What a way to start the weekend. I couldn’t be more grateful.

Alchemy of magic, a fairytale and the opioid crisis in powerful new book
By TREVOR CORKUM Special to the Star
Fri., Oct. 26, 2018
The Grimoire of Kensington Market, Lauren B. Davis, Wolsak and Wynn, 350 pages, $22.  
Lauren B. Davis, author of The Grimoire of Kensington Market.   
Imagine downtown Toronto transformed into a fairytale world, a city where streets contract at will and charmless laneways contain portals into magic underworlds. Now picture a tiny bookshop hidden on a side street in Kensington Market, crammed with books that glow like neon. You’ll get a feel for the kind of shape-shifting landscape Lauren B. Davis conjures in her latest novel, The Grimoire of Kensington Market.
Maggie is a recovering addict, one of the few surviving “pipers” ravaged by the mind-altering drug elysium. Her brother Kyle is less fortunate. He’s in thrall to Srebrenka, the evil and powerful ice queen who controls the local drug trade. When Maggie — now living a quiet life as the proprietor of the magical bookshop — receives a call for help from her missing brother, she must make an agonizing decision. Should she descend through the dark underworld to confront Srebrenka and rescue Kyle, even at the risk of sliding back into the grips of elysium herself?
In this compelling novel, Davis manages several feats at once. At heart, it’s the sort of dark fairytale inspired by Hans Christian Andersen. In Davis’ altered world, we meet a crone named Mother Ratigan, a pair of cloaked ravens, and a family of castaway thieves living in the gloom of a decrepit manor house. Time and again, Maggie is left to her own devices, with only a few magical aids at her disposal. By relying on her own wisdom and intuition, Maggie’s quest is a deeply moral tale. At pivotal moments in the narrative, she is forced to name and confront her past, unpacking her childhood back story of trauma and neglect. Davis does a fine job balancing these fraught moments of tension with lighter, magical scenes, such as her various luxurious sleepovers at mystical hotels and loving monologues with her canine sidekick Badger.
Beneath the fairytale lies a probing exploration of the current opioid crisis. Davis highlights how the collapse of social supports and the marginalization of addicts creates the perfect storm, hollowing out inner-city Toronto and leaving wounded orphans and ruined lives in its wake. When Maggie reaches her final destination to confront Srebrenka, the author spins the kinds of pyrotechnics appropriate to the climax of such a dramatic quest.
Davis takes creative risks here and Maggie is a likeable and familiar character. But it’s her deft handling of the ravages of addiction that makes The Grimoire of Kensington Market such a timely and important read.
Trevor Corkum’s novel The Electric Boy is forthcoming with Doubleday Canada.


  1. Kate Janson on October 30, 2018 at 6:51 pm

    Hello Lauren … Wow, what a terrific review! I just ordered the book and can’t wait to get into it.
    with regards, Kate

    • Lauren B. Davis on October 30, 2018 at 7:44 pm

      Thank you so much, Kate. You never know how reviewers will approach a book and this makes me so happy.

  2. Deborah Viets on October 31, 2018 at 10:16 am

    Congrats, Lauren. I noticed this favourable review in Saturday’s Star. Hope the Globe will review it as well. Oh, for the good old days when they had a big stand-alone books section…

    • Lauren B. Davis on October 31, 2018 at 10:53 am

      Thanks so much, Deborah. I am thrilled with the Star review. I don’t know if there will be any others, it seems newspapers don’t think book reviews are worth much any longer. Sigh. Word of mouth is the only hope a book has of reaching an audience these days, unless you’re already a literary star. So again, thank you. and I hope you like THE GRIMOIRE OF KENSINGTON MARKET, and if you do, that you’ll talk to your friends about it. xoxo

  3. Linda Wisniewski on October 31, 2018 at 5:53 pm

    Congratulations, Lauren! Can’t wait to get my hands on this one. 😉

    • Lauren B. Davis on October 31, 2018 at 6:47 pm

      Thanks so much, Linda! I hope you like it. Are you coming to the launch tomorrow at 6pm at Labyrinth Books? I think you are…

      • Linda Wisniewski on November 9, 2018 at 4:15 pm

        Sorry I missed the launch! Looks like it was a packed house. Have ordered Grimoire from the Doylestown Bookshop and eager to dig in next week. 😉

        • Lauren B. Davis on November 9, 2018 at 5:05 pm

          NO worries, Linda. I know how busy life can get. I do hope you like the book and that, somehow, we’ll see each other soon. xo

  4. Linda C. Wisniewski on November 1, 2018 at 10:01 am

    Congrats! This is great! Cannot wait to get my hands on this one.

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