Title: Wild Beauty
Author: Anna-Marie McLemore
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Release Date: October 3rd 2017
Love grows such strange things.
For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They’ve also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens.
The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he’s even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family.
– Blurb courtesy of goodreads.com
My Thoughts On…
There are two things all Nomeolvides women know; one is that if they ever try and run from the grounds of La Pradera the gardens will kill them, forcing pollen and blood from their lungs. The second is that if they ever fall in love too deeply their lovers will vanish. That’s how it’s been for generations, until a strange boy appears out of nowhere in the middle of the gardens they tend.
The Nomeolvides women think Fel is one of their lovers, returned by the gardens who took him, but Fel is a mystery. He has no knowledge of himself, not even his name, and as Estrella tries to help him uncover his past they find themselves unearthing some dangerous secrets. Secrets that not only shape the past of the land, but could bring danger to La Pradera’s future and the Nomeolvides family’s home there.
Like all magical realism books there’s a lot left unexplained in Wild Beauty, a lot of the questions don’t have answers and a lot of the world building is simply explained away as ‘magic’. It took me a little while to adjust when I started reading, to simply lose myself in the story and not get caught up on the reasons why, but when I did I discovered a book that was just as magical, just as beautifully and lyrically written, as Anna-Marie McLemore’s previous books.
Anna-Marie McLemore is my favourite magical realism author and Wild Beauty, which was one of my most anticipated release of this year, ended up being an incredible read. The plot is slow, letting me sink into the grounds of La Pradera before revealing the gardens darker side, before the secrets surrounding the Nomeolvides women and their home were unravelled.
Estrella and her cousins are closer than sisters, but after generations of Nomeolvides women before them having to watch either their loves leave them or disappear they’re all too afraid to open their hearts to something real. Instead all five fall in love with a girl who loves them all equally because it’s a safer choice. However with the attention of the five Nomeolvides hearts on her Estrella and her sisters are afraid for Bay, and offer La Pradera their treasures to keep her safe.
Family is important to Estrella and the other Nomeolvides women. They look out for one another, keep each other’s secrets, and the people they adopt into their family – Bay and Fel – are as treasured and protected as their own daughters and cousins. I loved the relationship Estrella had with her cousins. They supported one another no matter what; even when they were angry with one another their petty differences were put aside in favour of supporting one another when things took a turn for the worse.
Fel appears from nowhere, and has no memory of his life before Estrella found him in the gardens. However the more time that passes under the care of the Nomeolvides family the more he starts to remember; the shape of someone who took care of him, the taste of foods they ate, the feel of the scars on his back. Fel has a home with the Nomeolvides’, but he knows they hope for answers from him; if Fel is one of their vanished lovers returned does that mean others will come back.
The relationship between Estrella and Fel is slow to develop but really sweet and one I loved watching grow. Like her family Estrella feels protective of Fel, but unlike her cousins she doesn’t see him as a brother or cousin. Still, how can Estrella truly love Fel if he belongs to one of her ancestors? If he is one of the vanished lovers come back again how can she truly love him if it means he’ll vanish once more?
One of the things that makes Anna-Marie McLemore’s books, including Wild Beauty, stand out is the development of her characters, their diversity and their relationships with one another. While the plot was slow the character development was more than enough to keep me fully invested in the story. I fell in love with these characters, felt their heartache and pain and fears through the way they were written.
I feel like there was no other way this book could have turned out for me, no way I could have ever rated Wild Beauty less than five stars. It was everything I love about the magical realism genre in one book; the lyrical writing that tells a beautiful story, the incredible characters, the magic that feels so real and the mystery that draws you in. For one of my most anticipated release of the year Wild Beauty was worth the wait.
What did you think of Wild Beauty? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.