What a way to start the weekend. I couldn’t be more grateful.
https://www.thestar.com/entertainment/books/reviews/2018/10/26/alchemy-of-magic-a-fairytale-and-the-opioid-crisis-in-powerful-new-book.htmlAlchemy of magic, a fairytale and the opioid crisis in powerful new bookBy TREVOR CORKUM Special to the StarFri., Oct. 26, 2018The 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.