarly, the ending simply ends in the most predictable fashion with nothing meaningful actually happening.


I almost wish that The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic had been worse than it was so that I could have solidly decided to DNF it. Instead it had enough potential to get better that I had to suffer through the 500+ pages without it ever actually getting better. While there is some potential for a sequel I will in no way be watching out for it and I really can’t suggest anyone suffer through this book unless you are intrigued by 500+ pages of nothing really happening.

2 Stars
Anya from On Starships and Dragonwings

– Anya


 The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker

© 2013, Anya. All rights reserved.


  1. Ah, how disappointing! I’m also in grad school and I do think that’s part of why this book sounded so promising to me. Characters who are acted on instead of acting and unsatisfying endings are two of my biggest pet peeves, so I’ll be giving this one a pass.

  2. Awww, ever since you first mentioned this one and brought it to my attention I’ve been looking forward to your review. What a bummer :( Info dumps can really kill a story, especially a story with not much action that is also reallllly long o.O I’m sorry that this was such a let-down though, especially since the magical system sounds unique enough that it could have been good…thanks for the insight though ^^ lovely review!


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