10 Magical Realism Books Sure to Enchant You!
Why Read Magical Realism?
Looking for an exciting, magical read? Try the subgenre of fantasy known as magical realism. Magical realism is a type of fantasy fiction that sets a scene of real life with a little (or a lot) of magic thrown in. It is different than fantasy in that the setting is usually a "real" place somewhere on this planet, and doesn't use complicated character names, place names, or develop a different world.
The wonderful thing about reading magical realism is that it is not as heavy as a full blown fantasy book. This means you have less of a commitment, as usually the magical realism book is smaller and takes less effort to read than a epic fantasy novel or novel series. If you're interested in folklore or mythology, you will find many gods and goddesses, witches, fairies, dragons, werewolves, and more woven into many of the magical realism books listed below. An added bonus? Some of the best magical realism books are made into movies or TV shows, so you can read the book first and then watch the story come to life!
1. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Though some disagree The Secret Life of Bees is technically magical realism, the reader can't deny the magical elements in this heartwarming tale of a girl who goes on a journey of self-discovery. Lily Melissa Owens, a fourteen-year-old white girl, runs away from home with her housemaid Rosaleen, leaving behind her abusive father. Her whole life she's been haunted by the death of her mother, a blurry vision of a gun going off and her mother lying dead on the floor. Lily and Rosaleen are taken in by Lily's mother's friends, three women who are also beekeepers.
The enchanting role that bees, honey, and the Black Madonna play in Lily's newfound freedom and life with four strong, black women, gives us glimpses into the magic that can be found in the deep south. Lily discovers more than she bargained for after learning the ways of beekeeping, and eventually must come to terms with her mother's tragic death and face her abusive, controlling father. Throughout the process, she taps into her own power along with the divine feminine.
2. Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
Perhaps one of the most charming, magical realism novels based on the lives of witches is Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen. Similar in many ways to Alice Hoffman's Practical Magic, Garden Spells was written with a light-heartedness that Practical Magic lacked. The main character, Claire Waverley, has a knack for cooking...and not just any kind of cooking...magical cooking. She uses ingredients from her secret, sacred garden complete with an apple tree that the entire town believes is enchanted.
When Claire's rebellious sister returns to the Waverley house, the two sisters have to learn how to blend their very different personalities, heal old wounds, and live magical lives all their own. Personally, this book took the cake over Practical Magic, and I wish it had have been made into a movie!
3. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman is a favorite fiction author of many. I would venture to say all of his books are worth a read and may become some of your favorite books of all time. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is no exception to the rule. This book will frighten and fascinate you, all in the same breath.
When a man returns home for a funeral, he recalls his childhood friendship with his neighbor, Lettie Hempstock, and her eccentric family. He remembers one of the most tumultuous times in his life, in which he wandered into a world unlike our own, and the terrors that awaited him there. His odd neighbors, the Hempstocks, would turn out to be his heroes. The Ocean at the End of the Lane reminds us that things aren't always what they seem. A pond could be an ocean. A friend could be your enemy. A balloon could be a monster.
4. The Witching Hour by Anne Rice
If you haven't read any of Anne Rice's novels, choose The Witching Hour as your first. It is a commitment to read Rice's novels, as many of them are rather long; however, you will find yourself quickly sucked into Rice's gothic, romantic words. Rice is also the author who wrote Interview with a Vampire and Queen of the Damned, two popular vampire novels adapted into films in the nineties.
The Witching Hour follows Rowan Mayfair, a neurosurgeon from California, who must go to New Orleans when her long-lost mother passes away. This event would spark a chain of events in which Rowan must face her special ability - she has the ability to heal or harm with a touch of her hand. Not to mention, there's a spirit who's followed Rowan's family for centuries, one that wants to befriend her. One that promises things to her, things that Rowan isn't sure are good or bad. The setting, the characters, and the ambiance that Rice incorporates into this novel will leave you wanting more!
5. The Cotton Family Series by Nicole Canfield
The Cotton Family Series is a series of three books, thus far, written and published by Nicole Canfield (the author of this article). So I may be a bit biased, but if you like magical realism books like Practical Magic or Garden Spells, you will love The Cotton Family Series. The three books in the series include: Familiar Spirits, Hungry Spirits, and Ancient Spirits.
When Lucy Cotton is forced to return to her family's Colonial estate, she remembers the reason why she left in the first place. The spirits that haunted her as a child were just waiting in the shadows for her return. Lucy's mother reveals a secret that's been kept from Lucy for thirty years, turning her logical world upside down. Lucy must come to terms with who she really is, while also trying to defend her family and life from an evil spirit who's tormented her family since the seventeen hundreds. If you like witches, shapeshifters, vampires, folk magic, and folklore, you may find yourself pleasantly enchanted by the world of the Cottons.
6. Dark is the Sea by Heather Blanchard
Dark is the Sea will sweep you away to the rocky coast of Scotland, where a girl named Rowan Munro learns she is a witch and has powers she never knew she had. Unfortunately, with this discovery of power comes a huge problem - an enemy of her ancestors known as The Hunter. He is bent and determined to destroy Rowan and her family's legacy.
There is magic, mystery, and love in Dark is the Sea. And when you're done reading it? You'll shoot on over to buy the next book in the series, which hasn't come out yet! It will leave you wanting more and more from this up and coming independent author. Blanchard knows how to weave an enchanting tale.
7. The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
One of the most beloved magical realism movies is Practical Magic, which is based off the book of the same name written by Alice Hoffman. While I was a huge fan of the movie, the book fell flat for me. There was little mention of the magical aunts, and the book setting was different from the movie's setting. So we don't get to experience the aunts' magical Victorian mansion from the movie in the actual book Practical Magic. That being said, Alice Hoffman recently released the second book in the series - The Rules of Magic.
This book surpasses the first in many ways. It follows the lives of the aunts (Franny and Jet) and their rebellious, talented witch of a brother (Vincent). Hoffman does a wonderful job of weaving magical elements throughout the book, keeping it consistently magical, which I felt was lacking from Practical Magic. There's emotion and excitement in The Rules of Magic.
8. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Another of Gaiman's masterpiece novels is American Gods. If you are intrigued by mythology, Gaiman bases the characters in this novel on gods and goddesses from varying cultures. Shadow, an ex-con who's recently gotten out of jail, is an unexpected and thrilling main character. He teams up with a man who goes by Wednesday, and quickly learns that Wednesday isn't exactly who he says he is. And that Wednesday's friends are just as odd and mysterious.
Fight alongside of Shadow in a world of forgotten and new gods who are at war with each other. There are those who are battling to be remembered, and those who are battling to snuff out the others. It's a book you won't want to miss.
9. The Dream Canvas by Nicole Canfield
Again, maybe biased but my first ever published work is The Dream Canvas. This is a story of a young woman, a freespirited artist living in Ybor City, Tampa, who finds love through her dreams. When she paints her dreams, a man in New York City finds her art to be very much like his own dreams. When they meet, they realize they were meant to be and that their souls were calling to one another over time and space. But there are those who would keep these soul mates apart.
With magical elements like lucid dreaming and tarot cards mixed into real life, The Dream Canvas is a magical realism romance that will leave you feeling rather dreamy.
10. The Witch's Daughter by Paula Brackston
Paula Brackston has a knack for writing witchy novels. Her first best seller, The Witch's Daughter, takes us on a journey back in time to when a woman named Bess learns how to live on her own after the untimely death of her mother. In the thralls of survival or death, Bess chooses to learn how to protect herself and her livelihood through a warlock named Gideon Masters. Fast forward a few hundred years, and Bess is now an old witch teaching a new apprentice how to connect with the old religion and old ways of the craft. But Bess doesn't realize that her enemy from centuries ago also has the trick of immortality up his sleeve and has followed her over the years. Gideon will stop at nothing to make Bess his own, or make her pay.
A magical realism novel with loads of folk magick and history strewn throughout, The Witch's Daughter will make you want to pick up a broom and start your own witchy herb garden!
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