Wicked as You Wish by Rin Chupeco is the first book in the urban fantasy series, A Hundred Names For Magic. It explores what happens when you mix politics, magic, and teenage angst. While bright, colorful and full of #OwnVoices magic and wonder, the book is light on world building and as a result, comes off as a mixed bag.
Wicked As You Wish takes place in the small desert town of Invierno, Arizona. Prince Alexei, the last remaining royal of the infamous kingdom of Avalon, is sent to the town to hide. Avalon was a kingdom who’s queen turned on it, forcing its people to escape as refugees across the world. We also meet Tala, who is a high schooler from a long line of Filipino spell breakers, magic doesn’t work on them. Tala’s family is charged with hiding and protecting Alexei, until he can take back his kingdom and restore it. In this world, natural magic is almost gone but people can still access it in doses, almost like prescription pills. For example, students can take certain spells to help them ace tests. When the long fabled Firebird, arrives into town, the team have to embark on a journey to fight the Snow Queen once and for all.
I loved reading about Tala and her family. Their relationship is genuine and warm. Through them we learn more about Tala’s culture and how it has shaped her as a person. The incorporation of Tagalog was very fun to read, and I enjoyed that words in another language were not italicized. The book is at its strongest when we are given insight into the depth of their connection and bond.
The concept of Spellcast, a type of modern spell technology is wickedly ha puns) cool. It is fun to see an urban fantasy incorporate elements of almost science fiction into its story line. I appreciated how Chupeco merged these two genres into a really interesting concept that felt refreshing and new.
However, the pacing of the book is a little scattered. We jump right into the action, but we aren’t given time to quite understand the world of the book. This is especially noticeable in the first act because while the plot moves forward, as a reader, you are still trying to comprehend how any of the magic, laws, and setting works. I found myself re-reading pages and stopping to think of the logistics of how events were happening while reading. The US and many magical fairy tale lands and characters (like Neverland, Peter Pan, Hook, etc) co-exist, but often they are mentioned in just passing, without greater detail. Because this book is the first in a series, I hope that in the sequels, greater attention is given to bringing dimension to the world of the story.
Fan of shows like Once Upon a Time will enjoy Wicked As You Wish, a book with great potential that plants a lot of interesting story lines for its future installments.