Modern Divination book cover

Modern Divination Fails To Live Up to its Potential – Book Review

Modern Divination, by Isabel Agajanian, tells the story of a green witch named Aurelia Schwartz whose life and everything she believed about magic is upended after a run-in with a witch who steals magic. Aurelia reluctantly hides out with her academic rival as they try to survive and devise a plan of attack for when the power-hungry witch strikes next.

At least, that is what the book’s description tells us. In truth, the book is a character study of Aurelia and Ingram and their relationship with everything else fading into the background.

Agajanian knows how to write compelling characters and relationships; there’s no denying that. But, the prose the author is so fond of overwhelms the entire book. Flowery language can be powerful when done at the right moments and in moderation, but that’s not the case here.

Modern Divination book cover

There are aspects of a good story, and if there weren’t, I wouldn’t have finished the book. Life’s too short for books that you’re not connecting with, and I did connect with this one for a while.

Part of the reason why I stuck with it was to eventually get to what Modern Divination‘s description promised. That plus the interactions and development of Aurelia and Ingram helped get me through the first half of the book, but by the last 100 pages or so, it became harder and harder to stay focused while reading.

The magic system, the relationship, and the potential for a good mystery are what drew me to this book. Only one of those things is properly explored, and the rest is simply a backdrop to explore Aurelia and Ingram as individuals and as a couple.

However, the plot cannot be a backdrop that is thrown in randomly with developments and history that are never fully explained. The mystery and magic could have taken a second seat to the characters, but we need to be able to follow and understand them, neither of which happens because there’s not enough time devoted to exploring those aspects of the book.

Time always seemed to be the issue for her. It moved too quickly to catch hold of and enjoy. It spurned her advances like an unrequited love. She was constantly out of it, or with too much of it dispersed between periods of sporadic business — in all cases, she was left wholly unsatisfied.

There’s too much focus on the prose and character introspection that there’s no bandwidth to explore much else, resulting in “twists” or reveals that don’t fully work or make sense.

A fully fleshed-out magic system and a murder mystery could have enhanced the story and the plight of Aurelia and Ingram. Instead, Modern Divination tells us various things rather than showing us, slotting both characters into roles and situations that we don’t get to fully understand, especially once the mystery begins and the truth about both characters’ magic is revealed.

Modern Divination has a lot of potential, and it could turn into something spectacular with the right editor. Currently, however, it’s an overwritten book that fails to deliver on what its own description promises.

Stray Thoughts

  • I never knew writing out a character’s full name every couple of pages would be something that bothered me so much.
  • It’s easy to understand why Aurelia despised Ingram initially, but his treatment of her never fully works.
  • Darling is one of the better pet names, but it always brings an old-timey feel along with it.
  • Like Louisa, I too would love to have a dragon familiar.
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Modern Divination by Isabel Agajanian is available now.

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Allison is in a love affair with books and television that doesn't seem to be letting up anytime soon. Slightly damaged fictional characters are her weakness. She loves to spend her free time curled up with a cat and a book to read or a show to watch. Allison is a Tomatometer-approved critic (Rotten Tomatoes).

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