Fangs for the Fantasy

Fangs for the Fantasy is run by Renee from Womanist Musings, and Sparky who love all things Urban Fantasy. While we do love Urban Fantasy, we're also social justice bloggers and we try to be aware – and look at the genre from a social justice lens. Whether we love a series or hate it, we look at it through this lens – and critique it in part based on its treatment of marginalised people and issues affecting them. It doesn't mean we don't love the genre – but even the books and programmes we adore have problematic elements and we refuse to ignore that even while we enjoy them..


In addition to this blog we also have a weekly Podcast on Mondays


Full details can be found on our blog, Fangs for the Fantasy 



Wildfire (Hidden Legacy #3) by Ilona Andrews

Wildfire: A Hidden Legacy Novel - Ilona Andrews, HarperAudio, Renée Raudman

Nevada’s grandmother is in town, desperate to save her house from extinction, she is determined to “recruit” Nevada and her sisters


To remain free there seems to be one choice - to become a House. But is Nevada really ready to throw her family into the brutal world of house politics? And what about Rogan? While she loves him, what politically, will it mean to be with him - and where a House’s power is all about the magical legacy they maintain, will she be weakening both houses by choosing a non-ideal genetic match?


But even if she tries to avoid House politics, she is still being dragged into it: the conspiracy continues, a powerful, shadowy organisation is determined to cause chaos and remove what few restrictions the Magical Houses labour under and Nevada is definitely a target

I love this series. I love this book. I love these characters. I love this world. And, of course, as everyone already knows, I love love love love love Ilona Andrews. They are always one of my favourite authors and every new book in every series always ensures I will retreat from the world, clutch my tablet and promise horrible torturous death on anyone who presumes to interrupt me.


They were warned. They had it coming.


While I love every book Ilona Andrews have ever passed briefly, what I don’t like doing is reviewing their books. Because they’re awesome


And awesome is really really hard to write an intriguing review about. Because then all you do is just splurt praise. And it’s accurate because this book is worth all the praise - and more - but a review which is one long worship-fest both lacks fascinating elements and sort of makes it look like I’m on the payroll or possibly joined a cult who predicts the end of the world will come when the Kate Daniels series ends.


And even worse is writing a review about the awesome third book in an awesome series. Because not only do you have to write a review full of slightly disturbing gushing praise but you have to write three disturbingly similar reviews of increasingly disturbing gushing praise which gets steadily more uncomfortable and ends up with you being unable to say “Ilona Andrews” without adding “praise their holy name” afterwards


Which can be embarrassing


It doesn’t help that each book in this series is awesome for the same reasons the past one was. That isn’t a criticism - that’s because the first book sets the bar high and the subsequent books just keep hitting that bar.

As you’d expect, the world building of the primes and their magic continues to be fascinating but it’s not just how their various powers work (which is imaginative and fascinating and contains lots of interesting details like the detachment of the animal mages or the financial benefit of a fungus-mage) -  but the politics as well; the houses struggling against each other, the ploys, the rules, the importance of family all portrayed with a really well written theme of dehumanisation as we see how really horrifying this endless conflict is to the actual people involved


And I love that - I love that among the epic world building and complicated politics we have some excellent characters with some really powerful relationships - and how Nevada’s family matter and even her friendships and her role models (and many of all of these are female as well)


I even like the romance. I like that Nevada maintains clear boundaries with herself and Rogan. I like that even though he pulls many classic alpha male rawr moments (jealousy, over-protectiveness, highhandedness) she is always there to say “nope this isn’t happening” and he usually accepts these boundaries she draws. There’s even a clearly conniving ex and I thought this was going to be a super hot mess as Nevada protected her “territory” but, again, it was handled surprisingly well. I was even impressed by the nuanced in Nevada’s evil grandmother turning up and having some actual complexity and levels beyond just being a terrible threat


All of this comes with a thrilling, exciting, fascinating story that nearly made me late for work several times because I could not put this book down.



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Bewitching Bedlam (Bewitching Bedlam #1) by Yasmine Galenorn

Bewitching Bedlam (Volume 1) - Yasmine Galenorn

Maddy is busy preparing for her grand opening of her bed and breakfast. She has a lot to do - and she does not need the spiteful machinations of Ralph Greyhoof - a local satyr and fellow hotelier - who is looking to sabotage the competition.


But no-one expected the rivalry to turn to actual murder - when a witch body turns up in Maddy’s back garden. Maddy doesn’t buy it, there is far more going on  here than a business rivalry - and hotel guests are not worth killing over

This book is a lot of fun - the characters are fun, the world is fun, the story is fun. But it’s not just fun, it has a lot of decent depth to it, especially in the characterisation and it all has a lot of substance to it which makes it fun, but definitely not fluff


Most of the other characters are excellent - Maddy’s history, her past relationships, her moments of running wild, her charging around as a vampire hunter - all of that is very present with Maddy and with Sandy who both shared this history. Franny, the frustrated ghost who cannot interact with the world but oh so badly wants to. Having someone who genuinely dislikes Maddy and is definitely a rival but having the characters recognise that  just being an enemy doesn’t make them completely evil. I like the levels there, the fact we don’t have enemy=completely irredeemably evil or that anyone who opposes the protagonist must be completely without any positive qualities. I like that


This applies to a fair amount of the plot - I like the whole complexity around the vampires, I like that the most obvious target gets questioned repeatedly. I like that we also have Linda, the head of their coven and mayor of the town who has also a lot of levels in her involvement of the plot which is hard to simply say good or bad. It’s not that everything is complex or elaborate - it isn’t convoluted at all. It’s not hard to follow, or difficult or following unnecessary twists for the sake of it. But more the characters simply are not simplistic, even enemies are multi-dimensional and as such so is the plot line, discerning actual motives and the investigation around that.

If I wanted more from the plot, it would be more of Maddy showing her Mad Maudlin days and not being a little damsel-ish around the edges. But at the same time I appreciate Maddy’s own history and her equal conflicted feelings about that.


I also feel that with all the wonderful nuance we see in the characters and plot, there are some elements of the politics of the world building that feel simplistic - like how easily Maddy and Sandy can set the agenda and successors for the Council and their coven.




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Hellforged (Unnaturals #2) by Jessica Meigs

Hellforged (The Unnaturals Book 2) - Jessica Meigs

Riley Walker has been labelled rogue by the agency by her former mentor, Brandon - and is left with no choice but to run. Of course Scott will follow - his loyalty to Riley has only grown stronger; as is the unexpected help from the Agency’s Director


She expected many things to come chasing her - but demons were never among them. They are forced to appeal directly to the supernatural specialists in the Agency to survive… but Riley, and her unpredictable new powers, may be the real key to fend off the attackers - especially when one of their own is possessed by something far worse than a mere demon

There is a lot of action in this book. Our characters are all secret assassins for the government, with a specialty in the supernatural. They’re being pursued by a former mentor and general bad guy who has a penchant for using demons. There’s a lot of fighting, a lot of planning about fighting, a lot of running from crisis to crisis and planning for the next crisis.


The action is well done, the fight scenes exciting and flowing with lots of skill on display as well as a steady diet of tension and fear. There are definite stakes and, barring one element I’ll get into, a good sense of them as professional agents.


The plot never lets up and races through a lot of development quickly as these professionals do bounce back and hit the ground running


We also have an excellent prominent gay couple with Zachariah and Ashton, whose love for each other is never in doubt and matched equally by their capacity and skill. They’re not victims or weak or stereotyped or dead weight or ridiculous - they’re excellent together. Ashton, a long term agent and a complete human, also has been severely injured in his work for the agency and is disabled - that doesn’t make him weak, incapable or not a valued member of the team, but nor is woo-woo or plot contrivance used to erase his disability when it could be convenient


Sadly we have not developed any of the minor POC characters from the previous book into dominant roles - or roles at all - and this book is very white. Vanessa has made an appearance as another female character but her prominence is still not really developed even as her skill is acknowledged.


I do have some issues with the shape of the story because I ended up not enjoying it a great deal.

We have all this woo-woo thrown about but very little actual clarification or exploration. We have demons and angelic power… ok, what does that mean? Why? We have vampires… ok can we explore that? We have an ex-vampire, can we explore that? We have a legend about the Witnesses… ok,  what does that mean? There’s a lot of stuff that just is because we jump from battle to crisis to crisis to battle.


This also affects the characterisation: like I love Ashton and Zachariah’s relationship and we open with some excellent moments examining Ashton’s injuries and Zachariah’s battle fatigue - but this is all quickly cast aside so we can focus on the drama with Ashton in a terrible situation and Zacharia being full of rage and angst




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The Fangs of Freelance (Fred, the Vampire Accountant #4) by Drew Hayes

The Fangs of Freelance (Fred) - Drew Hayes

Being an accountant, even if it is for the paranormal community should pretty much be a danger free calm job. Despite Fred's sweater vests and over all calm demeanor, trouble seems to routinely find him.  Fred isn't the bravest vampire in existence but his strong sense of morality and concern for others has earned him friends and allies who are quite powerful.  Now that Fred is the leader of his own clan, he has to become even more involved in the lives of his friends.

My constant criticism of this series is that each book is more like compilation of short stories rather than one long discernible novel with a beginning, middle, climax and end.  It's almost as though Hayes had several good ideas and could not find a way to pick one and flesh it out until it became a standard length novel. What Hayes does instead is to pick an overriding theme and then write stories which fit whatever narrative he's chosen to fixate on.

The Fangs of Freelance is really all about how Fred adjusts to being the leader of his own clan and the new alliance he makes with the Agency.  Fred may not be a brave vampire and is still relatively new to the supernatural in comparison to his friends but becoming the leader of  the clan of Fred has given him remarkable power. Fred could choose lawfully to twist his friends to his will, or to make life altering decisions for them but instead, Fred chooses to use his powers to empower their autonomy.  This manifests when Fred encourages Albert to spread his wings because Albert possess a weapon of destiny, even though this will take Albert away from Fred.  It's Fred who sees the usury of Amy's contract and rather than enriching himself, not only gives Amy the ability to free herself financially, thus opening up new options, he turns down a bribe to maintain the status quo. Essentially, Fred is just a classic good guy.

Fred's basic decency has earned him the respect of his friends who have formed his clan.  This decency has caused his friends to jump to his aid when he needs it and or risk their lives to protect him.  Arch actually dies to protect Fred from his sire. Sure, Arch may have the ability to resurrect but being decapitated cannot be any fun.

The Fangs of Freelance is the fourth novel in this series and I have to say that the novelty is starting to wear a little thin.  Yes, Fred is unique because of his passion for numbers, fairness, and sweater vests. Yes, Fred gets himself into interesting situations because of his unfamiliarity with the paranormal world and his skill as an account allows him to come up with unique solutions. The problem is that Hayes has hammered home on this to such a degree that it feels been there done that.  The Fangs of Freelance doesn't really offer anything new to this universe or give us any new characterisation to make it a fun read. If you're going to go down a quirky road, it's something that you have to keep playing with in order for it not to grow old and tired. 




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Squawk of the Were-Chicken by Richard J, Kendrick

Squawk of the Were-Chicken - Richard J Kendrick
I wanted to love this book. I tried so hard to love this book.

I mean “werechicken”? I was in right there. That’s such an awesome parody with so much potential for utter hilarity. Bring on the werechicken! Let it be ridiculous! Let is be terrible! Let it be hilarious! Fear it’s BA-GAWK!

And some of it is awesome. I got half way through this book and nearly put it down so many times - but each time I was about to put it down there was a lovely little moment of awesome. This lovely little apparently medieval kingdom with its distinctly agrarian feel is full of highly erudite people. I love that the teachers of this rural school turn goldilocks into an analysis of forensic investigation and encouraging small children to read fairy tales and “question the socio-political hegemony those stories are meant to perpetuate!”. Or the farmer and his love of philosophy reminding us that absence of evidence is not itself evidence of absence.

It’s hilarious, it’s really well done and it brings both a wonderful challenge to preconceptions, some nice thinking points and just this almost sublimely ridiculous feel. Every time I’m about to drop the book another moment happens and I think I can keep going

There’s also some nicely interesting themes - like Deirdre rejecting the idea of becoming an apprentice because adults have to specialise and can’t learn ALL THE THINGS instead just get to learn one thing. And there’s Deidre’s inventing which could also be fun…

Except… this would have been reinforced more if Deidre had actually shown a diverse interest in different topics rather than just inventions. Or even if her inventions meant more by the stage I finished

There’s also Fyfe - for reasons I didn’t reach (and don’t matter) Fyfe for some reason has a lot of modern 21st century cultural references pouring into his head causing everyone to consider him pretty weird. And it could be another element of funny, patently ridiculous silliness. And at times it is, it really is. And it’s definitely trying…


But it doesn’t succeed. And I hate to say it because it has all the ingredients of being really really good and zany. And I need some zany… but it’s just not consistently funny. We have brief moments but so much of it is a slog and not funny

Part of the problem is I’m not sure what this book wants to be. It was advertised as YA… and part of it feels that way with the elaborate nature of the language in places. But the general tone and attitude of Deirdre, our protagonist feels a lot more… middle grade; definitely childish. It doesn’t so much straddle that line as teeter across it like the world’s most drunken tight rope walker, constantly plummeting off one side only to climb out of the net to fall down the other.

The worst of his is how Deidre’s mind wanders. And it’s a good way of showing Deidre is easily distracted and what that feels like but this is a description of Fyfe’s facial expression:

“Hi expression wasn’t just vacant. It was completely abandoned. When she looked into his eyes, she could practically see the signs saying, ‘Temporarily closed for renovations.’ Only the sign was askew and dusty, because the renovations had started three years ago, but the contractor ran over budget, and then the money ran out, so the work only got halfway done. And the shop couldn’t reopen like that, but without an open shop, there was no money to pay the lease. So the renters were out. Only meanwhile, property values had leapt through the roof - figuratively, of course, though the roof was beginning to look a bit dodgy, in Deidre’s opinion. And so the owners had raised the rent accordingly, only no-one was interested in paying what they were asking for a half-renovated, mostly dilapidated storefront. But the owners wouldn’t budge because of the principle of the thing. And that’s what Fyfe’s expression looked like.




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Convergence (Winter Solstice #1) by J.R. Rain and Matthew S. Cox

Convergence (Winter Solstice) (Volume 1) - J.R. Rain, Matthew S. Cox

Solstice knows magic exists but she’s one of the few who does - and it doesn’t overly affect her job as a photographer or her relationship. Unfortunately, since neither are doing extremely well.


And then something happens, the Convergence - and Solstice’s career is definitely picking up. Oh, and apparently she’s not even human. While being an elf explains a lot of things, it also makes her very much in demand. Including by some very unethical people...

Ok, shameful confession time - I had pretty low expectations of this book and had all honed my snark ready to take this on. Mainly because of one thing: “Solstice Winters”. Yes the protagonist is called Solstice Winters and in no way was there any indication that this was going to be a parody.


But it is neither a parody and nor taking itself ridiculously seriously and Solstice is duly mocking of her own parent’s silly naming choice.


Instead we have a really interesting world to explore which is light hearted and fun (and with a protagonist who is very much both - I really like her) and pretty much a joy to read.


The concept is one we’ve see a few times - magical realms are getting close to Earth which leads to the normal magical lite Earth suddenly having scads of woo-woo and magical creatures that were never here before which causes some upheaval. What is a really fun take on this is Solstice waking up in this new wash of magic and having the illusion torn aside and realising she’s an elf. It’s one thing to have a world that suddenly becomes magical - we’ve seen that a lot - but to have the protagonist wake up and realise she is a magical creature (and always has been) is a great twist.


In some ways I think it could be a greater twist if adapted, extended or, perhaps, if the book weren’t quite as funny and light as it is. I mean, we have examples of how elven attitudes have always influenced Solstice (casual nudity, connection to nature, not seeing sex as a big deal) but there isn’t much look at her analysing any of her behaviour/attitudes/thoughts and thinking “am I human”? Or even “Am I elven”? Or “where are my people?”. Of course this book is pretty heavy on the action and probably hasn’t given her that much in the terms of introspection.

But related to that there is a moment where Solstice is kidnapped by typical Men In Black and subjected to some deeply invasive testing and then talk about putting you in a cage which is kind of swept under the rug and everyone gets over that really quickly. I mean, she’s a reporter - and she’s not the only humanoid/intelligent Numina out there (after all, she was captured when watching a faun) who may not have the legal protections and police friends that Solstice has. I call shenanigans on this just being skipped over.


On that friend - I do like Jadea lot. She’s mixed-race Black and Asian and is a lesbian in a relationship. She talks about that relationship with Solstice, not because it’s plot relevant but because they’re actually friends and act like it. Jade doesn’t play a huge role and isn’t present a lot but from what we do see it’s clear she has a strong position in Solstice’s life. Solstice also has other friends in the paranormal society, who appear briefly but even in that brief moment we have an insight into their relationships - as well as a good relationship with her boss.



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Blood Ring (Rogue Mage #1) by Faith Hunter

Bloodring - Faith Hunter
This book is huge. Not so much because of the length of the book but the sheer amount packed in here - especially this really original world.


Honestly, if someone has sold this book to me as a post-rapture word, a world after the book of Revelations, a world where the angels came down and massacred huge chunks of humanity, I would be leery.


But what about that world where the angels never confirmed any one religion? What about when the Most High never actually appeared (but pointing that out is a quick way to get dead)? What about a world where actually fighting each other over a religion is the quickest way to get you dead by angel?


We have a world where religion and religious rules have definitely risen to prominence, piety is common and all but mandatory (there’s a lot of pressure even when it’s not mandated) and religious laws dominate. But at the same time everyone is kind of uncertain as to what the laws need to be. One interesting element of this is that they seem to have avoided the very common trope of just defaulting to “sexual” crimes (probably because most authoritarian religion seems to devolve to that level) and we see a lot more fierce punishments for things like swearing. It’s an interesting and unique political situation with religion ascendant and in control but without the certainty or single religious dominance you’d expect from such a world


It’s also been several generations since the end of the world so humanity is doing what we always do - backslide. Thorn notes that things that would never have been tolerated 10 years ago are now creeping back into the human media


It’s also really well done how the balance is set out. Because it would be easy to portray the Seraphs as wonderful saviours of humanity - and that’s clearly the spin and there’s definitely a cult that has grown around them - but Thorn sees it as a cult. Equally the depictions of the Seraphs arrival and the end of the world is depicted as duly horrific. The idea that the Seraphs are all good and pure is strongly challenged despite the spin. At the same time we have the dark powers, the monsters from the depths, demonic forces et al that humanity and the Seraphs allied against - so we do have the seraphs as being humanity’s protectors and destroyers, humanity’s shield, but also the sword which could come down at any time if humanity break the rules they’re STILL not entirely sure they understand. It’s all complex and nuanced and precarious

Add into that is Thorn, a Neo-mage. A woman with magic and, by official doctrine from the Seraphs, soulless. Registered and sequestered, Neo-mages are both an incredible asset to humanity for their skills but also feared and persecuted when unlicensed and not in their official communities. Thorn is surrounded by neighbours who would murder her if they found out about her while at the same time seriously considering hiring mages at exorbitant cost to help them with the town’s problems.


Oh and the world is a dystopia - not just because of the end of the world which means there’s a lot of salvaging and a lot of things mankind just doesn’t have the numbers to produce any more and is now working to produce in numbers what was once taken for granted. There’s no suggestion the technology is lost - it’s just hard to maintain the supply chain and production methods with most of the population dead. But the world is also entering a mini ice-age which doesn’t just mean cold, but also worries like glaciers forming in the mountains above the town


Throw in demons coming out at night and haunting the world and we have a much scarier world - and, obviously, an equal dependence for the decimated population on the Seraphs.


This world is FULL and it is FASCINATING and I understand there’s an actual RPG game that has built up around it because this world is amazing. I could happily just keep reading more world building and more and more and more and more


But in a book? All of the above is huge and complex and fascinating. And then we see different neo-mages with different powers and different sources of power - with the added complexity of elements from other specialties draining them (Thorn, a stone mage, is drained by water and moonlight). Then we throw in the descendents of humans and Seraphs, the descendents of mages and humans and the mixing of these blood lines all creates different complexities - and on top of that the dark side also has it’s own different forces and bloodlines


I love the world, but sometimes I feel like I need a guide to read separate to the story as it can be hard to follow all the ins and outs and complexities. This is sometimes not helped by the writing - especially when Thorn is deep in her magic and bonding with stones, I’m not always entirely sure what has exactly happened. This is especially the case later in the book towards the end with a grand finale where Thorn faces down the big bad hordes and it’s epic and it’s amazing and it’s exciting and powerful and… and I only have the slightest clue about what actually happened.

Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She's Dead (Toad Witch #1) by Christiana Miller

Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She's Dead - Christiana Miller
It's Mara's birthday and according to her tarot card reading things aren't going to go well for her. Proving that Mara's skills are top notch, it's not long before Mara finds herself banned from Beverly Hills, unemployed and facing homelessness after being evicted from her LA apartment. Luckily for Mara, she inherits a home when her Aunt Tilly dies. Unfortunately for Mara, this house is haunted by a very pissed off Aunt Tilly, who's certain that Mara doesn't have the sense God gave cabbage and not at all pleased that Mara is responsible for her death. Is anything going to go right for Mara this year?
As you might have guessed from the cover, Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She's Dead is paranormal chick lit. It's not meant to be serious whatsoever and in fact never takes itself seriously.  Miller tries to infuse her book with humour, through awkward situations and back and for conversations between Mara, our protagonist and her GBFF Gus. Unfortunately, most of it is problematic as hell, thereby sucking out whatever humor was possible.
For all of Mara's string of bad luck, she's actually had a pretty good life.  Mara lived in an apartment in LA with a pool for well below market value thanks to the kindness of her gay landlord.  Normally I wouldn't mention the sexuality of someone's landlord but Miller goes to great lengths to establish that Lenny is gay and is only kicking Mara out of her apartment in order to get laid by Manuel. Apparently, Manuel's family has a problem with Mara's witchcraft but no problem with his sexuality. Yeah, these kind of bigots tend to hate everyone who doesn't conform to their belief system, not just pagans. Of course, Mara feels betrayed by Lenny because he chose a hot young lover over her. Lenny is not only gay he's flamboyantly so. Lenny even blames Mara for her eviction because of her unwillingness to hide her religious practice.
"Honey, we live in a Moral Majority word. Flaunt your religious beliefs and sexual preferences at your own peril. It's something we boys have known for centuries. Done is one." 
Given than Lenny is only a minor character, his homophobic representation is bad but could potentially have been overlooked; however Miller doubles down with her portrayal of Gus.  Gus is downright sassy and seems to spend a good portion of life listening to Mara whine and pretty much being at her beck and call. Every damn thing about Gus is fabulous, including of course his attire. Apparently, "Gus is more fond of skirts than any woman" Mara has ever known. Mara of course is largely celibate but not Gus who always seems to be fucking someone, which mystifies Mara.  
"How the hell do you find dates so fast? It takes me months."
"My secret club. It's a whole, incestuous, underground network that we don't let you fag hags in on. A place for us who shine like a veritable sun to share our boy toys . And our Viagara".
Do you see what happened there? Mara, as well as the other straight characters don't engage in promiscuous sex whereas, the gay characters are either constantly having sex or allowing sex to take over so much of their lives that they make major decision based on whether or not they are getting laid. 
Along with being Mara's personal cheerleader and general support, Gus is also super bitchy.  Yes, yet another trope. When one of Gus's numerous lovers decided to cheat, Gus curses him to have hives.
"Maybe I did mix a little pennyroyal in the massage lotion. He deserved it, I caught him in a hot clinch with that curvy tranny singer over at the Queen Mary, when he thought I was in the john."
I have to pause now to talk about the slur "tranny".  Putting that word into the mouth of a gay character does not suddenly make it not a slur. Throughout Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She's Dead, Miller uses the words "faghag, as well as queer".  All of these terms are clearly problematic because they're homophobic and putting these words into the mouth of gay characters doesn't suddenly make it okay. It further doesn't help that Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She's dead, is written by a straight woman.

The other two LGBT characters in this story are James I and his lover Matthew Gilardi.  For the most part, James's greatest sin is being a lecher. Yep, another gay man who sleeps around.  Matthew however is power hungry to the point where he has no problem murdering his own daughter because she is pregnant with the King's bastard.  So in short, we have evil gay, lecherous gay, catty and flamboyant gay and it's all celebrated with slurs. Yeah for inclusion everyone.

Even when there are no LGBT characters in a scene, Miller still manages to mess things up. When Mara ends up moving to Wiconsin she meets a local teacher named Paul.  Because Paul is handsome and works out, Mara immediately assumes that he's gay and comes up with the weakest reasoning for this leap.
“Sorry. It’s just… when you said that you were a weight lifter … I just thought… I mean, with the gym addiction and it being so far and all…”
“Only gay guys are interested in staying in shape?”
“Well, yes. I mean, no. It’s just… I’m from Los Angeles. Most men out there are gay. So I’m used to gyms being a place for sexy, sweaty guys to hook up with other sexy, sweaty guys.”
“Welcome to the Heartland. Our stats are a little different here."
People of colour don't fare much better in this story. There are only three characters of colour. The first is Mrs. Lasio, "a heavyset, older Latina woman."  Mrs. Lasio is deeply religious and therefore takes issue with Mara's practice of witchcraft.  We are meant to see Mrs. Lasio as someone who is ridiculously superstitious who actively oppresses Mara. Mrs. Lasio is responsible for Mara's eviction. Of course, Mrs. Lasio gets hers in the end when she is also evicted.

We also have Mama Lua, who is a large Jamaican woman. We are told repeatedly how powerful Mama Lua is. It's Mama Lua who performs a cleansing ceremony on Mara. However Mama Lua is never allowed to develop into a real character and remains a magical servant at best.

I know that I've talked so much about the problematic elements of this story that I haven't really gotten to the plot. Unfortunately, I'm not done with the problematic elements.  Mara is yet another example of an isolated woman. Mara's parents are both dead, though both make a ghostly visitation to warn her away from her stupidity.  Mara doesn't seem to have a relationship with any women with the exception of course of her dead Aunt Tillie. Mara bemoans being a so-called "fag hag" but makes no attempt to befriend women.  So let's see: dead parents (check), no female friends (check) women appear largely as adversaries or minor characters (check). Ding Ding Ding, I do believe we have found yet another trope.

Look, I don't go into chick lit expecting much.  Generally speaking, I hope for a few good laughs and a satisfying end to the story but what I got was one bigoted trope after another, making the story itself almost irrelevant. I couldn't invest in Gus's friendship with Mara because he is such a homophobic trope.  I wasn't pleased when Gus dropped everything once again to help Mara out and even decided to leave LA and move to freaking Wisconsin to be with Mara.

The Glamour Thieves by Don Allmon

The Glamour Thieves (Blue Unicorn) - Don Allmon

JT has managed to build a good business and a good life - not and for an orc and former criminal

But his past comes back to haunt him - namely in the hands of the very very sexy elf Austin. His ex and definitely bad news. JT should tell him to leave. JT shouldn’t have anything to do with him. JT should definitely not believe anything he says

But the threat against one of his dearly loved old compatriots is not something to ignore… of course the question then is, just how much has Austin lied this time?

Well that was incredibly different - and extremely fun and exciting to read. I need more of this, so much more of this.

Our main characters are Austin and JT, an orc and an elf, two men and two lovers. They’re joined by Buzz, a human, a man and another leg to their love triangle

And normally I’d cringe because there’s no quicker me to make me run for the hills than a love triangle - but this really works. It isn’t a matter of jealousy (though jealousy is certainly there), so much as different men bringing different things to the relationship. I love that their relationships are complicated and layered, with JT seeing different qualities in Buzz and Austin and valuing both for different reasons. There’s no real spectre of a happily ever after and the conflicts are very reasonable based on the very complicated histories between these characters which casts wide shadows on them.

Their relationships are very real, not overtly romanticised, often very gritty, with very real emotional conflict between the characters. I can really feel the history of these characters, what has past between them and how that makes their current relationships really fraught and difficult. At the same time, despite being an important element of the story, the romance does not completely overwhelm the plot by having confusing romance elements in life-or-death situations, etc.

It’s also blessedly free of the usual tropes and stereotypes we see about gay men and gay relationships - so many tropes that are almost mandatory in any story with men in relationships with each other. One of the more intriguing elements is that JT, the huge huge huge massive, super-huge orc is a bottom while Austin, the elf, is a top. Yes, it’s a simple thing but in a genre where fake gender roles are often imposed on characters in a same-sex relationship, it stands out. Equally the fact that Austin is definitely a more physically dangerous character is noteworthy. These characters are really awesomely deep, nuanced, relationships with each other with no tropy subtexts and no rigid romance paths. And they have some really good hot sex which, yes, I actually find hot (I have very very very very rarely actually found many written sex scenes remotely appealing) while at the same time being appropriate to the plot.

Frankly, if this were the only good thing about this book, I’d honestly still love it because I loved this so very very much. But there’s also so much more

This world is awesome - we have a really excellent Shadowrun/cyberpunk world going on here which I love. We have a world with traditionally fantasy world characters - wizards, orcs, elves in a technological setting - but an almost futuristic technology with cyberspace and networks in everything from minor networks for cars and huge, sweeping networks that can cover entire cities with grafitti’d, crowd sourced hacking. This creates almost a parallel realm that has to be acknowledged and taken into account in most encounters. To use an RPG parallel, your party needs a hacker as much as it needs a wizard or a warrior.

This creates a lot of levels of complexity, especially since orcs and elves are apparent recent additions to society, there’s lots of hints at dystopia and a dystopian event and there’s also an interesting take on the idea of magic and technology not mixing. This is a very old trope and one of those genre rules that has been so long that you do kind of wonder why it has become such a mandatory thing (like werewolves and vampires hating each other). What is intriguing in this case is we have a sci-fi, hyper technological society with those parallel cybernet realms means that a character who has and uses magic is effectively cut off from this. We see JT bonding with his car with his mind, turning his drones into extension of his own consciousness which was really excellently done (and an awesome part of the world) and through the power of this awesome description we realise that Austin, a character with magic, is expressly excluded from this world. This isn’t like, say, Harry Dresden being annoyed because he can’t use a computer or his car is unreliable; there are huge parts of this world that a magic user is expressly denying themselves for the sake of magic. At the same time, when we see the choice Roane made to get technological implants, we also see the implications, even the horror, of this elf expressly turning her back on her innate magic to gain access to this technological world.




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Johannes Cabal the Necromancer (Johannes Cabal #1) by Jonathan L. Howard

Johannes Cabal the Necromancer - Jonathan L. Howard
Having sold his soul to the devil in order to learn the secrets of necromany, Johannes isn't pleased to discover that the bargain has not achieved the results he had hoped for and that in fact, he actually needs his soul back.  This realisation results in a trip to hell to bargain with the devil to regain his soul.  Johannes strikes a deal to get 100 people to sign over their souls to the devil in exchange for his own soul back.  With the help of his vampire older brother Horst and a demonic train, it's a race against time to see who will become the victor. 
I must admit to being a little bit conflicted about this book. There were times when the dark humour had me outright laughing and times when the story seemed to drag on because of repetitiveness.  There's only so many times one can read descriptions of gouls and be entertained by them.  Howard is at times needlessly verbose though generally speaking the language helps to cement Cabal's character.
As with any Faustian deal, there is an element of morality to this story.  Johannes is so intent in collecting the 100 souls that he doesn't think about the destruction that his travelling carnival is leaving in its wake. What is the point of regaining one's soul only to lose it in the act of regaining it?  Horst, the vampire is the moral authority in this case. It's Horst who blocks a child from accidentally selling his soul and Horst who points out that there's a difference between getting people to sign who were already destined to go to hell and actively corrupting those who would not have ended up in hell.  Horst can see unlike Johannes that this is so much more than a numbers game.
It's Horst who explains to Johannes that there's a difference between tricking a man who abuses women and discards them into selling his soul and tricking a stressed out and overwhelmed single mother into killing her child. No matter how hard Horst tries, Johannes simply cannot see.  Even when elements of Johannes soften, they don't last long for the simple reason that his drive to regain his soul is so strong. 
It's not until the very end that we clearly understand what is driving Johannes, though there are hints throughout as he reveals his anger at death itself, calling it a thief. Johannes is a very angry, jealous man.  Though Horst helps Johannes throughout with his mission to capture 100 souls, Johannes cannot let go of his jealousy of his brother.  It seems growing up, Horst was favoured by his parents and community, leaving Johannes always striving for attention and love.  The sibling rivalry clearly had an affect on Johannes and warped his personality to a strong degree.  Even though Johannes was responsible for Horst becoming a vampire, he still felt entitled to his brother's help. 

For me, Johannes Cabal the Necromancer started to drag near the ending.  By that time, the clever turns of phrase and the odd situations had begun to lose their shine.  The first time Johannes went to hell, I was amused by the idea of the gate being guarded by the overly bureaucratic Arthur Trubshaw, whose job it is to make the deceased fill out copious forms before entry. Arthur, we are told, lived a life of "licentious proceduralism". By the time we meet Arthur for a second time however, I was pretty much done with the joke. 
Johannes Cabal the Necromancer included ableism as part of its humour. Sure, the idea of a man who kills people because he is socially invisible did make me laugh however it was coupled with the equation of mass murder and mental illness.  Yes, these murders were absurd and often times fun but there was no need to juxtapose mental illness and violence. 

Touch of Frost (Mythos Academy #1) by Jennifer Estep

Mythos Academy Bundle: First Frost, Touch of Frost, Kiss of Frost & Dark Frost - Kensington Books

When Gwen’s mother died she was claimed by the Mythos Academy. An Academy that teaches young, magically gifted warriors to be ready to fight Chaos as has been their solemn duty for centuries


But Gwen, with her powers of psychometry and no magical history or culture felt very out of place among the affluent, strong and powerful valkyries and spartans of the Mythos Academy


And never did this rift loom so large than when one of their class is killed and her war torn peers seem to not even care. It’s left to her to investigate and find the actual truth

I can’t even begin to review this book without addressing the great big elephant in the room and the problem is it underpins a lot of the whole book.


A core concept of this book is that the magical kids in this school are have magical gifts based on the mythological, legendary warriors of the past. This works for the valkyries with their super strength. And the Amazons with their super speed. But then we have the Romans, Celts and Spartans… these are actual people? Also I question why your legendary super-warriors for men are actual historical people. While your magical warrior women are mythological? I don’t think it’s intentional and there’s no actual sense that there’s a magical divide between men and women: but I think it kind of sends a weird message that awesome warrior women are… well… fictional… while awesome warrior men are historical.


But then there’s Gwen. Gwen’s magical gift is psychometry - she can touch things and get sensation and images off it. Her mother and grandmother also had psychic gifts like this. And they are called Gypsies.


Argh, no. First of all that word is not neutral, it’s a slur used to denigrate, demean, insult and perpetuate no small number of myths against the Romani people. And Romani are not legendary, mythological or even historical people - they’re an ethnic group, a highly discriminated against ethnicity that faces incredible amounts of persecution as well as really damaging stereotypes. One of which is this pervasive fortune teller/woo-woo depiction - this is damaging

But to top this off, I honestly think the author may not know this. And by “this” I mean that Romani actually exist. There is no suggestion, not one tiny suggestion, that Gwen, her mother or grandmother are Romani. There’s no suggestion that them calling themselves “Gypsy” applies to anything BUT their woo-woo. There’s even a line:


“I didn’t know exactly what made us Gypsies. We didn’t act like any Gypsies I’d ever read about. We didn’t live in wagons or wander from town to town or cheat people out of their money.”


I… no… just no. Really, appropriating a slur and then trotting out of all of these insults and stereotypes while completely ignoring actual Romani people is beyond not ok.


Getting past this is difficult, but when you do there is a somewhat intriguing story and world here. Though I would like more development of this world. We have the concept of the pantheon and the big bad god spreading chaos which isn’t exactly original. Which is why I would have quite liked to have examined what all these gods - or what all the individual powers were and meant.


There were some excellent moments of examining the idea of these very spoilt, privileged kids who, at the same time, were so innured to loss and conflict, which in turn expanded on the idea of why they are being so very spoiled; indulgent parents who are very aware their kids may not reach adulthood.



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Strangehold (Crossroads of Worlds #1) by Rene Sears

Strangehold (Crossroads of Worlds) (Volume 1) - Rene Sears

When Morgan’s fellow student committed a terrible crime against the fae, Morgan retreated to a relatively quiet, isolated life. She certainly didn’t spend as much time with her sister as she’d like - not after she married a fae lord and became an ambassador to Underhill.


But when her sister begs for her help shielding her half-fae nieces, Morgan can’t say no and plans to be a bigger part of their lives… until all the gateways to underhill close ujknown to all, even Falcon, a fae she finds trapped on Earth… and casters start dying.


This world setting is fun and, better, really well presented. I won’t say it has never been done before - fae in a close realm, portals, witches, magic - these are definitely not unknown


But the way this world is put together, the very careful exposition, the lack of info dumping is all really well done. This is a world that manages to avoid the temptation to throw it all at us. It lays out lots of potential to many many many more things in this world in a perfect balance of hinting. And that can be hard, so many authors have this Really Cool Thing and decide they must must must share this with us!


The characters know their world and never feel the need to explain it to each other - they experience it and through them we experience it, showing everything we need to enjoy this book


I think it also lays out a lot of ominous yet epic hints to encourage future novels, promising a big big series.


And it is fun, it wasn’t super twisty due to the length, but it was fun and well paced without any convoluted elements of padding. Morgan is an interesting characters, she has reservations about the fae but they’re reasonable without being over dramatic or based on some fantasy world bigotry. We have a nice amount of history and development to give everyone character - and a magical organisation which isn’t THE WORST. Honestly that is such an over-used trope.


If I had to point to an area of the book that is weak it would be Falcon’s motivation - or maybe Falcon entirely. I never quite understood why Falcon became as invested as he did. Perhaps if we were more in his head we could see him, for example, respect Morgan‘s dedication to her nieces. Maybe see more of his respect for what she’s doing and more concern for what has happened with the fae gates. Maybe even identify with her nieces more because of their similar heritage




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Full Fathom Five (The Keys Trilogy) by Anna Roberts

Full Fathom Five (The Keys Trilogy Book 3) - Anna Roberts

Blue, Gabe, Grayson, Joe, Charlie and Ruby have survived. They’re not happy, there’s the shadow of Eli’s corpse to clear up lying over Blue and Charlie and Ruby have a somewhat tumultous relationship. There’s the swamp wolves lurking over Joe and Grayson - and being a werewolf is never easy besides that


But Gloria’s last act seems to have taken Yael, the deep, dark, massive, dangerous spirit, finally out of their lives and out to sea


Until he is drawn home - and this time the depleted Keys pack is missing Gloria, their heart, their soul, their true Alpha, their wolf-witch. To face Yael there’s only Blue, brand new to this and reeling with both revelations from the past and Yael’s desperate yearning to be human

So… this book… this entire series puts me in one of those very very awkward ones to review.


I am impressed. I am deeply impressed by the writing. I am even more deeply impressed by the characterisation, their lives and how they react to the world around them. And I’m really impressed by the world.


The whole concept of werewolves and their struggle has permeated these books. These are beings from very poor backgrounds who rarely, if ever, get the chance to complete their education or get regular work (all those days off every month). Changing is painful, traumatising and hell on their bodies to the point where most of them are pretty damaged by the time they hit 30 and 40 is the far reaches of old age - 50 completely unattainable. The life of a werewolf is grim and painful and short.


And the Wolfwitches, even if not werewolves themselves, live among that. The same poverty, the same desperate, hurting people around them, and even if not directly affected, they’re the ones who clean up. They’re the ones who put the damaged, suffering wolves out of their misery when their bodies finally turn on them.


This permeates the whole story. Even when we see things like Grayson and Joe who are deeply in love and managing to carve a sense of happiness for themselves there’s still that underlying question: still the constant nag that Grayson is old for a werewolf, even his most loving moments undercut


It permeates the past of Yael as well - Yael and Gloria, their whole history laid out here needs to be seen in this context. Gloria, the poverty, the difficulty and in comes this spirit snaring her when she’s young and desperate and then being a constant shadow - adding deeper burdens but always coming with just enough power to be useful - until he’s just the burden, the predatory force


I like this in many ways because it humanises Gloria: she as the heart and soul of this series, the foundation, the one with Yael, the great evil spiritual force that everyone is afraid of - we see how it happened, how she first succumbed: and it’s such an easy, simple, human temptation. No woo-woo nothing like that - but simply a devil’s bargain offered to someone with few options


And I see a lot of great parallels for her in Ruby - a powerful, determined, intelligent woman who, nevertheless, is young a little foolish and seeking short cuts out of her grim situation. I think there’s a reason why these characters are presented next to each other. It also shows another reason why Gloria got rid of Blue - not just to save her from Yael possession but to save her from the temptation of Yael when she’s young. Because when you’re young and poor and angry in a very unfair life Yael looks very attractive. And how, even the best of us, at our worst moments, can wish for terrible terrible things.




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The Skeleton in the Closet (Southern Ghost Hunter Mysteries, #2) by Angie Fox

The Skeleton in the Closet - Angie Fox
The small southern town of Sugarland is filled with excited people.  A documentary is being filmed by the history channel about a civil war battle that occurred in the town. The movie is to be billed as residents of the town coming together to fight off the invading Yankees, in order to protect their town from destruction. This should be enough excitement for a small town but when a local librarian is murdered to cover up an old secret, Verity has no choice but to get involved. 
As you may have guessed from the book cover, The Skeleton in the Closet is paranormal chicklit.  It doesn't hide what it is or attempt to be anymore than that. If you go into expecting something light to while away a few hours with then you might just enjoy, Verity's latest adventure.  It's got a grumpy gangster ghost, a pet skunk, mixed in with a murder mystery.
Fox walks the line between exulting the antebellum south and calling it out for what was.  Fox makes it clear that "Tennessee was one of the most divided states in the nation, and our boys had gone off to fight on both sides".  In fact, Sugarland continues to be divided today based on whose family did what during the civil war.  The big elephant in the room however is slavery. Not once does Fox point out that the entire reason for the civil war was slavery, even if she has Verity (the protagonist) make it clear that she believes that the North was proven right in the end. Chicklit is meant to be light but if you're going to write a book about the antebellum south and how it effects the modern era, to do so without including characters of colour is beyond problematic. Where are the Black people in this story?   
Fox didn't shy away from detailing the horrors of war.  In detail, Fox wrote about the surgeon who long after his death continued to operate on long dead soldiers. The surgeon continues to amputate limbs and his surgical gown is covered in blood.  Even though both the northern soldiers and the confederate soldiers are dead, both sides continue dehumanise each other.  It's a small lesson in how war teaches people to see those belonging to the other side as less than human and or civilised. 
This is the second book in this series in which the victim is female.  I like that Verity is a strong protagonist who speaks her truth and stands up in the face of oppression and I like that she seems to have a lot of female support; however, having a woman as victim twice in a row has me raising my eyebrows.  Let's see if this trend continues.  

Where Fox continues to stand out is in her discussion of class. A large part of Southern Spirits (the first novel in this series) dealt with Verity's struggle to pay off a debt and that involved her selling most everything she owned and living on Ramen Noodles.  Fox continues this struggle in The Skeleton in the Closet because though Verity has reconciled her debt, she still doesn't have a job and is effectively poor. Verity puts on a brave face but she's aware that one of her best dresses has a hole in the pocket and with only three dresses to her name, this is most certainly not convenient.  Verity continues to largely live on Ramen Noodles though her friends and neighbours do from time to time offer her a decent meal which she absolutely appreciates.  Fresh fruit is very much a luxury for Verity, so much so that she only eats half a banana at a time in order to treat her pet skunk with the other half.  The dollar store is where most of things that Verity purchases comes from.  Verity absolutely lives a food insecure lifestyle that is familiar to far too many people.

Shards of Hope (Psy/Changeling #14) by Nalini Singh

Shards of Hope (Psy/Changeling) - Nalini Singh

Aden is the leader of the Arrow Squad, the most dangerous and highly trained Psy on the planet. When he and his fellow Arrow, Zaira, wake wounded and captured they know there’s a new enemy out there they have to stop

Of course, holding an Arrow isn’t easy.

While bringing down this new enemy is a focus of the squad, Aden has a deeper mission: how to help his Arrows, his damaged, dangerous, Arrows, adapt to this new world without Silence and hope they can finally find a future and a home; an idea that has become alien to them.


There’s a lot about this book I loved - because this is a story that has been brewing for a while - the story of the Arrow Squad. We had an introduction with Vasic but this really does take their story to the next level of detail.

With the Fall of Silence and with the Arrows going from whispered, almost mythological, force hiding in the shadows to being very open and involved in dealing with the problems of the fall of silence it’s such a huge shift for them

The Arrows themselves are such an excellent representation of the challenges of Silence. All of them have lethal, terrifying powers and were given the strictest and most brutal of training and the most rigid Silence to actually survive them. If anyone cannot live without Silence, it is the Arrows - not only are they powerful and dangerous but they’ve also been deeply traumatised pretty much from birth because torture is how they’re trained

Damaged, lethal, rigidly controlled - it’s going to be hard for them. What I really liked in particular was Aden and Zaira learning how to even behave around children, how to raise children, how to learn the basic thing about them. With all Arrows recruited as very small children and tortured by the program since then the very alienness of play is perhaps more stark than any depictions of the torture they suffered

From that I also liked the little offshoots of concern - like how the older Arrows will manage with this changing world they don’t seem to fit in. Or what to do with those members of the squad who have been so utterly hurt that they’re not entirely functional.

And then there’s those whose Silence did actually cover up a monster - the emotionless killers who secretly enjoyed it. How do you find them and what do you do with them?

I do think that, perhaps, this was just a little but simplistic in some issues, especially in relation to Psy with dangerous powers. I mean, we had Psy literally fearing their own extinction due to their rates of suicide, mental illness and violent crime as well as uncontrolled dangerous powers - this is while Silence was enacted. So introducing their hyper-dangerous Arrow children to having to write essays as punishment just seems… well if that worked then why would the Psy have ever enacted Silence. I think it would have been better if we had seen them incorporating more of the lessons, mental exercises etc of Silence to show WHY these tactics work now.

Throw into this the greater public role of the Arrows - Aden as the publically acknowledged leader, considering both the PR elements of that and how it makes him a target. The idea of striking the balance between public figure and hidden enforcers all the while maintaining their independence but still making friends and gathering allies in their own right is nicely done

There’s still some pesky gender issues clinging here that I can’t look past when we see that this is the 14th book in the series which has had these gender issues since day one

One of the reasons why Zaira is afraid of losing control and causing carnage is the moment when she sees another woman touch Aden and nearly loses control and attacks the woman out of jealousy. I laughed. Oh gods how I laughed. This is terrible? This is the BASELINE for not just most of the men (especially the Changeling men) in this series, but pretty much a significant part of the genre as well.

We also have yet another damaged/hurting woman who resists a relationship and has to be persuaded into it by a determined, persistent man who heals her along the way. Which, again, is so very very very very common in this series. Romance happens because the men wear down the women (I think Sierra and Hawk is the only real counter-example of it happening the other way and even then it’s dubious since she retreats into “I’m broken and dying and need to run off and die” with him chasing her).

And for a moment there, a brief moment, I really thought we were going to have a female character who was more dangerous and powerful than the male - albeit, of course, with Aden as the leader clearly established. But hey, he isn’t a leader because of his dominance so this is a major change from previous books and there’s a strong suggestion (despite repeated reminding us that Zaira’s a lot physically smaller than Aden) she could take him in a fight. Until he pulled out his super power

And don’t get me wrong that moment is awesome. And I love Aden as leader of the Arrows, I love how his leadership is based on him caring and valuing the squad and wanting a future for them - all of them - and making them more than the weapons they’re seen as. I love how he is the leader of the squad despite the fact that most of them by far think they could easily defeat him - they don’t follow him because of his strength or power and that is never emphasised.

Really the issues with this romance would be very low key and probably not mentioned much because the gender roles aren’t as bad as many - but it’s those previous 13 books which make so much of this a pattern.



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Slouch Witch (The Lazy Girl's Guide to Magic #1) by Helen Harper

Slouch Witch - Helen   Harper
Ivy isn’t a heroine. Ivy isn’t a solver of problems, she doesn’t fix things and if you’re in trouble she’s the last witch to call. She’s much happier driving her taxi and developing a deep and abiding relationship with her sofa.


Sadly when someone screws up the paperwork she finds herself drafted by the Magical Order’s Arcane branch and magically linked to way-too-energetic, way-too-serious over achiever Adeptus Exemptus Raphael Winter


They do not have compatible personalities.

This is a book that just makes me smile - no grin - through every page. Mainly because of Ivy, the protagonist, a witch and a woman after my own heart.


She’s lazy.


Y’know in a genre that occasionally flirts with portraying an “every-man/woman” a person all of us can identify with, we’re constantly shown somone who steps up and acts the hero, pulls out miraculous feels while being heroicly brave and amazingly virutous and impossible impressive.


And I’m sure we’d all love to say we identify with that person. But it’s a lie. It’s a dirty rotten lie. Here we have Ivy. The woman who needs to be dragged out of bed in a morning. The woman who would rather cut her own leg off than exercise. The woman who invented a rune to make things lighter because she was too lazy to carry heavy things. The witch who made a run to open her front door because she couldn’t be bothered to dig her keys out of her disorganised hand bag. A woman whose idea of a good time is spending some quality time with her sofa and television. A woman who uses the lift when she really should use the stairs.


There’s something so very real about her.


She’s also extremely snarky and I know we have a whole lot of snarky protagonists out there. But it really works with this character because she is so reluctantly involved in the plot line and that plot line itself, at least for most of the duration of the plot, isn’t that high stakes. Her history with the Order is painful and it hasn’t treated her well. She’s also only ever seen it at its worse - and then she’s magically, accidentally, drafted to help Winter (designated love interest and boring guy to be snarked at) which absolutely no-one wants but no-one can get out of. Naturally she’s not going to be favourably inclined to help anyone. And it’s not really massively selfish for her to be a colossal pain in the arse - and seeing her stomp through this stuffy, rigid hierarchy not giving a damn about any of it was glorious. She doesn’t owe these people anything. She doesn’t respect them. She doesn’t like them. She isn’t invested in her mission. So damn right she’s going to be awkward and snarky and disrespectful.


She’s dragged into this against her will and it works. If I have one complaint about the plot in this book it’s how quickly Ivy capitulates to the Order - honestly I would have been 10 times more awkward).

Despite all this Ivy is clearly super competent, very intelligent even when made easily bored (partly because she is so intelligent and talented) without being super woman. I really like her.


And I like that we do get a nuanced look at the Order as well - it’s not just a stereotypical evil/incompetent organisation. I love Ivy and Winter’s disagreement over the role of ambition and whether it’s a positive force or not and the awesome skewering of officer politics and how it can destroy an organisation. And when we found the antagonists? An excellent moment.