Category: witches and warlocks

I’m late again. Not going to lie, this one was hard to write. LArgely because a lot of my issues with the book stemmed from spoilery things that were hard to write around and I didn’t want to do a spoiler filled review. This one’s from NetGalley. Enjoy!

Moonbreaker cover

Eddie Drood, former head of the Drood family and very secret agent, is a dead man. He was attacked and poisoned by Dr. DOA and cannot last much longer. To prevent anyone else getting hurt Eddie and Molly Metcalf, former magical terrorist turned ally and love interest, are going to do whatever it takes to stop Dr. DOA. If that means dealing with the Unforgiven God, fighting the Drood family’s past mistakes, or even going to the moon to prevent a world ending weapon from being used, well that’s just business as usual.

Moonbreaker is another book that is far into its series, leading to me having a number of issues with both the characters and story. That makes me worry a little about being fair to the story, especially given that I can’t help comparing it to books from Simon R. Green’s Nightside series which is set in the same world.

The characters, particularly Eddie himself, were a fair part of my issue here. Imagine that James Bond knew that he was kind of awful and was perfectly happy to explain that to his companion and, by extension, the reader. Also MI6 has not only hunted Bond in the past, but also has a habit of hording all the dangerous things and people they’ve managed to capture. Just in case. That’s the Eddie and the rest of the Drood family. For a first time series reader this makes Molly the reader’s view into the Drood family’s whole deal, and her horror with some of the things the family does just sort of gets brushed aside. It’s what and how they do things and it’s always been that way. That annoys me. I’m good with protagonists that aren’t golden heroes who do no wrong and help everyone, those guys get boring, this isn’t that. The Droods feel so married to the grey area that I just couldn’t get invested in them or Eddie.

My other problems is that the plot feels almost fractured. There are several conflicts that crop up that have little to do with stopping Dr. DOA or could have done better as the main conflict of another story. There are enough of those that by the time we get to the climax of the story there just isn’t any tension. Eddie’s presented as pretty boringly unstoppable for most of the book’s run due to his Drood armor, only being weakened by the poison in any meaningful way in the last quarter or so of the book, which doesn’t help with all the little conflicts feeling unimportant. Then the book was over and I could only be disappointed.

Molly was pretty awesome though. I kind of want to read a series about her. What didn’t work with Eddie being so, so over powered because of his armor, sort of worked in Molly’s favor. She’s also supposed to be super powerful but, because all the Droods have this ridiculous armor, she stands out more for holding her own despite being so much weaker by comparison. She’s also the one who wants to look for an antidote or something instead of just letting Eddie have his death. Trying to find a cure would have actually worked better for me as the B conflict that a lot of the other stuff and it could have hit a lot of the same beats the book did anyway.

Where does that leave Moonbreaker? Despite my best efforts, I know that my enjoyment of the older Nightside books leaves me more disappointed in this one than I would otherwise be. That’s not really fair to this book as a standalone and, again, it being later in the series doesn’t help things. I feel like there were a lot of good ideas here that wound up being used as padding instead of explored as well as they could have been. But it is rushed and disjointed, so it gets a two out of five. I would read Simon R. Green again, just not this series.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J. K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany is a sequel of sorts to Rowling’s tremendously famous Harry Potter novels. This is probably one of the only things people who’ve read it so far will agree on. Now, the book was released because the play is only being shown in England and fans elsewhere would have thrown a fit if they weren’t able to experience it in some way. It’s important to remember going in that this is a play script rather than a novel. That actually affects a lot in this review as well as my general feelings towards the book.

The story follows Albus Severus, his friend Scorpius, and Harry Potter the father who could do better as Albus and Scorpius attempt to set right what once went wrong. Albus and Harry have nothing in common, something that we are led to think gets thrown in Albus’ face quite a bit at school. He can’t measure up to his famous dad and Harry doesn’t have the time to spend with him for them to work through that. So he grows bitter over the first few years he’s at Hogwarts, until an overheard conversation leads him to stealing a time-turner to go save Cedric Diggory. This is all fine, I’m good with this plot line.  What I feel like the script needed was a little more attention to each different version of the timeline, consequences essentially. I would have also liked to have seen more of the villain prior to the very end.

All that said, is it a good Harry Potter novel? Well, no, if you walk into reading this expecting a Harry Potter novel you will be very disappointed. The language used for a novel and a script are very different, with plays being as visual as they are the book lacks a lot of the description that a novel would have and you don’t get much about how characters feel beyond the occasional note for clarification. The story also feels disjointed in places because of scene shifts and not being able to see the actors’ reactions directly. That said, it’s a script, so I can’t really hold it to novel standards. As far as scripts go, I could have gone with more stage direction in the book itself to help follow what was going on, but it wasn’t bad.  My big problem with Cursed Child is that it lacks the scope the series proper felt like it had, the weight of consequence when characters made choices. Partly because of how directly involved they were in things compared to how successful they were, the villain also felt very small, again, I’d have liked to see more build up there.

As to the good parts, I really liked Scorpius and the way that wanting to take care of him humanized Malfoy. The friendship between Scorpius and Albus was also pretty fun, I would have actually like to have seen that used to give us more insight into some of the other young characters. I appreciate that the golden trio mess up massively, even as adults, especially things like Harry not keeping up with his paperwork. More effort needed to have been given to showing that Harry is under a tremendous amount of stress though, there is a scene that feels very out of character because of this lack.

So, what’s the long and short of this? How does Harry Potter and the Cursed Child rank? For me, it gets a solid three out of five. There was a lot wrong that could have and should have been worked out better, especially given that plays tend to go through multiple runs. The language was off, again that difference between novels and scripts, and didn’t feel like J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. The characters could have all been more developed. But, the story is pretty good if a little too much like early aughts fan fiction, and it makes me want to see the show. That I think is the big thing here, there isn’t a sequel to worry over, but reading the script does make me want to see the play. I think that’s a pretty fair measure of it doing its job.

So this is an interesting situation.  I did totally intend to have this posted a couple of days ago but haven’t felt well for the last couple of days and more or less ignored it.  Bad at being timely.  Enjoy the review!

Paranormal investigator Savannah Levine is a powerful magic user, but after a case that tore a family apart she would give all her power to fix things.  Something heard her.  Now she stuck dodging witch hunters and searching for answers as a threat to the entire supernatural world rears its head.

When I requested Kelly Armstrong’s Spell Bound for review I didn’t realize that it was part of a series, much less the penultimate book of a thirteen novel series.  That said, it didn’t bother me nearly as much as it usually does to jump into the middle of a series and the book stood quite well on its own.  The characters were, for the most part, quite likeable and written in such a way that it didn’t feel like I was missing major parts of their development having missed several books.  I did find the whole thing with Savannah losing her powers frustrating because of how utterly helpless she thought of herself as being and how much other characters insisted that she wasn’t.  It was a little too real world for what I normally read, but also kind of endearing because people actually have moments like that.

All said and done, I definitely enjoyed Spell Bound, enough even to go back and read the other eleven when I get the chance.  I give it a four out of five for being a totally worthwhile read with a minimum of issues.

So, two thirds of the way through midterms and I feel like I could sleep for the next week and a half.  Terrifyingly enough I have plans for Halloween weekend that involve other human beings, this can’t go well. Rambling aside, I’ve been meaning to get this review written for a while now and needed a break from the other one I’m writing.

Lily Ivory is pulled away from her vintage clothing store, Aunt Cora’s Closet, to give the police a witch’s take on a strange crime scene.  Rationalist Malachi Zazi has been found stabbed to death in his apartment surrounded by symbols of the very bad luck he was trying to disprove.  When a suspect from his own Serpentarian Society is identified by the police Lily is shocked to find that it’s someone she knows.  As bad luck strikes all of the Serpentarian Society members, Lily begins to wonder if it’s coincidence or if something darker is in play.

Juliet Blackwell’s Hexes and Hemlines is one of those light mysteries that are perfect for a summer beach read or a slow weekend.  The murder plot gets a bit lost in Lily worrying about her shop and her employees as well as descriptions of various vintage clothes that were lost on me.  There were also a few nitpicky little things, like the author taking a full paragraph to describe one of the love interest guys’ eyes both times it comes up.  Aside from that the writing is fairly tight and it makes for a fast read.

There were nitpicky things though such as the bit where Lily mentioned having a thing with snakes.  This kept coming up and kept coming up but didn’t resolve until late in the story with a flow shattering expository passage.  The descriptions for Max’s eyes didn’t sit right with the rest of the story.  The first time could have been passed off as Lily being caught off guard at seeing him again, but the second time just felt out of place.  It seems a bit funny, but Hexes and Hemlines could have also safely dropped a good deal of the talk about magic.  It got to a point where it almost felt like Blackwell thought her audience would forget that Lily’s a witch if they weren’t reminded every few pages.  The repetition took something away from it for me, so it wound up feeling like a clue by four hanging over every problem.

All said Hexes and Hemlines is a decent weekend mystery.  It’s not terribly memorable but it’s also a fun, quick read.  I doubt that I would read another book in this series, but I would give a non-magic mystery series by Blackwell a try.  I’m giving this one a three out of five for being entertaining if somewhat forgettable.

I’m really sorry for taking this long to update again, job hunting’s been a real bear and I’m still trying to get settled back home for the summer.

On to the review.

Laurel doesn’t fit with her New York family.  The child of a guardswoman and an unknown father, she’s never fit with anyone least of all when she loses her temper and accidentally unleashes her magic.  So, she’s shipped off to her uncle the lord Redmantyl to learn to control her power.  She digs through his libraries in search of knowledge until he’s forced to take her as an apprentice for her own good.  And then the thespers arrived.

I’m having a bit of a hard time thinking of what to say about Maiden in Light.  It felt like the author, Katheryn Ramage, had several stories that she wanted to tell but wasn’t quite sure how to put them together.  From the blurb, as I read it on Goodreads, I expected to be dropped straight into the action.  I expected to start off with Laurel becoming her uncle’s apprentice, then a few chapters of that, then going off to search out the bad thing.  Instead the first half or so of the book is taken up with a rambling account of what was apparently four years of Laurel’s life starting with her journey to Wizardes Cliff.  This includes setting up several characters to be far more important than they were, events that had no bearing on the plot, and some fairly minimal characterization that could have been better taken care of with more show and less tell.  The second half of the book introduces the plot that was promised in the blurb only to instead jump into excruciating detail regarding Laurel’s aunt’s matchmaking and setting up for a conflict that never really happened.

I’m going to get a bit more nitpicky here than usual, Maiden in Light had potential but that got buried in problems that really shouldn’t be ignored.  The pacing was really bad, the first half of the book could have covered a few months, a few weeks, or a few years.  I really couldn’t tell how much time was passing until someone mentioned someone else’s age for a comparison.  There were two chapters back to back that detailed visits from traveling performers, known in the book as thespers, but there was no real indication that they hadn’t done anything more than leave the gate and then come right back in.

The book also tended to get dragged down in telling about a character rather than showing them.  The readers keeps hearing about how brave and smart and dedicated to her magic Laurel is, but when the chips are down all we get to see is a fragile little girl who doesn’t know what she’s supposed to be doing or how to go about it.  The reader is told how horrible the merchant class kids are to Laurel, but we only see one scene of them being snarky and a bit stupid before they are set aside for the rest of the book.

The plot doesn’t start until the book is more than half over, and then it’s padded so heavily with the aunt trying to get her daughters married off that it gets lost.  Then Laurel suffers the kind of character derailment that makes me just want to stop reading, throws everything we’ve been told about her out the window with what might have been a clumsy attempt at symbolism and proceeds to ignore any previous characterization.  I feel that I should also note that Laurel is a bit of a flat earth atheist, this may not bother anyone, but it was one of the tell instead of show things that seemed to come up way more than was necessary.

The reader also gets treated to fanciful changes of spelling for names and places and changes of name for various holidays.  This doesn’t lend to the world building but instead adds to the confusion regarding time passage and who’s who and from where.  An alternate history does not necessarily lead to changes that radical in language, nor should it if only for the reader’s sake.  I could let this slide if the world wasn’t supposed to be earth with a different history but it just reads wrong as is.

This leads me to the final part of this review.  With all the problems I had with the writing and the story itself, I wouldn’t read anything else by Ramage.  Maiden in Light had potential, but it squandered that with blocks of purple tinted prose, tons of characters who came to nothing, and too much tell but no show.  I give Maiden in Light a one out of five.

I’ve got to admit right off the bat that I was really excited to read this book.  It’s the third in a series that I adore and I got to read it as one of the un-corrected galley copies.  I’m also stuck for good intros anymore.

Ann Aguirre’s Shady Lady is the third of her Corine Solomon series which has so far covered, among other things, drug cartels out for revenge, magic as a street weapon, demons and small towns, and messed up relationships.  Shady Lady doesn’t really do anything to change that.  Corine finds herself with the Montoya cartel is out for her blood because they can’t attack Min or her son, Chance.  This, unfortunately, pulls her way from the nice normal life she so desperately wants and thrusts her back into the role of not-quite heroine.  Along with Kel Ferguson, the Hand of God, Corine has to prove herself to one dangerous cartel boss in order to get Montoya out of her life permanently.

First off, I love the amount of character development Kel gets and how strong Corine is for most of the book.  Secondly, Corine’s emotional responses tend to ring more true than not.  I like the way that Corine worries about becoming a monster.  I wish she wasn’t quite so much of a broken record about it, but overall it is a good thing.  I like that Shannon responds to Corine’s less heroic decisions with something other than a stoic stiff upper lip, she worries about her friend and how far Corine’s going to go down the slippery slope.  I like that the book was relatively Chance free.  Corine thinks about him a lot sure, but she doesn’t moon over him like she had a tendency to do in the first two books.  She’s made her break from him and started to move on.  That said, Corine also does some really stupid things with little apparent planning or reason.  She gets lost in her own head a couple of times, resulting in the narrative being broken a bit as she slogs through her own emotions.

I’ve also got to admit that I was a bit disappointed in the ending, but that most of my problems with it will probably be tied up in a later novel.  I give Shady Lady a four out of five, and suggest picking up the series if at all possible.

As promised, a new review hot off the word document.  Not really much to say here today, so let’s jump right in.

I’m not really sure how I want to start my review of H.P. Mallory’s Fire Burn and Caldron Bubble.  I could start by talking about how it’s odd for a romance novel because she keeps her main characters kind of separate after the first couple of chapters.  I could also start with the way it feels like a first book both in the case of the series and the author.  When we meet our lovely narrator, Jolie Wilkins, she’s busy being a fortune teller and a serial single.  This all changes with a ghost and a visit from the hottest man she’s ever met.  Suddenly Jolie finds herself with the ability to raise the dead and a lot of unwanted attention from the super natural world.  From there the novel becomes more and more what I expect from a romance novel, lots of mush without much substance until towards the end.

When first we meet Jolie she seems content with her life, yeah she could use a better paycheck but she’s got her best friend and her cat.  Enter Rand, the almost freakishly gorgeous warlock with a job that needs her help.  He needs to find out who killed a client of his’ father, and apparently needs Jolie’s help to do so.  Well, things don’t go quite as planned and the dead guy winds up somewhat less dead than before.  This intrigues all manner of supernatural folks and puts Jolie into a bit of a spot when she finds herself having to pack up her life to follow Rand to England where they will hopefully be safe from dead guy’s daughter and her army of loyal (and terrified) followers.  This leads to quite a bit of day-to-day nothing as Jolie and Rand distance themselves from each other and get her ready for an eventual confrontation with Bella.

So, where does this leave me?  It was good, not spectacular, but something that makes me want to read the rest of the series.  There were spots of purple prose scattered throughout.  At some point in time Mallory decided that one of her characters is a jerk, but hadn’t characterized him as such and then dropped him entirely.  Plus the book is definitely the first in a series; it doesn’t have a really satisfying end.  But my big problem was that Jolie is never wrong about anything or anyone, ever.  That got really old really fast.  So, I’m left wondering why I enjoyed the book as much as I did.  Mallory teases her reader, offering images of what might happen in the future via Jolie’s being a seer.  She hits some genuinely humorous moments with a smartass lead that I kind of wanted to talk to.  Where there’s a little purple prose, the rest is solid and offers a view of how good a writer Mallory can be.  Definitely worth reading, definitely worth continuing.