Root Magic by Eden Royce
Updated: Apr 21
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5/5 Stars!
Root Magic is the first middle grade book review for this blog. I chose this book specifically due to it’s African Folklore and history. What I did not realize was how remarkable this story would be. Before I get down to the review and my thoughts I want to share the description of the book below so that you have an idea of what the story is about.
“It’s 1963, and things are changing for Jezebel Turner. Her beloved grandmother has just passed away. The local police deputy won’t stop harassing her family. With school integration arriving in South Carolina, Jez and her twin brother, Jay, are about to begin the school year with a bunch of new kids. But the biggest change comes when Jez and Jay turn 11 – and their uncle, Doc, tells them he’s going to train them in rootwork.
Jez and Jay have always been fascinated by the African American folk magic that has been the legacy of their family for generations – especially the curious potions and powders Doc and Gran would make for the people on their island. But Jez soon finds out that her family’s true power goes far beyond small charms and elixirs…and not a moment too soon. Because when evil both natural and supernatural comes to show itself in town, it’s going to take every bit of the magic she has inside her to see her through.”
Root Magic’s main character is named Jezebel. The book is based in the 1960’s and in the South Carolina. During that time discrimination and racism was very much alive. Jezebel at the very start of the story loses her grandmother. The story begins during her grandmother’s aka “Gran’s” funeral. I remember listening to the story on Audible while I was cooking dinner. Before I knew it my eyes were leaking tears for Jezebel. I also remembered how I felt when my grandmother passed, and the story started to reach my heart instantly. The story goes on to introduce other characters like her twin brother, Jay and her Uncle Doc. As well as her loving and protective Mother. I got a sense of a close bond between her family right away. The story gets really scary when the local Sheriff Collins comes by as soon as they get home from the funeral. I could sense a very threatening presence and it shook me to my core. I then cried more tears as this Sheriff intrudes on their time of mourning. You can feel the pain in Jeze’s voice as the narrator the voice of, Imani parks, speaks on Audible. I was originally reading to know if this was a book I wanted to share to my children as well but then it became clear that this was a book that I needed to read/hear.
During the story integration among schools begins and Jezebel has to attend a class differently than her brother. She is then surrounded by children she has never met before. Early on you learn how lonely Jezebel is and how she struggles to make friends in school. I recalled how much I struggled at a young age as well. I kept mostly to myself and books. I remember how timid and shy I used to be. How often I was quiet and often bullied. Jezebel too experiences similar through a bully named Letty. Letty and her family (and many others) looked down on Jezebel for being part of a family who does “root work”. They deemed it old fashioned, and taboo. However, many of the people in the community were seen at Jezebel’s Uncle’s Cabin for help with all kinds of things like health and other healing needs. Letty enjoyed taunting Jezebel and making her feel less than she was even though Jezebel was kind. Soon Jezebel makes friends with a kind girl named Suzie. They begin sitting together for lunch.
The story goes on to grow with Jezebel and her brother Jay as they being to learn the family’s legacy. Root work with their Uncle Doc. You could almost picture his cabin in the mind’s eye. The creaking cabin floor, the cobwebs in the corners, the smell of all kinds of potions and herbs. I began to understand some of what root magic was and how much it helped others. There was a time when only white people could go to the hospital or see doctors. Root Workers stepped up and helped when no one else would. I was very sad to hear how many people who practiced this type of magic were looked down on for it. They truly were holding many communities up and helping carry on their traditions. The story goes on to follow Jezebel as she comes into her power. Her twin brother Jay seemed to feel as if he was falling behind her. Jezebel seemed to grow into her power a lot quicker. I also noticed that there is a noticeable difference in what changes girls go through versus what boys do. In school Jezebel is called a “witch” and Jay isn’t terrorized as Jezebel is. She begins growing in her abilities and many times she is almost killed or hurt by something who wants the power she maintains. Without giving too many spoiler alerts, the story goes on two have a few exciting moments. Some left me wide awake at 3 a.m. and fighting to keep the night light on.
You also notice the southern tones in the book. There are things spoken and thoughts that are clearly a southern thought. Being from the south I totally understood the concept and that is why this book felt more real.
This story felt like a special gem to read. I felt like the writer herself was telling me a story from the heart. One of love of family, Gullah-Geechee culture, and African folklore that is often times misinterpreted as evil or taboo. I felt a closeness with Jezebel and my younger self. When she was scared, I too became scared. I cried multiple moments for the pain Jezebel’s family had to endure at the hands of a racist Sheriff. It was a very powerful story because of the many levels of subject matter. I was deeply touched at the level of bravery Jezebel had and the love her family shared together. That despite all of the scary things happening at that time they remained together and faced the world hand in hand. All the while trying to preserve the Gullah-Geechee culture and it’s practices for their families. I gave this book a five-star rating because I feel I am a better person having read this book. The Author’s Note at the end was especially knowledgeable and I felt like I needed the education. I want to learn more about the Gullah-Geechee culture and the folklore as well. I will be following the Author Eden Royce’s journey from here on out. What a great book she has written. My heart was touched, and I bought the book for my Homeschool Library. I DID NOT feel like it was too scary to read for middle grade.
This story has:
Bullying amongst peers
Growing up during the deep south’s racism and the fear that goes with it.
Loss of loved ones.
The growth of a young girl and her journey.
The love and strength of family.
Thank you so much Author Eden Royce for writing such an amazing book. And for sharing the Root Magic culture and knowledge with us readers. I cannot wait to read anything else you write. This book will have a permanent home on our Homeschool Library Shelf.
Author Eden Royce is a Southern Gothic writer from Charleston, South Carolina.
Did you know she is a Shirley Jackson Award nominee? WOW! Her middle grade book, Root Magic is a Walter Award Honoree. WELL DESERVED!
Fun fact: She loves to roller skate! How fun!
To follow the Author Eden Royce and future projects/updates please go to her website below!
You can find a copy of Root Magic on Amazon and wherever books are sold!
Here is an Author Interview as well to hear more from Author Eden Royce: