Disclosure: All views expressed are only my honest opinion. Also, I may earn a commission on some affiliate links below, whose fees support independent bookshops. Hope you will consider getting it at a local bookstore.
Published on: May 3, 2022
Published by: Sourcebooks Fire
Type: trilogy, series
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Fantasy, Wizard & Witches Fantasy, Fairy Tales & Folklore
Tropes: fairytale retelling, folklore-inspired, LGBTQ+, Fantasy, Savior/champion, quest/adventure tropes, friends-to-enemies, grey moral characters, reluctant hero
Author: Rin Chupeco
Book Length: 432 pages
Reading age : 14 – 18 years
Grade level : 8 – 12
Read: 14 June 2022
Shelved: 16 June 2022
Rating: 4 / 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Support Independent Bookstores!
Bookshop.org US | UK
Books-A-Million | IndieBound | Indigo CA
Amazon US | UK | CA | AU
Barnes & Noble | Apple Books | Google Books
Add to your Bookbub | Goodreads TBR!
The second book in the A Hundred Names for Magic trilogy, an unforgettable alternative history fairy-tale series from the author of The Bone Witch about finding family, modern-day magic, and finding the place you belong.
Tala, Alex, and the rest of their friends are safe for now but know the Snow Queen is still out there. They have to be prepared for when she eventually attacks—and all decide to do so in their own way.
When Ryker comes out of the woodwork, showing himself when he starts attacking American detention facilities and freeing refugees. And the Nameless Sword, a legendary weapon that according to Avalon legend, will make its wielder the most powerful warrior of their time turns up with her name on it, Tala’s life gets messier…But when the Snow Queen arrives with an unlikely ally, the group will have to work together.
– institutional abuse
– war / destruction
– immigration issues
– physically and psychologically abuse
– homophobia, racism,
– police abuse/brutality
– actions of violence,
– mention of death
– mind control or manipulation
– “ugly side of capitalism”
– LGBTQ representation: cis, pan, sapphic, nonbinary, gay – supporting and otherwise
– Myriad cultures, heritage, ethnicity, race, and nationalities like Filipino, Chinese, Japanese, Nigerians, and Europeans
POV: multi-characters, limited
Note: this is a trilogy, so coming into this book would require readers to read Book 1 first to ensure all the characters and settings are well developed. Plus, the most important – the ending still needs resolving, which Book 3 will have to finish. So, if you are a reader who already wants everything laid out well, it is best to get all three books before starting the trilogy.
Tala Warnock is back with her band of characters. This time, she’s more prepared with her powers and learns even more from her ancestors, who came straight from the Philippines to help protect Avalon.
This time, she and her team start learning more about themselves at a deeper level – their purpose, their prophecies, and how these prophecies weave into the fate of Avalon.
Things I Love About An Unreliable Magic
Amazingly fantastic adventures, extraordinary abilities.
Even if most of the exciting moments are within the kingdom of Avalon, there were many ground-breaking, memorable ones for the characters. Each character goes through a lot of self-reflection and discovery of their heritage, background, and purpose while protecting Avalon from villains besides the Snow Queen, as first realized. There were many heart-stopping and emotionally draining moments that got to me.
Each character’s special “powers” are unique and further develop as Tala and her gang fight to defend Avalon.
Mini telenovela feels and drama.
The multi-POV helps readers connect to the characters better and later connect each one of the “partnered-up” groupies to realize the importance of each character. Believe me that there are a lot of “voices.” Still, it was not confusing since (a) the chapter tiles mention something about the chapter and the character POV, and (b) each tone and voice is distinctly unique personalities and colloquialism oozing out of the scenes.
Plot twists that dug into the “meat” of the series
Leaving Book 1 with a hint of a traitor at the end was surprising BUT interesting as Book 2 began. I wasn’t sure how that traitor came into play until the absolute end! Flabbergasted is not even close to how I felt when the traitor revealed itself at the end. All the workings of the book culminated quite nicely.
Aside from the traitor, there were “other players” that felt harmless at the start but as the book went on, what these players possessed seemed to have manipulated the populous perception that the good guys like Tala and Alex, Avalon’s king.
Also, no matter what the good guys did, countless “detractors” feeding “bad press” kept popping up to destabilize Avalon further.
All of the above, the traitors, “enemies in sheep’s clothing,” and double agents, seem to hit underlying political connotations regarding the state of the world. I get it and can see it hinted at in various political unrest depicted, and I respect the author for pulling those themes to the forefront.
Funny banter in Filipino!
One of my most looked-forward moments is when the Filipino characters inject their brand of Filipino slang expected from Filipino titos/titas (uncles/aunties). I couldn’t help bawling over so much, especially when Tita Baby told General Luna to “Landian mo” – a definite Filipino signature of flirting and “making the best of the situation.” *wink wink*
It is hilarious each time. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the sassy, spice, and spunk of the Katipuneros!
The ending…a cliffhanger of the sort.
Closing on the ending of this book, Tala somewhat gets what she wishes for as what she wished at the very beginning. But at what cost? The basis of Tala being the MC is that she was remarkable and noteworthy. A reluctant savior in Book 1, a slow acceptance in this book, then poof! What happens when it all disappears? What if she comes into the next book as not the Tala we all knew?
Did I pique your interest, readers? She seems that way, even after a big, epic enough battle that cost everyone to evolve and change – for the better or worse? This is anyone’s guess for now.
Quotes I Love About An Unreliable Magic
This is a sense of the romantic and the adventurous that is linked to the Nameless Sword…The legend fires up the imagination. It’s a tragic history, but very popular.~ Lola Urduja
Her fears may not as phobia-specific as yours is, but that doesn’t mean they’re not valid either. Just because she likes you doesn’t mean she’s not afraid of her doom coming true.~ Tala Warnock
” The sword must always have a wielder. Reject it, and it will only find someone else. Most people think prophecy is like a mountain, unlikely to adapt to the whimsy of humans. That’s not the case. Prophecy is more like a river. filling in the spaces and crevices so it can continue moving in the direction it desires. And people forget that even mountains are impermanent.”~ The Cheshire
“I’m afraid,” Tala said.~ Tala and The Cheshire
“As well you should be. It is not a responsibility to be taken lightly, no matter how many foolish people believe it will give them nothing but riches and prestige. People believe that the spells we use, with their sets of bound laws and explicit repercussions, are what natural magic is made of. What they don’t understand is that the wilder Wonderland magic is what magic actually is at its most basic form. It is the laws ad restrictions we place that make it unnatural, and those are where our problems often begin. Every spell comes with a price, and that is the same for this sword as for everything else.”
“Saying no when others say yes doesn’t make it the wrong choice for you.”~ The Cheshire
Forgive yourself. It’ll be the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do and also the best.~ The Cheshire
Every day when he can prove to me that he is a better man than he was in the past is his ongoing proof of his love for me. For every person he helps without my prompting, for every day when he can realize his presence will help someone – that is his continuing penance. I love your father, and he loves me. But with us, forgiveness is always an ongoing process. It’s complicated.~ Lumina Makiling-Warnock
Overall, An Unreliable Magic is a non-stop, emotionally charged rollercoaster of emotions with a good balance of light-hearted “Filipino” etiquette and beliefs that are relatable and tug my heart each time. I love the witty writing and creative plot that shaped the character’s growth and development. Each event helps the characters evolve through thought and choices that bring out bravery and courage to take on their fates, reunite families, and unrealized love.
I appreciate the author continuing her underlying theme (mentioned in Book 1) of racial and socio-political implications are explored, discussed, and later criticized, drawing a lot of afterthoughts. I am excited to see the following (and final) book in the series, which should be a real doozy on how the author will resolve the complex items readers are left within this book and wrap up the series nicely.
About the Author
Rin Chupeco wrote obscure manuals for
complicated computer programs, talked
people out of their money at event shows, and
did many other terrible things. They now write
about ghosts and fairy tales but is still
sometimes mistaken as a revenant. They were
born and raised in the Philippines and, or so
the legend goes, still haunt that place to this
very day. Their pronouns are she/they.
Sign up for updates, events, and new releases for their newsletter here.