I finally started the Hidden Gifts series this year!
I’d seen this highly recommend on bookstagram and the hype always leaves me very curious. 😌 It reminded me a little of The Graces meets Moïra Fowley-Doyle’s books (all excellent vibes pls do check them out) where we get introduced to a (seemingly) inconsequential girl living in a (seemingly) inconsequential town. It tackles some hard topics and is full of flawed characters with big arcs. And at the heart? Magic and witches and tarot and empowerment.
All Our Hidden Gifts is book one, and we start off meeting Maeve Chambers who isn’t anyone’s favourite person. She isn’t clever at school, dumped her long-term BFF to get with the “popular girls”, and manages to make poor jokes that get her detention. While serving detention, cleaning out a cupboard, she finds a pack of tarot cards. And thus finds she has an affinity for reading them. I did enjoy learning more about the cards and their meanings, and Maeve takes us on a bit of a journey learning too with watching youtube tutorials (she is relatable in that) and explaining the cards as she gives readings. This is sort of the tip of the iceberg to the much bigger plot of: Maeve’s reading for her ex-BFF, Lily, goes awry and later that night Lily vanishes. Permanently. Maeve is pretty much strangled with guilt for her part in it.
But the whole thing spirals. Their town is full of twisted magic and there’s an extremist cult group entering the area, attacks on the lgbtqia+ community, and creepy things happening. It’s all very connected. The book definitely takes on a lot. It has the: “teens get left to handle the world going to hell in a handbasket” vibe. Unsuspecting chosen ones. Empowerment for teen girls. All the classic tropes.
Maeve is not a very likeable character, pulling a lot of selfish moves that harmed her friends, but it was good to see her mature as the book went on. She becomes friends with Filipina-Irish actress, Fiona, at school, and then begins to accidentally fall in love with Roe, Lily’s sibling. Roe was definitely my favourite. 🥺 He’s queer and gender-nonconforming and questioning, and it was nice seeing that rep. We don’t get to know Lily deeply because she’s missing, but she is Deaf and wears a hearing aid.
A big part of the book is trying to figure out what this extremist religious cult group is doing and what their goals are, and Maeve’s friends often end up in harms way. I do wish a book that heavily featured marginalised pain had been from the lens of a marginalised person, though. Maeve is straight, white, and middle-class and has to be called out on her privilege a lot.
The Gifts That Bind Us is book two and is set a few months after the ending of book 1! I won’t go into deep detail for this book because of potential ✨spoilers✨ so don’t read on if you don’t want to know anything about the sequel too early. 😂
The trio has become a quartet now that Lily is back, and they’re spending the summer trying to master their gifts. Maeve is a telepath, Roe can convince objects to bend to his will, Fiona can heal, and Lily commands electricity. Lily still hates Maeve for her cruelty and betrayal in book one, so it was interesting seeing their dynamics play out. Roe features less in this book as he is hard at work with his band and starting college, and I missed him!! It was nice to see Maeve has grown as a person though. I also appreciate when books take the time to talk about the trauma characters carry after life-threatening, death-defying events of their adventures. That stuff changes you.
I would’ve liked more answers about the cult’s intentions, other than “amassing power” (to do what with?). But the ending ups the stakes even higher with big action scenes and new character betrayals and vicious twists. It also has a bit of a twist for book 1’s villain which lends some moral questions to the readers about redemption arcs. I could see this making a good TV series with some Shadowhunter vibes too.
Witchy, twisty and full of high stakes and dark magic spilling all over an Irish town, this series is definitely a whirlwind to read.
Thanks to Walker Books for the ARCs of book 1 and 2!
Title: All Our Hidden Gifts #1
Author: Caroline O’Donoghue
Date Published: 3/2/2021
Genre: YA Fantasy
Purchase: Book Depository, Dymocks, Amazon AUS
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Maeve Chambers doesn’t have much going for her. Not only does she feel like the sole idiot in a family of geniuses, she managed to drive away her best friend Lily a year ago. But when she finds a pack of dusty old tarot cards at school, and begins to give scarily accurate readings to the girls in her class, she realizes she’s found her gift at last. Things are looking up – until she discovers a strange card in the deck that definitely shouldn’t be there. And two days after she convinces her ex-best friend to have a reading, Lily disappears.
Can Maeve, her new friend Fiona and Lily’s brother Roe find her? And will their special talents be enough to bring Lily back, before she’s gone for good?