Tales of Mundane Magic, Volume Four by Shaina Krevat
Another year at Flories Boarding School, another year of bespelled bedlam.
At least, that's Bridget Mallon's point of view. No matter how she tries to stick to basketball and schoolwork, inevitably some new magical mayhem takes hold.
On the other hand, Gertie Mallon, Bridget's older sister, is thriving. She keeps up with friends over videogames, excels in her magical classes (and passes her required ones), and even has time to be an enchanter's apprentice in the flying city hidden among the clouds. And when she inevitably ends up fighting off zombies or possessed by a poltergeist, her friends are there to help out.
Football middle linebacker Darryl spends his free time programming magic apps, Vivien whips up delicious - or sometimes undead - treats, and Earnest's hypnotic music might just reach the masses.
Whether it's searching for a missing camera in a witch's collection of "lost" items, making friends with the local epicurean ooze creature, or being pulled into an alternate dimension via a giant flying mole, Gertie is ecstatically inching towards graduation, and Bridget is starting to fear that life is never going to be as mundane as she'd like...
COVER ARTIST: Rachel Snodgrass
PUBLISHER: Self Published
LENGTH: 245 pages
AGE: Young Adult
Queer Rep Summary: Lesbian/Sapphic Main Character(s), Gay/Achillean Main Character(s), Bi/Pan Main Character(s), Genderqueer/Nonbinary Secondary Character(s), Trans Main Character(s).
*I received a free review copy in exchange for an honest review of this book.
TALES OF MUNDANE MAGIC, VOLUME FOUR features episodic slice-of-life stories in a world where magic is mundane, but not constant. It's one more skill that people have, but which not everyone feels comfortable engaging with or wants to learn.
This is the “Oops, all Queer” volume of what will hopefully be many more to come. The trend begins with a few minor and secondary characters, and then gradually it becomes clear that this group of teens is more queer than was obvious in the earlier books. Age-wise, they're at one of the inflection points that would naturally lead to figuring out who they like romantically or sexually (if anyone) and what that looks like. In at least one case a character had known they were queer for a while, but it just haven’t come up to the reader before. When it does, it's worked in subtly but specifically, in a way that is unmissable for similarly queer readers and hopefully clear to others. One thing that I especially appreciate is that there doesn’t seem to be any idea of a "closet" to come out of for these characters. There are things that haven’t been mentioned yet, others that are hard to know about oneself until a particular crush happens, and characters who are just queer without constantly discussing it. All of that combines to feel like the world of TOMM has opened up and claimed contemporaneous queer existence without implying that the characters were previously hiding anything. My understanding is that part of the author’s goal for the series is for it to be a world that isn’t necessarily free of every prejudice, but at least isn’t copying and pasting the troubles of our world into this one. What's certain so far is there's no detectable queerphobia, or its varietals, and for that I’m very grateful.
Volume Four handles a few things that have been left hanging from previous books, such as the story of how Bridget's eye became magical, exactly how long Charlie is going to spend as an ostrich, and how things are changing in the friend group. There are several new storylines, as the book's episodic nature means that characters like Eliza and Franklin are entirely new in a way that adds options for future books, but events like the fair in the final chapter feel more like one off events.
Bridget and Gertie are the heart of the series, the core surrounded by an ever expanding group of friends and acquaintances who make up the fabric of their lives. Now as they’re reaching adulthood they’re trying to figure out how to interact with each other as people and not just as siblings who spend time with each other because they don’t always have someone else. One particular site of tension is over their different levels of comfort with magic, and their relative abilities with the same. Gertie is actively pursuing potions and spellcraft, apprenticing in a shop that sells magic hats. One of Bridget's eyes was magically damaged when they were children. This has put Bridget in the position of having (frequently useful) magical sight, but being in pain from the accompanying headaches. This volume finally deals with that point of tension, where Gertie has frequently and joyfully engaged with magical situations (even if they involved an element of danger) but Bridget has felt like she has to get involved in order to keep terrible things from happening. It feels so realistic as a dynamic between siblings, the kind of thing that can lay unspoken for years. By the time each of them might have had words to say how they felt about it the status quo have been so long established that bringing anything up was more disruptive than letting the tensions sit there. In this case, Bridget was the one feeling the tension, while Gertie thought Bridget's evident stress was related to the headaches, not her relationship to magic itself.
There were a lot of different narrators, possibly more than any of the previous volumes. Don’t worry there’s still plenty of Gertie and Bridget, but the chapters in between from other perspectives give time to breathe for the reader. The tension between them has time to simmer and play out in a way that feels natural, but also doesn’t bog down every story into the emotional gravity of their disagreement.
I enjoyed this immensely and am excited to see where the series goes!
Moderate CW for grief, alcohol, bullying, violence.
Minor CW for racism, vomit, animal cruelty, death.