Book Review: 'Touched by Magic' by Celine Jeanjean

5 stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I was especially interested to read this book because Panong—a make-believe island where the series is set—appears to be somewhere in Southeast Asia. I’m originally from Singapore, and some of the mythical creatures in the book, including the pontianak, garuda and polong, are familiar to me.

I thought author Celine Jeanjean did a good job building the fantastical setting. Panong has a mishmash of cultures, which is very true of many parts of Southeast Asia. Even her magical folk are diverse (I mean, there is a kitsune and a baku, a witch’s cat from London who’s a cockney, and the Nagaraja), which brings to mind the wonderful mix of cultures and influences in that part of the world.

It’s the urban fantasy version of Asian fusion cooking—traditional ingredients used in an innovative way. Well done.

The book’s premise is fun and interesting. Protagonist Apiya Chapman is a barber to the magical folk of Panong. She gets dragged into a situation that may have serious consequences for the three main types of beings on the island: the purely supernatural, humans touched by magic (with limited magical ability), and plain old humans.

Apiya epitomizes the cultural mix I talked about—she’s originally from Panong, but was adopted by British parents and raised in London.

The story itself is a headlong rush into adventure. It’s well-written, and the main characters are likable. I found the ending slightly abrupt, with unanswered questions. I also would have liked to see more interaction between humans and the magical folk living among them, but that may come with the next installments.

All in all, an enjoyable, lighthearted read.


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