Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst – Advance Review

Conjured 2

Book Jacket:

Eve has a new home, a new face, and a new name – but no memories of her past. She’s been told that she’s in a witness protection program. That she escaped a dangerous magic-wielding serial killer who still hunts her. The only thing she knows for sure is that there is something horrifying in her memories the people hiding her want to access – and there is nothing they won’t say – or do – to her to get her to remember.

At night she dreams of a tattered carnival tent and buttons being sewn into her skin. But during the day, she shelves books at the local library, trying to not let anyone know that she can do things – things like change the color of her eyes or walk through walls. When she does use her strange powers, she blacks out and is drawn into terrifying visions, returning to find that days or weeks have passed – and she’s lost all short-term memories. Eve must find out who and what she really is before the killer finds her – but the truth may be more dangerous than anyone could have ever imagined.

You can read an excerpt here.


This book is not what I’d call an effortless read – but it’s more than worth the effort.

Conjured is a story both bewildering and fascinating, as it takes us inside the mind of Eve, a disoriented amnesiac who is plagued by horrific nightmares and terrifying blank-outs, where at times week and sometimes months disappear entirely into the holes in her mind. Durst takes us inside that confusion and frustration, making us live it, as like Eve we too are desperately trying to figure out this new reality, which includes Eve’s strange magic and the mysterious dark past that placed her in witness protection in the first place. The dread, the confusion, the looming sense of danger, the unknown motives of the people around her, all the things Eve knows she should remember and all the all horrible things she can’t forget – altogether it makes for a brilliant and vexing and mesmerizing story, and holy smokes my hat goes off to Durst for pulling it off, because goodness knows we’ve all read amnesiac stories that fell on their faces trying to walk the tightrope of giving us just enough but not too much.

So yes, I would definitely call this story a slow burn, and yes, it’s not entirely comfortable being spun about by Eve’s dizzying sense of unreality, but this story was a tilt-a-whirl I couldn’t dream of getting off, because I had to know what that terrible thing lurking behind the curtain of Eve’s mind was – and though I did grow impatient at times, waiting for all to become clear, as Oscar Wilde once said: “This suspense is terrible. I hope it will last.” And when the answers finally were revealed, they were indeed well worth the wait – and aside from one bit I had figured out, entirely unexpected and wholly original. And I loved how the story didn’t end there, as instead of Eve’s remembering suddenly making everything better, instead if made everything so much worse, with danger coming at her from all sides, leaving her with no choice but to brave the very thing that terrifies her the most in order to free herself.

As for the romantic side of the affair, it did stray into idealized territory at times – Zach is a Ridiculously Good Guy, in every respect, but I really didn’t mind because I rather thought Eve deserved a Really Good Guy, given everything she’d been through. And the way Zach stood by her, and dealt with her crazy, and liked her for who she was, made me happy to root for their relationship – and I have to admit, I’ve just got a soft spot for adorable awkwardness.

In the end, I just thought this was a really good book, and like nothing Sarah Beth Durst has written before – but it will definitely not be everyone’s cup of tea. So if you enjoyed Robin McKinley’s Pegasus or Chalice, or just generally don’t mind a mind-bending sense of unreality, you should definitely check this one out, because whatever amnesiac stories you may have read in the past, they are nothing like this.

Byrt Grade: A-

As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…

Kirkus Reviews says:

Durst excels at describing grotesque violence and gorgeous magical transformations alike, painting a touching portrait of first love against a backdrop of Twilight Zone–type terrors. Patient readers will respond to this slow thriller about a girl with memory loss and magical powers, and a murderer on the loose.

Parallel Worlds magazine says:

The setup of the book is eerie and jarring. We the readers really get pulled into the disorientation that plagues Eve’s life, and I loved the way the author used the pacing of the book to accomplish that…The darkly magical tone of Conjured will no doubt be attractive to some readers and repulsive to others.