STARRED REVIEW
January 2021

Root Magic

By Eden Royce
Review by

Root Magic finds the South, as well as its main characters, twins Jezebel and Jay, on the verge of some big changes. Their beloved grandmother has just died, and they’re about to turn 11.

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Though debut author Eden Royce currently lives in the United Kingdom, it’s clear she is still deeply rooted in the culture of the Gullah nation to which she belongs. Royce’s previous short stories were informed by the traditions of these descendants of enslaved people living along the coast of Georgia and the Carolinas, and her first middle grade novel is also set in this evocative milieu.

Root Magic finds the South, as well as its main characters, twins Jezebel and Jay, on the verge of some big changes. Their beloved grandmother has just died, and they’re about to turn 11. Their grandmother was a practitioner of what’s known as root magic, a rich and complex set of spells and charms passed down through generations, and it’s the twins’ turn to begin learning from their uncle Doc the knowledge that has been such a source of strength for their family.

Recently, however, root magic has also been a source of stress. An increasingly aggressive police officer has been cracking down on its practitioners, and the new girls at school mock Jezebel for her family’s practices. What’s more, Jezebel and Jay are in different grades for the first time, and Jezebel fears they’re starting to grow apart. And then there are the mysterious voices she hears calling her by the river . . .

Royce’s storytelling is atmospheric and more than a little spooky, filled with haints and boo-hags, protection charms and curses. But the novel is also set during a specific historical period—the fall of 1963—and so these supernatural elements play out against an equally vivid backdrop of real historical events, including the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, police intimidation tactics and the integration of Charleston schools.

Root Magic successfully blends mystical elements with historical ones for a novel that explores Gullah culture as well as the social upheavals of the 1960s. Readers who are easily frightened might want to read with the lights on—but if they do, they’ll discover a thoughtful story about a family taking on all obstacles, seen and unseen, together.

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Root Magic

Root Magic

By Eden Royce
Walden Pond
ISBN 9780062899576

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