Tides of Magic and Tides of Change are the first two books in a series of fantasy novellas by New Zealand author Andi R. Christopher. Both are charming, feel good stories; a pleasant antidote when the tidal wave of bad news threatens to become overwhelming.
Tides of Magic
A young woman, Melissa Deacon, is missing, but both the police and her parents dismiss the oddities involved in her disappearance. Her sister Charley worries about those oddities, and seeks help from a private investigator. The PI is an old woman, Thalassa, who may be a psychic, or perhaps even a witch. Charley makes a possibly unwise deal with Thalassa, and they work together to find Melissa.
This story is more successful as a journey of self-discovery than as a mystery. What actually happened to Melissa didn’t make a lot of sense to me. But that’s OK, as the focus is really on Charley learning that she has both sea magic—despite the sea making her ill—and ADHD. Under Thalassa’s watchful eye, she begins to grasp what she’s capable of, and undo the damage done by emotionally abusive parents telling her she’s a failure.
This is a comfort read, a story with gentle magic, small-scale problems, hints of found family, LGBTQ+ representation, and a neurodivergent main character. The crotchety Thalassa is great, and the small town setting on New Zealand’s South Island gives the book a distinct Kiwi flavour.
The only thing I found really annoying was that no one had identified Charley, an adult, as being ADHD earlier. (Including her medical student sister, who should have had some idea.) Which is, ironically, a positive, as it indicates how much I came to care about the character.
Tides of Change
The sequel to Tides of Magic finds Charley beginning to feel more at home in the small town where she is now an apprentice witch, and becoming more comfortable with her magic powers. The plot this time revolves around two missing twelve-year-old runaway girls. This missing person story is more coherent than the one in Tides of Magic, and the selkie involvement was quite interesting. (Selkies are creatures of Northern European myth that can shapeshift between human and seal forms.)
We meet a few more local characters, Thalassa continues to entertain, and there is the beginning of a sweet, sapphic romance between Charley and one of her neighbours. To be continued, I presume.