Not all magicians go to schools of magic.
Adam Binder has the Sight. It's a power that runs in his bloodline: the ability to see beyond this world and into another, a realm of magic populated by elves, gnomes, and spirits of every kind. But for much of Adam's life, that power has been a curse, hindering friendships, worrying his backwoods family, and fuelling his abusive father's rage.
Years after his brother, Bobby, had him committed to a psych ward, Adam is ready to come to grips with who he is, to live his life on his terms, to find love, and maybe even use his magic to do some good. Hoping to track down his missing father, Adam follows a trail of cursed artefacts to Denver, only to discover that an ancient and horrifying spirit has taken possession of Bobby's wife.
It isn't long before Adam becomes the spirit's next target. To survive the confrontation, save his sister-in-law, and learn the truth about his father, Adam will have to risk bargaining with very dangerous beings... including his first love.
I confess that I got this book for free from Audible (or perhaps I paid a nominal amount for it, I honestly can't recall) and only listened to it because it was in my library and I needed a break between Wheel of Time books. That said, I am glad I listened to it (a) because I enjoyed it and (b) because I did make a promise to myself to branch out a bit.
What I liked about it
Redneck Urban Fantasy
I am not sure if this is a recognised genre, but if it is, then WTW falls squarely into this category and Slayton hits the nail on the head. I am a big Dresden Files fan and it was fun to read something which felt Dresden adjacent. The main character Adam hails from a small backwater town in Oklahoma, he lives with his aged aunt in a trailer park, surviving pay-cheque to pay-cheque trying to put his family squabbles behind him. Adam was super relatable and a great protagonist.
Though I am usually a hard-magic system kinda gal, I think the whimsical magic in WTW suited the story and the vibe. I have no idea how Adam's magic works, all I know is that he ranks pretty low down on the magical richter scale and that makes him different from others in the WTW cast. I think that the soft system also helps to portray the fact that Adam also doesn't really know what is going on as he was never properly taught how the magical world works. The story features, warlocks, elves, spirits, dragons, leprechauns and various creatures from folk-tales and I enjoyed the way that Slayton blends them and the magical/normal world together (though sometimes it was a little cheesy).
The chapters switch between Adam's POV and the POV of his non-magical brother, Robert. Adam's chapters are fun to read and drive the story and the magic forward. You get to know Adam pretty quickly in his chapters and I found him an interesting character and it was was refreshing to have a gay protagonist in a fantasy setting for a change. Robert's chapters were also great, I could really feel how much he was striving for normality and to leave his redneck roots behind him. The relationship between the brothers is also pretty tumultuous and that added an extra layer to the story.
What fell flat
The premise and ideas and characters are all interesting, but I found the plot a little rough and ready. I saw a few things coming from miles and miles away and there was other parts that came out of left field and didn't resonate / land right with me at all. I love it when a story contains a plot twist or big reveal or a moment were everything coalesces and, for me, WTW didn't hit the mark. I enjoyed reading it, but I didn't find the ending very satisfying.
Its a bit of a romance novel
As I mentioned, I picked the book up for free / cheap and so I didn't know much about it going in - as a result, the romance took me by surprise. Even though the romance was tasteful and actually pretty well done, paranormal romance is simply not my vibe. I don't mind the odd crush or kiss or whatever, but I am there for the fantasy and the love triangle element in WTW just detracted from that in my view. That said, it did seem pretty integral to Adam's character so maybe it was necessary here!
It was a fun and quick read (listen) and I enjoyed it. I don't know if I will read the next one in the series, but who knows - maybe I'll pick it up in a Audible sale at some point!