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REVIEW: Ritual Magic by Eileen Wilks

Dear Ms. Wilks,

It’s not often that I’m tempted to write a love letter to the author of a book. Oh, I’ve had my fair share of books that make me deliriously happy when I read them, leading to reverent petting of the book cover and a special place on the “will read again” shelf. There’ve even been a few books that have convinced me to go sample the author’s backlist, mining for a gem similar to the one I just read. But never, ever, have I read the latest book in a new-to-me series and had the urge to beg, borrow and steal to get all of the previous books.

Ritual Magic Eileen WilksFBI agent Lily Yu has been through hell and back (literally) with her mate, Rule Turner, and their small army of friends and family members. Now they face their greatest test of all – the wedding. While wedding planning is stressful for just about any bride, it’s a nightmare for Lily, made worse by her critical and overbearing mother, Julia. Unfortunately, shortly before the big day, Lily’s mother is attacked by an unknown foe and suffers a memory loss that regresses her, mentally, back to age twelve. Even worse, similar symptoms show up in dozens of others, with no discernible connection to Julia. It’s up to Rule, Lily, Cullen and their unlikely band of lupi and magical compatriots to separate fact from fiction, friend from foe and get to the bottom of the mystery while keeping their souls intact.

While an incredible read, the book didn’t quite stand by itself – there were quite a few concepts and people that popped up leaving me scratching my head and flipping back pages, trying to figure out where they fit in to the master plan. A glossary and cast of characters would have been incredibly helpful in the first quarter of the book. Though, while the questions were mildly annoying, they weren’t enough to take me out of the story, and certainly not enough to have me putting the book aside. As the plot unfolded, you did an amazing job of seamlessly integrating events from the previous books so that things started making more sense. I think, though, that going back through the other books in the series could only enhance this one – and wouldn’t detract in any way from the experience.

I’m used to romantic protagonists being plagued by all manner of drama and misunderstandings, but this story didn’t revolve around anything like that. In fact, the characters showed amazing compassion and understanding toward each other – a gentle sweetness that was a beautiful counterpoint to the chaos surrounding them. There were no questions about their love for each other – not from a reader perspective, and not from a character perspective, even when everything in the world was in question. They managed to reach that absolute balance between “I” and “We.” It’s very rare to find a couple that works so perfectly as a team, complimenting each other even when there are disagreements as to methods.

Something held tight inside him unclenched. The sudden loss of tension left a dull smear of pain in its wake. His closed eyes stung. He’d needed this. Needed her, and now she was here. They leaned into each other. He inhaled deliberately, breathing her in.

Lily was neither lupus nor Rho, but she was responsible for her own control. No one could or should attempt to usurp that, no matter how much he loved her and how certain he was that she needed to let go. To let herself fall into tears or rage or whatever lay on the other side of the walls she’d put up.

The insertion of dark humor is not only welcome, but utterly appropriate to the setting. When dealing with difficult situations, including those surrounding events the rational mind and “normal” human beings can’t fully comprehend, sometimes dark, sometimes inappropriate humor lightens the mood and provides just enough distance to keep the issues from becoming utterly overwhelming – they highlight the ridiculous as a coping mechanism. And sometimes, even paranormal humans succumb to the occasional banalities.

The floor was finished, at least—and hadn’t that been a hassle, deciding what to use! Lily had leaned toward bamboo. Rule had been torn between the beauty of a dark-stained hardwood and the practicality of carpet, which offered better traction to a wolf’s paws. In the end, they’d gone with stained and polished concrete. It looked great, was highly customizable, and wouldn’t get scratched up by anyone’s claws.

In summation, this beautiful book was filled with an ephemeral blend of spicy romance, adrenaline-pounding action sequences, and a true, deep examination of human, and parahuman, emotion done in such a way as to be balanced rather than overwhelming. Thank you for the perfect escape and a novel I’m thrilled to hug to my chest happily. My arms are going to get crowded from trying to cuddle the whole series. B+

Mary Kate

In an effort to provide more coverage of paranormal romance and historical romance, I’ve been searching for additional reviewers.  Mary Kate is one of a couple we are going to try out here at Dear Author.  From Mary Kate:

As a reader who’s old enough to know better and young enough to not care, I’ve breezed through the gamut of everything books have to offer. As a child, I used to spend summer days happily ensconced in one of the Philadelphia public libraries, reading everything and anything I could get my hands on, thanks to the love and support of my parents and aunts – teachers, mothers and/or librarians all. One aunt started me with Nancy Drew books (whose pages are worn from hundreds of re-reads) while another thought I needed introduced to C.S. Lewis’s land of Narnia. By the time I was 8, I’d read everything the library’s children’s section had to offer and had “graduated” to the adult room downstairs. Fortunately for my very supportive parents’ sanity, I didn’t discover romances until college. My days are currently spent working in law enforcement (dispatchers unite!), working with first responders, and trying to dig my writer/editor/reviewer husband out from his latest pile of books. I’m a devoted fan of all manner of romance (though I prefer my romance to have a hint of laughter and self-awareness), mysteries, and urban fantasy.

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26 Comments

  1. Rebe
    Sep 07, 2013 @ 11:09:51

    I love this series and this book was excellent! It’s definitely one of my favorites of the series. My other favorites are Tempting Danger (#1), Mortal Sins (#5), and Blood Challenge (#7). That’s not to say that the others aren’t good as well; it’s just that these are the ones I find myself rereading on a regular basis. I feel that Ms. Wilks doesn’t get as much recognition as she deserves – the series is outstanding.

  2. Angela James
    Sep 07, 2013 @ 11:14:16

    Happy to see this series getting some love from a new reader, because it’s one I always push as not getting enough love. I think it did falter at a point, especially in the books that didn’t focus on Lily and Rule, but I’ve enjoyed the series for the most part and agree, this book was a great installment in the series.

  3. HelenMac
    Sep 07, 2013 @ 11:40:26

    Thank you for this review – I’d read and loved the first three books and some of the shorts in anthologies, and then, in between a new job, a new city and everything else, I seem to have forgotten to keep up with this series!

    I’m on holiday at the moment, so this reminder is real well timed, as I have loads of time to read and catch up. Lovely.

  4. Nikki
    Sep 07, 2013 @ 12:08:10

    This was definitely one of the books I really loved in this series. I know some people did not like the stories that don’t focus on Lily and Rule but sometimes I would get tired of them because it seemed like there was no action happening. I was actually losing interest in the the series until the last few books. But I felt like beginning with Benedict’s book I was pulled back in.

    I think one aspect I really enjoyed is the fact that even though there were multiple plot threads and honestly a cast of dozens you never lost track of the main focus or characters. I an rereading the series again now because even having read along I have forgotten characters and events that were touched on.

  5. Darlynne
    Sep 07, 2013 @ 12:22:27

    Welcome to DA. I haven’t read your review yet because I’m a few books behind, but am thrilled to see the love for this series. Hopefully others will discover Lily and Rule. And Grandmother.

  6. mari
    Sep 07, 2013 @ 13:28:29

    It embaresess me to admit but I have never heard of this author! I love discovering new-to-me authors and it makes me happy to know there is an extensive backlist to glom. Bliss…
    Thanks for the review, will definitly check out Ms Wilks’ s oevre.

  7. Susan
    Sep 07, 2013 @ 14:50:46

    I confess that I bought the first several books in this series then never got around to starting it. Guess I need to rectify that!

    (BTW, the header grades the book as an A, but the grade at the end of the review is a B+. Not much difference, I know. Is one for the book and the other for the series?)

  8. JenM
    Sep 07, 2013 @ 17:06:07

    I absolutely adore this series and often wish it got more recognition. I’ve been savoring it slowly, so I’m only up to book 7 (Blood Challenge), but now that a new book is out, I think it’s time to read another one or two. I was thrilled also to pick up Ritual Magic at $4.55 since these books have never been discounted before. This is one of the few series that I reread since there are so many layers to it, and personally, I love Cullen and Cynna, so I didn’t mind at all that they got a whole book of their own.

  9. Nicole
    Sep 07, 2013 @ 19:52:55

    @Angela James: I’m glad to hear you say this. I was really into the first several books in this series, and my interest eventually waned, although I still read other books by Ms. Wilks. Maybe I’ll slog through the books that didn’t work so well for me and catch up…

  10. Dana S
    Sep 07, 2013 @ 22:17:49

    Oh shit. I forgot that this book had come out! I had it in my calendar for August and forgot to re-enter it when it got pushed back. Thanks for the review and the reminder!

    I absolutely love this series. It’s a great urban fantasy/paranormal/fantasy series. And you have no idea how happy I am that it has no stupid love triangle. IMO the first two books are the weakest and can be hard to get into but otherwise all the books in this series are in the B or A range.

  11. Laura
    Sep 08, 2013 @ 02:15:21

    Is there any Benedict and Arjenie in this one? I LOVED them in book…7? I wish EW would write at least one book with them as a primary couple, like she did for Cynna and Cullen.

  12. Kaetrin
    Sep 08, 2013 @ 03:46:42

    Welcome to DA Mary Kate :)

    The first book of this series has been on my wishlist for a while, but I bought it today after seeing your review. I have to start at the beginning but the first book comes highly recommended too. Also I had a 30% off coupon from Kobo so it was like the universe was sending me a message or something.

  13. Colleen
    Sep 08, 2013 @ 07:17:53

    I finished this book last and loved it along with all the rest of this series. The author wrapped up a few of the ongoing issues but left the bigger issues still open, perfect set up for the next book! Not a book to jump into the series with.

  14. Darlynne
    Sep 08, 2013 @ 09:33:10

    @Kaetrin: Don’t want to go OT, but is Kobo now discounting (or offering coupons for) former agency titles? I’ll go back to them if they are, crappy customer service notwithstanding, if that’s the case. Thanks.

  15. Mary Kate
    Sep 08, 2013 @ 12:12:15

    Thank you, everyone, for such a great welcome!

    @Laura, they did appear in this book – featured in a fairly strong supporting role. It probably wasn’t enough to fully satisfy an appetite for them, more like an amuse bouche – just enough to tease your palate.

  16. Lada
    Sep 08, 2013 @ 16:07:47

    Thanks for the review (though I haven’t read it yet because I’m way behind in this series) and welcome to DA!! I’m like a few others and fell off reading them when they focused on other characters. This review is a nice reminder that Wilks is a good UF writer and that I really did enjoy her world building and characters. Better yet, I just bought the ebook from BnN for $4.55!

  17. Connie
    Sep 08, 2013 @ 19:23:05

    Thank you so much for the review. This is a new to me author and I downloaded the first book (need to read series in order) and loved it. Loved Lily and Rule and especially Grandma! (Being closer to her age, so go Grandma) :-).

  18. Kaetrin
    Sep 09, 2013 @ 01:18:16

    @Darlynne: I think so. At least, I was able to use a coupon for the first one in this series and Lynn S on another thread said it includes Random Penguin titles now. :)

  19. Estara Swanberg
    Sep 09, 2013 @ 09:34:00

    Very much this, though I’m totally in awe that you get all of this without the prequels. I was lucky enough to discover this – I think via DearAuthor, actually – when it started and have been evangelizing it in the way of Kate Daniels and Mercy Thompson being such successes (the first novel in this series, Tempting Danger, came out two years before the first books of those other series). I love those two series, too, but the World of the Lupi has the most amazing balance between action (police detective story in the early books) and family/friends/negotiating a relationship of all of them – in the other two series the relationship thread is subsumed when something dramatic takes over – and it never is in this one, from the banal to the sublime (Lily’s connection to her grandmother, to Isen, to Toby, and of course to Rule – or the bff relationship that slows develops with Cynna).

    Not all the books are equally strong and I think she gets the balance right ever more, so the one complaint I have heard (I don’t have it as I am an sf&f reader used to long series and enjoying them) is that there’s no end to the story in sight yet – which to me is a plus.

    ETA: with regard to Cynna and Cullen, I think they worke really well as a secondary couple and sidekicks, and there is only one book where they take over – book 4 – which probably didn’t go over so well, because Wilks also transplanted the two to a completely other dimension for all of the book, almost.

    She hasn’t made that error with Benedict and Arjenie which is why that book worked much better. To be truthful, I did a full reread this year from the beginning and you could probably leave out Night Season and not lose much, if Cynna and Cullen aren’t your cups of tea.

    However I’m a bit annoyed that the novella which introduced Robert Friar and Humans First in detail isn’t available singly yet, that one is almost necessary to the storyline

    Buried Comment (Reason: spoiler)   Show

    it’s where Lily kills with her ability for the first time and learns that it’s not just a passive thing

  20. Estara Swanberg
    Sep 09, 2013 @ 09:38:26

    @Laura: Have you read the Christmas anthology Tied with a Bow? That has an all Benedict and Arjenie novella set directly after their book where Benedict gets to meet Arjenie’s family.

  21. elf
    Sep 09, 2013 @ 16:39:55

    Estara:
    Human Nature, the novella in the Inked anthology, is important for the introduction to Humans First, and we actually get to meet oily, nasty Robert Friar for the first time face-to-face. The part about how he’d have to destroy the glassware if he offered Rule a drink… what an ass! ;-)
    However, during the novella we, the readers, know what happened [the content of your spoiler], but Lily does not. She doesn’t remember what she’d done until it comes up again with the Chimea, right? There’s also the question of how Lily [ahem’d] the crazy telepath Helen of the Aza in the first book… she was in the same “state of mind” there as in Human Nature: protecting her mate, determined not to allow these crazy buggers to harm anyone.
    Just my thoughts.
    -elf

  22. elf
    Sep 09, 2013 @ 16:44:09

    Oh, and I agree that the novella in Tied With a Bow is one of the best of the series, if you like the pairing of Benedict and Arjenie. Part of that is we see Benedict vulnerable – who’d have thought, eh? It’s awesome in parts (Benedict the warrior) and cute in parts (Benedict the mate), and it’s set at Christmas (well, Solstice).
    Love this series! Have to stop gushing…
    -elf

  23. Estara Swanberg
    Sep 09, 2013 @ 21:53:42

    @elf: That’s why I’m wondering why this one of the earlier novellas hasn’t be released as a single ebook yet. I mean I was happy to find out how the heck Cullen got those shields (I hadn’t been buying the series when that novella came out) but it hasn’t really played into the main storyline – but the Humans First novella really connects to all those happenings with Lily and the overall main enemy, so hrrrm.

    That should be released singly, and (quite frankly) Arjenie’s and Benedict’s Christmas/solstice novella should be, too. Maybe they just need time, considering the other novellas have been released singly.

  24. Laura
    Sep 10, 2013 @ 17:59:38

    @Estara Swanberg:

    I literally just read that novella last night! :) It took me awhile to track the book down (and it’s expensive, given that I had no interest in two of the other stories and, to be honest, an active dislike for LL’s Breeds series). I enjoyed the dynamics between Arjenie and her family but I was a *little* bit disappointed at the lack of interaction between Arjenie and Benedict. For once, I would have been happy with less plot, more fluff and/or smut. :D

  25. Laura
    Sep 10, 2013 @ 18:01:23

    And I didn’t realise that I’d missed another novella. I was *wondering* where Robert Friar came from and how I’d overlooked him before. It’s a bit, I don’t know – I don’t really think authors should put actual important plot-building details in novellas. I tend to think of series novellas as being fun extras.

  26. Estara Swanberg
    Sep 11, 2013 @ 08:12:22

    @Laura: Very true. I only realised when I did my full reread this year and did NOT read any of the novellas except for Arjenie and Benedict’s which worked for me totally ^^.

    Buried Comment (Reason: spoiler)   Show

    I hadn’t remembered the amount of soul searching Lily does in the novels because of what happens in that one novella and that she suddenly knows her powers can kill (not just a shot via her gun, etc.) and the whole Robert Friar and his hategroup is introduced.

    And considering the first two novellas are now available seperately as ebooks, I do wonder why the third one isn’t. Nor the one in Tied with a Bow, but maybe that one is too recent to be able to be seperately published, hmm.

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