Author: Graci Kim
Series: Gifted Clans #1
My rating: 4.4 stars
Riley knows her family’s healing spells by heart, knows them better than her sister does. The only problem: Riley is adopted and can’t do any magic. When Hattie, her sister, finds a spell that should enable them to share Hattie’s magic and finally give Riley a place among their magical community, their plans go drastically awry. With Hattie’s life in danger, Riley must hurry to complete several tasks to save her. On the way, Riley will need to make some tough decisions, uncover secrets, find help from her friends and family, and hardest of all, choose between her heart’s desire and the people dearest to her.
Riley’s journey was one of self discovery and sacrifices. While her original goal was to obtain magic and truly become part of the Korean magical community, the secrets she and her friends uncovered, and the steps they needed to take to save Hattie meant making some sacrifices. Riley’s story is magical, very creative, and also a fantastic emotional and maturing journey.
I was going to say that what separates this book from others is that there’s no Chosen One hero or overpowered world savior. However, those cliches did show their faces a bit towards the end, along with a saving the world plot, which I thought wasn’t the case either. But those were only small moments and weren’t the focus at all. Mostly, this book was about two sisters trying to help each other, two friends learning about their deceased parents, enemies becoming friends, making mistakes, uncovering secrets, and the importance of family & friendships, with lots of magic & Korean myths sprinkled throughout
The story introduces a lot of creative magical ideas and Korean myths that are fluidly interwoven with the modern world. (Think along the lines of using an app to communicate with ghosts, or a magical equivalent of an electric scooter.) At the same time, it doesn’t lose its focus on the plot and the characters’ relationships, such as between Riley and her friend, Emmet. Between finding out about their deceased birth parents, unraveling the mystery behind an excommunicated clan and the events leading to their respective parents’ deaths, and trying to fulfill the task they were given, the story still took the time to focus on Emmet and Riley’s emotions and on the impact certain events had on their friendship.
Family and sistership were a major focus here. I loved Riley and Hattie’s sisterly relationship, the way they kept sticking out their necks for each other, and also her friendship with Emmet, who had his own side plot. Her relationship with her parents was tested as well after Riley uncovered some long buried secrets that forced her to make some tough decisions between her birth and adoptee families
Every page introduced new ideas in Korean culture and mythology. The world building was fantastic. It presented a nice mix of myths and modern Korean-American teen culture that flowed perfectly with the story, and was clear enough for anyone to understand and appreciate, no matter how familiar they are with Korean culture. From k-pop and k-drama to magic and myths, there’s something here for every reader to enjoy and relate to.