Review: The Language of Spells

By: Sarah Painter

Available on: Amazon, Audible, and Barnes and Noble.


Blurb: Gwen Harper has a (literal) magical knack for finding things. She returns to Pendleford after many years away in the wake of her great aunt Iris’ death having inherited a house from said deceased relative. But not all welcome her back with open arms, and that includes her ex, Cameron. Magic and mystery and a little bit of mischief are all in the cards.

Tags and Trigger Warnings:

Blood, Bullying, Child Abuse, Death, Drug Use (Illicit), Elder Abuse, Emotional Abuse, Food, Infidelity, Magic, Magical Realism, Metaphysical Fiction, Murder, Poor Coping Mechanisms, Pregnancy, Romance, Suicide, Supernatural Fiction, Theft, Underage Drinking, Underage Drug Use, Violence, Violent Imagery, Women’s Fiction, Women’s Psychological Fiction

Body Count: 3, but one starts off dead.

Overall review:

  • Thoughts:
  • I started reading The Language of Spells in late December. It was an interesting introduction to a new universe where magic is, but isn’t the wand waving, Harry Potter style magic. The magic in this universe of the Harper family is softer, more hearth and home. Some of the characters were a little wooden. And the chemistry between the main character Gwen and her once boyfriend Cam didn’t exactly seem healthy. I don’t know what it says when my favorite characters were the barman Bob and the cat named Cat. That being said, I did end up reading the whole book. It was a fairly enjoyable story, on the whole. A bit saccharine, at times. But I enjoyed the magic in the ordinary sort of feel. And once I got through the first few chapters, iIt was a story I devoured on my lunch breaks to get through it more. The mysterious happenings came across a bit… formulaic? You can figure out fairly early on who the villain is and their motives. Yes, formulaic but fun enough to be a decent reprieve from the current COVID-choked reality. The most well-written character was Katie, the teenager. She seemed the most genuinely fleshed out character in the whole story, though part of a secondary plot.The deceased Great Aunt Iris is also a well done character in this story, though her voice is only conveyed through journal entries. I might read the next book in the series, The Secrets of Ghosts, but it would be a re-read and I’m not sure I want to just yet.
  • Was it engaging?
    • Room for improvement
  • Favorite Character:
    • The cat named Cat. If I had to pick a human, Katie.
  • Least Favorite Character:
    • Lily.

Rating out of five: 3.0 out of 5

To Read or Not To Read (Again):

  • Not To Read Again: Happily Donated for Someone Else to Read

The Technical Specs:

  • Series
    • Series Name: The Language of Spells
    • Book Number: 1 of 2.5
  • Genre
    • Technical Genre: Metaphysical Fiction, Metaphysical & Visionary Fiction, Women’s Psychological Fiction
    • Theo Genre: Chick Lit, Fluff/Twee, Magical Realism, Women’s Fiction
  • Page count: 386
  • POV: limited 3rd
  • Publication information:
    • Publisher: HQ Digital
    • Language: English
    • ASIN: B00CWL2C2E

Representation, Morality, and Sexism in Media Tests:

  • Bechdel–Wallace Test: Pass
    • In order to pass, two female characters must talk about something other than a male character.
  • Deggan’s Rule Test: Fail
    • In order to pass, there must me at least two non-white human characters in the main cast in a story not primarily focused on race.
  • DuVernay Test: Fail
    • In order to pass, there must be fully actualized characters of color.
  • Ellen Willis Test: Pass
    • In order to pass, two related characters would still need to work to carry the story if their genders happened to be reversed.
  • Mako Mori Test: Pass
    • In order to pass, there must be a female character that gets her own arc.
  • Mary Sue/Gary Stu Test: Half-Pass
    • In order to pass, the main character must not be completely flawless and persecuted by other characters needlessly.
    • Take a Mary Sue test here!
  • Sexy Lamp Test: Pass
    • In order to pass, the plot must not fall apart if the female character was replaced by a sexy-looking lamp.
    • Post-It Note Caveat:
      • Would the character be able to be replaced by a Sexy Lamp with a sticky note on it for information conveyance? Nope
  • Tauriel Test: Pass
    • In order to pass, there must be at least one woman in the story who is competent in her chosen occupation and not immediately shown up by a newcomer male character.
    • Also, if a female character has or develops a love interest during the story, either implied or explicitly stated, she must not suddenly abandon her job and/or chosen path to support or pursue said love interest.
  • Vito Russo Test: Fail
    • In order to pass, there must be a character on the LGBTQIAP+ spectrum spectrum who is a character beyond their orientation. Furthermore, they must actually affect the plot and be something something beyond a caricature or punchline.
      • What does LGBTQIAP+ stand for? It stands for: Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual/Bi-romantic/Bi-gender, Transgender, Queer/Genderqueer, Intersex, Asexual/Aromantic/Agender, Pansexual/Panromantic+.

You can read more about the various Media Tests I employ in my reviews at or by clicking the header on the individual test. Why include all these? Because I can, because representation matters, and because I’m neurotic. That’s all! Happy reading!

Review format updated 5 January 2021.

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