The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic: A Novel (Paperback)
August 2013 Indie Next List
“The great thing about Nora, the
titular 'thinking woman' is that she is completely relatable.
Nora, a perennial graduate student who hasn't made the best
romantic choices, lands in another world that is rife with
medieval attitudes toward women. She brings an analytical eye to
a highly stratified, low-tech, but magical world and by speaking
truth to power she learns new lessons about herself. This
beautifully written first novel reverberates with echoes of fairy
tales and fantasy literature from Narnia to Harry Potter.”
— Tonie Lilley, The Regulator Bookshop, Durham, NC
Earning comparisons to wildly popular fantasy novels by Deborah Harkness and Lev Grossman, Emily Croy Barker’s enchanting debut offers an intelligent escape into a richly imagined world. And with an appealing female protagonist, cinematic storytelling, wry humor, and wonderfully clever literary references, The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic is sure to capture the imaginations of readers everywhere.
During a miserable weekend at a friend’s wedding, eager to forget about her disastrous breakup and stalled dissertation, Nora Fischer wanders off and somehow finds herself in another realm. There, she meets glamorous Ilissa—who introduces Nora to a decadent new world—and her gorgeous son Raclin. But when the elegant veneer of this dreamland shatters, Nora finds herself in a fairy tale gone incredibly wrong. And the only way she can survive is by learning real magic herself.
"A marvelous plot, clever dialogue, and complex characters distinguish The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic. With the intimacy of a classic fairy-tale and the rollicking elements of modern epic fantasy, Emily Croy Barker’s delightful debut will sweep readers into another world. Fun, seductive, and utterly engrossing, this wonderful tale of magic and adventure is a perfect escape from humdrum reality."
—Deborah Harkness, author of the All Souls Trilogy
"To read The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic is to enter a lush, fantastical dream filled with beauty and strangeness, love and cruelty, playfulness and gravitas. Emily Barker has crafted a wholly imaginative and witty debut novel that is unlike any I've read. Mind candy for those of us raised on Harry Potters!"
—Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants
“Think of this book as Hermione Granger: The Grad School Years. An entertaining tale capably told.”
“Barker weaves together classic fantasy and romantic elements (including shout-outs to Pride and Prejudice and hints of Wuthering Heights) to produce a well-rounded, smooth, and subtle tale.”
"Like in Harkness’s work, as the novel closes, Barker leaves Nora poised on the brink of a decision that could lead to another adventure. This reviewer can’t wait. . . . Readers who love magical fantasy adventures with strong female protagonists will enjoy Barker’s novel. And fans of Lev Grossman’s The Magicians may also want to try this.
"This dark fairy tale has plenty of curb appeal for a wide range of fantasy, time-travel, and alternate-reality fans."
“The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic is a medieval fairy tale with a deliciously dark twist . . . a thoroughly enchanting read. . . . Barker has spun a clever, lush yarn that is uniquely its own.”
“The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic embraces many of the things that make portal stories so perennial, with just enough twists that it seems to be in conversation with some of its forebears . . . and . . . suggest[s] deeper issues of power and gender waiting to be explored.”
"Emily Croy Barker has written a sophisticated fairy tale that has one foot through the looking glass and the other squarely planted in the real world. Both classic and wholly original, The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic is an imaginative synthesis of the stories that delighted us as children and the novels that inspired us as adults."
—Ivy Pochoda, author of Visitation Street
“'I wish my life were different. I don’t care how.' So begins perpetual grad student and recently jilted Nora Fischer’s grand adventure into a wonderfully imaginative world of illusion and real magic that reveals the importance of a curious and open mind, learning and love. Author Emily Croy Barker has great fun toying with our ever-shifting notions of work, beauty, belonging, and reality—creating a delightful book for anyone longing to escape the everyday (and who isn’t?!)."
—Karen Engelmann, author of The Stockholm Octavo
“A clever and scrumptious debut fantasy, the kind you happily disappear into for days.”
—Kelly Link, author of Magic for Beginners