Author: Olga Godim
You can find this book here: Amazon (Kindle Edition), Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.
After smuggling her familiar, squirrel Beatrice, into Canada, young witch Darya embarks on a series of adventures. Whenever Darya needs a supportive ear or a sharp set-down, Beatrice is there for her, loving and grumbling. Together they disarm a bomb, eliminate a rogue warlock, and liberate a sylph from a garbage bin. And always help friends in trouble.
When I received this book, I already had four more on my to-read list, plus a long book report to write. But who can fight with a magic squirrel? Even more, how could I postpone reading a book (that is not about vampires) that starts with a Power Point presentation of two Romanian witches (Romania being my native country)?
When I was in secondary school, my Art teacher used to tell me “Life is too short; start with the dessert!” And so I did. And it sure was delicious!
For the purpose of this review, I will treat this collection of short stories as a novella, and the short stories as its chapters. It can definitely be read this way, as the short stories are presented in chronological order, some are linked to each other, and, most importantly, they all feature the same main characters.
My official review:
“Squirrel of Magic” is a collection of urban fantasy short stories. Don’t get fooled by the title or by the cover, this is not a children’s book! With explicit language, violent scenes and a dash of romance, it is meant for the young adult or adult audience.
Theme & Plot
The main theme is, of course, the fight between good and evil. Darya, a good witch, is the protector of her city, Vancouver. Her magical abilities are a secret, and she strives to keep them that way. To everyone’s eyes, she is a normal girl who works as a web designer. Every story comes with its sub-plot. Darya needs to fight bank robbers, thieves, rapists, wife beaters, other witches and even disarm a bomb, in order to keep the city safe and get her friends out of trouble. In the same time, she is trying to maintain a normal relationship with her boyfriend (a human).
Olga Godim wrote this collection with a lot of humor, and, in her own words, “I never considered myself a humor writer, but how could I write about a telepathic squirrel without at least a bit of humor?”
The overwhelming presence of dialogue, the colloquialisms, and the casual tone make this book an effortless read, but a very good, entertaining read, nonetheless.
The main characters are Darya, a witch, and Beatrice, a squirrel that plays the role of Darya’s familiar. They communicate telepathically, and, of course, everybody else sees in Beatrice a mere strange-to-have pet. In the seventh story, “The Rat Heist”, another important character, Patrick, comes in, becoming Darya’s boyfriend and contributing to the plot in the next three stories: “Flute Enchanted”, “Fashion Show”, and “Hypnosis Diarrhea”. Episodic characters appear in each of the stories; most of them are human, but we also encounter some witches, a sylph, and another witch’s familiar. The main characters are very well delineated, realistic, making you feel that you can encounter them in your everyday life, making you wonder if, maybe, your next-door neighbor is a witch. My favorite character is Beatrice, the cranky squirrel, always complaining, always asking for a treat, always looking for boys (squirrel boys, of course) in the trees in the park, but full of love for her witch. If you want to know more about Beatrice, in her own words, you can read Beatrice’s interview.
The general setting is Vancouver, Canada, nowadays. Of course, each of the stories comes with its sub-settings: a bank, a park, a school, a retirement home, dark and narrow alleys, a cemetery, and the list can go on. The author’s attention to detail can be seen in her choosing the right setting for each part of the story, in order to create the right atmosphere. I mean, what setting could be more appropriate for the punishment of a rapist than a cemetery? What more unusual place to find a sylph than in a garbage bin on a dark alley?
I recommend this book open-heartedly to teenagers and adults who need to escape for a while from their monotonous life into a world of magic, where everything is possible, and good always prevails.
Favorite story: It is hard to choose. I loved all of them. I wished there were more. For the sake of the argument, let’s say I preferred “A Witching Spree”, the first short story of the book. I think it was the funniest one. It narrates the adventures Darya goes through after she receives her familiar, how she has to smuggle the squirrel into Canada, how she has to break into a house, and lets you into her very imaginative and original use of magic.
Favorite character: Beatrice, Darya's familiar, a cranky squirrel, who enlightens the mood with her comments and harsh words toward her witch and especially toward her friends. A character that always speaks her mind, no matter the situation she is in. Egocentric and jealous, she actually loves her mistress, though she would never admit it in so many words, but does not fail to show her affection when Darya needs it most. Read Beatrice's interview.
Favorite quote: “Witch? […] Are we in Vancouver? Why is this place reeking of spirit? […] Are you drunk?” Darya couldn’t stop laughing. “Oh, Beatrice! I just had a twelve-hour transatlantic flight, smuggled a squirrel into Canada, engaged in a car chase, broke into a house, stole my suitcase, and vandalized their lock. I’m so wicked!”[…] “You are drunk! I’m hungry. Where is my mango?” (“A Witching Spree”)
Favorite name: Darya – it sounds like a normal-enough name, but has enough exotism in it to belong to a witch.
Least favorite character: Duncan – the bad guy in “Hypnosis Diarrhea”, a bullying boyfriend who gets what he deserves, with a bit of magic and a lot of humor (as you can guess from the suggestive title of the story).
Least favorite quote: “Oops! I did it again…”
Least favorite name: Britney Spears (no comment).
Aspirin of the book:
Whenever life sucks, and you are surrounded by villains, in need of a way to escape, you can always do a bit of magic with a glass of brandy.