Lights You Up and Makes You Glow: The Magic Between by Stephanie Hoyt

Posted 18th December 2021 by Siavahda in Fantasy Reviews, Queer Lit, Reviews / 0 Comments

The Magic Between by Stephanie Hoyt
Genres: Fantasy
Representation: Bisexual MC with clinical anxiety, bisexual MC, M/M, secondary sapphic character, tertiary bisexual, trans
Published on: 15th February 2022
Goodreads
five-stars

In a world where everyone has magic coursing through them, legend says magic itself craves a mate. Legend says those with opposite magics have the greatest chance of forming the unbreakable Bond it desires.

A.B. Cerise is an obsessive compulsive pop star with the ability to turn invisible. He’s an out bisexual with absolutely no belief in Bonds. He has a love-bruised heart, thinks dating in the spotlight is a hassle at best and a nightmare at worst, and has no intention of going through it all over again.

Matthew Hellman-Levoie is the NHL’s number one goalie prospect, the youngest in a hockey dynasty, and one of the rare few who can see the unseeable. He’s a straight man who wears his heart on his sleeve, has grown up searching for a Bond, and dreams of finding the love of his life.

Legend never said anything about what to do when sparks fly between two people opposite in more ways than just magic.

I received this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Highlights

~there are TWITTER THREADS and GROUP TEXTS
~soulmate bonds care about consent
~“What if I said they were my nice sweats?”
~pop fans vs hockey fans, it’s going down
~everything is purple and nothing hurts
~glittery fizzy glowy FEELS
~you don’t need fanart of these sweethearts THIS BOOK COMES ILLUSTRATED

You know those books that leave you sparkling with joy and Feels and squee!, that have you grinning like an idiot and hugging the book to your chest after the final page, that make you feel like all your insides are GLOWING because everything is perfect and wonderful and nothing will ever hurt again???

HI, ALLOW ME TO INTRODUCE YOU TO THE MAGIC BETWEEN! YOU’RE GONNA LOVE IT!

No, seriously. I know it’s not a Serious Fantasy – in fact, I almost DNF-ed it when I realised it didn’t have the really thought-out, detailed worldbuilding I was hoping for.

But I didn’t DNF it and I am SO GLAD because EEEEEEEEEE!

The only reason it’s not going on my best-of-the-year list is because it’s not out until next year. That is the only reason. You had better believe it’s going to be on my 2022 list!

The Magic Between reminded me of fanfic in the very best of ways; it’s compulsively readable, it’s casually diverse, and it’s packed full of Feels. There isn’t a whole lot of worldbuilding – for all that everyone has magic in AB and Matthew’s world, it really doesn’t look any different from our own – but there is so much HEART. The things I usually want out of my fantasy novels completely ceased to matter, because Hoyt’s boys swept me off my feet before I knew what was happening. By the time I hit chapter four – and the chapters are not long – I was absolutely glued to the pages. I practically hissed at the hubby when he tried to interrupt my reading for dinnertime!

If you’ve read either or both of Casey McQuiston’s books – Red, White and Royal Blue or One Last Stop – then you’ll recognise the glittery-glowy-EEEEE feel of The Magic Between. Hoyt has penned a story that will have you cackling with glee one minute and on the edge of your seat the next; one that is deeply sweet, but also isn’t afraid to deal with complicated, not-fun topics either, like AB’s clinical anxiety, or the homophobia of the ice-hockey world – or exactly how much over-eager fans and the tabloids that cater to them can really, really suck. That being said, the occasional inclusion of fictional twitter threads, complete with hashtags and Victoria Newberry’s ‘photos’, were absolutely hilarious, and I’m really glad they were included. Along with the illustrations – The Magic Between could have got by without them, I guess, but the selfies, candids, and tabloid-shots really sold the in-the-spotlight aspect of the story.

(It certainly doesn’t hurt that Newberry is a great illustrator and the pictures are very, very pretty.)

The overall story doesn’t need much introduction beyond the official description; AB is an incredibly famous, openly bisexual popstar, Matthew is a hockey player who is Very Sure he’s straight, and the two of them happen to have magics that are the exact opposite of each other’s – which Matthew believes could make them Bondmates. Bonds are a myth virtually no one believes in, but AB agrees to see what happens after their magics have a game-changingly intense Reaction to each other.

Only – Matthew is straight, and AB never wants to date again with the tabloids watching, and anyway, Bonds aren’t real.

We allllllllll know where this is going.

…Except, not, though? I mean, don’t get me wrong – I don’t consider it a spoiler to tell you that there is as perfect a Happily Ever After to this story as you could possibly wish for. But Hoyt questions and challenges the ‘bonding’ trope; what does it even mean? Are they soulmates? Were they predestined to meet and fall for each other? Does something like that allow for consent? Does a Bond make you fall in love with someone, or does falling in love create a Bond? What if Bonds aren’t real – or what if they are, but AB and Matthew simply don’t form one? Is that a condemnation of their relationship? Do they not love each other enough? It’s not that Hoyt’s written a philosophical treatise on the topic, but I was surprised by how self-aware the story was, by the questions the characters raised and the discussions they had. Pleasantly surprised!

I admit to eye-rolling a little bit at the character-totally-thinks-he’s-straight thing, but The Magic Between is not, thank the gods, one of those manufactured-drama books. AB and Matthew talk to each other, like actual adults, and the challenges they face never had the hand-wavey feel of Just Because. There’s no getting around the fact that AB is one of the most famous people on the planet, for example, and so they discuss it, and how they want to deal with it, what the different options are. Even when someone gets stressed or upset, they’re mature enough not to lash out at each other over it – there are aspects of their situation they don’t like but can’t change, and it sucks, but they go through strategies until they come up with something everyone can live with, find ways to make things work. They’re both understanding of the other’s limits and the pressures they’re under, realistic about what the world is like – AB is not hurt by Matthew’s hesitation to come out of the closet, for example, and Matthew never questions the fact that AB’s bodyguard comes with on date nights.

There’s drama, yes, but I would say it’s pretty low-key for most of the book – the story is so character-focused, pretty introspective, and honestly just hits you up with lots of sweetness and cute for a good chunk of the page-count. It’s very, very feel-good – and when the drama does come, it comes from outside forces, and in ways that are realistic rather than contrived. All major pluses in my book!

Speaking of major pluses; these freaking characters!!! AB and Matthew are both just so – they feel like real people; Hoyt’s managed to imbue them with that mysterious, delightful X factor that leaves you certain that they keep on existing, living their lives, after you turn the final page. These are not characters that snuff out when you close the book, real only so long as you’re looking at them; these are characters you become friends with, fall for – bond with! – exactly as if they were flesh-and-blood instead of paper-and-ink.

(Or pixels, on an ereader??? Eh, doesn’t matter, you get my point!)

It’s the attention to detail that makes a character breathe; not sweeping personality traits, like Matthew’s not-so-secret romantic streak, or AB’s flamboyant sense of style, but the smaller things – the love for baking shows, the struggle to figure out a university thesis topic, the collection of trashy Christmas decorations, the going to therapy. And I’m not sure I’ve ever read a romance where the people in the relationship are paying so much attention to the details – the consistent thoughtfulness both AB and Matthew show each other, the things they remember that the other’s only mentioned in passing, the way they never assume they have the other’s consent in so many things besides just sex – can you fall in love with someone else’s love??? Because I think I have. I LOVE THE WAY AB AND MATTHEW LOVE EACH OTHER AND I AM NOT A LITTLE BIT SORRY.

And although AB and Matthew are of course the stars, the rest of the cast interlocks with them to make The Magic Between really special. The various twins, band-mates, and besties – and even parents and grand-parents! – expand the story from being romance-only to showcasing all different kinds of love, and how all those loves weave together. I have nothing against romances that narrow in on the people falling for each other, but my favourites are definitely the ones where’s there’s more than one kind of love on display. Hoyt has a brilliant genius for coming up with family quirks and traditions, for creating a supporting cast that felt like they could have been plucked from my own friends-group – AND THE GROUP-CHATS! I laughed until I cried at the snippets we got of their text-chains, okay?

I think I’ve already made it clear that Hoyt is excellent at character-building and designing romances, and I’ve mentioned that The Magic Between made me laugh more than a few times. When it comes to her prose, I’d say she nails it – not overly flowery, but absolutely willing and able to lovingly describe the things that deserve it; pacing that keeps you turning pages quickly while giving you all the time you need to savour the sweetness of the story; and chapters that alternate between AB and Matthew’s POVs with an expert sense of which angle better showcases the scene in question. I can do nothing but applaud!

This is a really fun, bubbly contemporary-romance-plus-magic that feels aimed at the Millennials-and-below audience – and lands squarely in the bull’s-eye. It’s modern, sweet, hilarious, and thoughtful too, and I honestly cannot tell you how much I love it. I’m not sure this review does it any kind of justice, but I had to try.

If you preorder through the publisher, you’ll get it in time for Valentine’s Day 2022 – and you won’t regret it!

five-stars

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