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The Gifts That Bind Us by Caroline O'Donoghue - Review

Wednesday, June 8, 2022


Where did I get it? I had it on pre order in paperback because I loved All Our Hidden Gifts, but I was also granted access to it by Walker Books on Netgalley, so thank you very much to them. 

What's it about? It's the second in the series about Maeve and her friends. It's set in Ireland and in the first book Maeve, Roe, Lily and Fiona discover that they all have magical abilities. They have to go up against a spirit called the Housekeeper in order to save Lily from the river, where she has become the river. In doing this ritual they have alarmed all their families, who think it was some kind of attempted suicide pact. Now we're back a few months later, over the summer, where all four are spending lots of time in Roe's car just chilling out and having a good time. Things aren't exactly right between Maeve and Lily, but they're working on it.

They break into the school grounds and discover that the school has bought some land behind their grounds and have expanded, with a tennis court. The four spend a lot of time there, working on their magical gifts. Fiona and Lily discover that if they work together they can use both of their gifts together. But they're worrying Maeve too - Lily seems permanently changed from her time in the river, and Fiona keeps harming herself so that she can heal herself. Maeve can also tell through her telepathy that her parents are very worried about her.

The girls start school and find it's all changed inside too. The basement has been turned into classrooms, and The Chokey has been turned into a guidance counsellor's office. Miss Banbury is the new guidance counseller, although Maeve has already met her from when she was a customer in Nuala's shop, where Maeve is now working. But The Chokey's walls soon start to sprout mould, as if what was there before just can't be stopped.

And of course there's the Children of Brigid. Maeve has a few run ins with Aaron and then they turn up in school too, spouting their purity culture rhetoric. School starts to go loopy but only Lily, Fiona and Maeve seem to have noticed. Maeve does something which puts a wedge between her and Fiona, and Roe, meanwhile, is off on tour and he seems to be living his best life, and is forgetting his gifts. Maeve knows that next year she's going to be left alone in Kilbeg, which she finds very hard to cope with. 

It's like an ultra realistic look at that last year of school, when you know it is coming to an end, but with added magic and very villainous bad guys. This is a proper middle book of a trilogy - the stakes are higher, the body count is higher, and everything you thought you knew is turned on its head. 

What age range is it for? 14+ 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yes, Roe is non binary but still using he/him pronouns. There's some discussion about which word to use for him in relation to Maeve - he's not a boyfriend but partner feels too old, etc. I liked this. I also like the very realistic portrayal of Roe wanting to get out of a small town to avoid bigots like the Children of Brigid, and of him desperate to be free. 

Are any main characters people of colour? Yes Fiona is Filipino, and like Roe, some of why she wants to escape is that she is sick of racism thrown at her. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? I think all the girls do have some kind of PTSD from what they went through in the spring, and it's coming out in different ways in each of them. It's not explicit though. 

Is there any sex stuff? Yes, and while it's not graphic I do want to touch on it. Maeve and Roe decided not to have sex with each other until Maeve is ready, but they do in this book, and... I get WHY Maeve says it, but I'm not sure - as an adult - that she has the best motives. Just be sure of WHY you're having sex if you're ever in that position, okay

Are drugs mentioned or used? Only magical ones! 

Is there any talk of death? Yes, lots. It's not particularly graphic but there are graphic parts to the novel. 

Are there swear words? A few, not loads 


What criticisms do I have? Not many really. The book took me a while to read because it's so dense. 

Would I recommend the book? Yes, especially if you liked the first one. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I was just desperate to get to it! 


What do I think of the cover? I love it, it fits in perfectly with the first one and a friend of mine on Instagram said she really liked it too. 

How many stars? Four out of five. 


Where is the book going now? I'll definitely keep it!

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