“Who am I after the end of the world?”
This is the question posed on the back of K. L. Mielke’s Human Magic cover. Hannah Cooper lives in a dystopian near-future. A genocidal group called the Aryans have seized power and are executing a genocide, euthanizing people and destroying the lives of everyone left. Hannah is a teacher and lives a quiet life in a tiny house with her high school love and Great Dane until the Aryans select her and her family. Everyone she loves is dead, and realizing she will die next, she runs. She falls and wakes up in a tree village surrounded by strangers.
When she arrives one thousand years in the future, the earth is healing. People live in tree villages, which are close-knit communities that look out for each other, safe in the trees above the mutant wildlife left behind by the Aryans. The residents of the village care for her and help her adjust to her new life. They teach her how to weave baskets, create a beautiful wardrobe to help her blend in, and expose her to their foods. Jason, a charming villager who is notably single, takes her under his wing and even teaches her how to ride a griffin.
As Hannah struggles to adjust to life without her high school sweetheart and her parents, she is promised that this new world is good. There are no wars or genocides. When Hannah ends up poisoned, it sends her small community into a tailspin and raises complicated questions. Soon, they uncover a plot to repeat the past, and it becomes clear that Hannah is more important to this new world than she could have imagined. She struggles with leaving behind the bittersweet past and embracing everything the future has to offer.
Just read it.
The world Mielke creates in Human Magic is beautiful and serene with lovable characters. It conjures images of lush green forests and rushing waterfalls and magical gardens and starry skies. As a reader, I wanted to live there and wear Hannah’s clothes. I wanted to eat their fruit and dance with their friends. It was easy to get lost in the magic.
For a book full of tragic plot points – losing an entire family, miscarriage, genocide, and survival threats, for instance – it manages to maintain an airy and magical tone that keeps you engrossed and hoping for a series. I appreciated the simplicity of the time travel as a vehicle for accessing a new world, without too much expectation or science surrounding it. It managed to limit the sci-fi and embrace the fantasy, which resulted in a perfect balance for romance, fantasy, and adult fiction readers alike.
So who is Hannah Cooper after the end of the world? Turns out, the question is even more complicated than expected. The end of the world isn’t really the end after all. It’s just a different beginning.
Here’s hoping for more from this world, and more Human Magic for all of us.