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Urban-Fantasy

REVIEW:  Kindling the Moon by Jenn Bennett

REVIEW: Kindling the Moon by Jenn Bennett

kindling the moon jenn bennett review

 

Dear Ms. Bennett:

 

The first book in the Arcadia Bell series has been sitting on my shelf for months now, waiting for me to turn around and find myself in just the right head space to pick it up. It comes highly recommended across the board, but it was the praise from Sarah over at Clear Eyes, Full Shelves that had me committed to giving the series a shot. Is it weird to admit that I think part of what kept me from picking it up is that the world and/or characters seemed to be so magic-based? I never realized it before, but when it comes to my paranormal reading I definitely trend shifter/vamp as opposed to witch/demon. Stereotypes aside, I think the appeal lies in the physicality of those creatures and (in the case of shifters) in the constant battle between their dual natures. And, for whatever reason, I don’t often respond as positively to the more nebulous (albeit often subtler) powers of witches, demons, part-demons, etc. So I may have gone in a bit prejudiced, a bit worried Arcadia might not be the girl for me.

 

Arcadia Bell is a little bit of everything and a whole hella private. Proprietress of her very own tiki bar and amateur magician, she’s put a lot of time and effort into flying under the radar. In a world dominated by powerful magical factions where so-called Earthbound demons live side by side with humans, she’s just a small blip on the radar. Except that she’s totally not. The only child of one of the most infamous sorcerer couples in history, she went into hiding after her parents were accused of a series of murders that set the occult world on its head. For the last seven years, she’s been on her own. But when her parents’ case resurfaces and their innocence is once again called into question, Cady embarks on a mission to clear their names. A friend puts her in contact with somewhat shady demonologist Lon Butler who has, among his many questionable talents and possessions, an unparalleled magical library. Trust is in short supply, but Cady and Lon agree to collaborate as Cady is under a bit of a time crunch and Lon finds the case fascinating on a number of levels. They don’t have to dig very deep to encounter everything from cover-ups to secret societies, and before long everything Arcadia thought was true about her life is thrown into question.

 

It took me about 100 pages or so to fall into the rhythm of Cady’s world. I liked her from the very beginning. She’s independent. She has a sense of humor. And she likes to have fun. Perhaps most importantly, she likes her magic. She’s good at it. It’s what she does in her free time, always creating new spells, testing them out, learning more. I’ve read so many heroines who fear their magic, are ashamed of their magic, hide it for whatever reason. And that’s fine. But it was sort of freeing to read about a girl who, for all the hiding she did have to do, was up front about that bit of her genetic makeup. It becomes an issue at certain key points, with the few people close to her who don’t understand or who view things differently, and I like that it was important enough to her to be an issue despite all the reasons it would have been better if she turned her back on it altogether. I did struggle a bit finding my bearings in the drenching sorcerous politics of her world. The different demons were complex and many, and I occasionally lost focus trying to sort them out in my head. Lon brought an interesting angle to the whole thing, as I am nothing if not intrigued by renegade demonic intellectuals with their own private grimoire libraries. But then he had to go and sport a blonde pirate mustache and ruin all my fantasies. He was pretty darn prickly to go with it. Lon grew on me, though. With his hilariously endearing teenage son and his extremely murky origins.

 

I perused the bookshelves behind Lon while he sat with his feet propped up on the desk and thumbed through his tandem memory spells, reading the descriptions aloud to me.

 

Memory Erase by Time Period designate a length of time to eradicate thoughts.

 

“Nope.”

 

Memory Erase by Subject: designate a subject to remove from subject’s memory.”

 

“No, but you should keep that one marked. That could come in handy.”

 

He plopped a blue marker in the crease, then flipped to the next entry. “Complete Memory Erase: wipe out all memories of events, places, names, times. Jesus, that’s dangerous. Remind me to put this book in the locked cabinet. If Jupe got a hold of this . . . Okay, hold on. Memory Restoring.” He flipped through several pages then started reading to himself in low mumble, taking his feet off the desk.

 

“What? Did you find one? Memory Restore by Time Period?”

 

“I found it.”

 

“So? What’s the spell? Does it need kindled Heka?” I leaned over his shoulder and read. “Memory Restore, otherwise known as ‘The Wheel.’ Push and pull magical energies to ignite slow memory restoration gently. That sounds like an overnight laxative.” I grinned at him.

 

“Ha, ha,” he said dourly, getting up from his seat to stand.

 

“Lighten up,” I elbowed him in the shoulder, then continued reading. “Magick for The Wheel must be charged with fluids from sexual arousal . . .‘” My voiced tapered off. “Oh.”

 

“Mmm-hmm.”

 

Yes, Lon grew on me just fine. And it was when the humor and the romance began to work together that the story really took off for me. Lon is a single father and has sole custody of his son Jupe. He is understandably cagey about his small family. This dynamic (along with the age difference between he and Cady) provided an added layer of complexity and emotion to their fledgling relationship.

 

Cady doesn’t harbor as much self-loathing as has become almost standard in a lot of urban fantasy heroines. Her confidence and willingness to go for what she wants impressed me. And yet she is consistently held back by the circumstances of her enforced anonymity and the actions of her cryptic parents. I became more and more afraid as her investigation progressed that the answers she found would bind rather than free her.

 

Kar Yee drew up her mouth as she stroked Mr. Piggy. “You are the most guarded person I’ve ever met, Cady. I think you have some black luck following you around.”

 

“You have no idea,” I muttered.

 

“You might be unlucky, but I don’t think you’re a bad seed, or I wouldn’t be in business with you, no matter how long we’ve known each other.”

 

That was true. Money was a very serious matter to her.

 

“But I think you need to get rid of what’s dragging you down,” she said. “Tear it out by the roots and be done with it. You should be happy, enjoying life.” She held up her hand and began holding up fingers. “One, you have a good job—”

 

“I don’t know if I’d call it good, exactly.”

 

“It’s good, trust me. And two, you are a smart and fair sorcerer—”

 

“Sometimes.”

 

“—and three, you are very pretty, for a white American.”

 

“Gee, thanks.”

 

“Your life should be better than it is.”

 

Kar Yee always had a way of cutting something down to its simplest form. She was right: my life should be better.

 

I appreciated how Cady’s thirst to not only reclaim her life but improve the quality of that life was the driving force behind her actions. She is also never too stupid to live and while she admits her mistakes, she never regards herself as terminally unlovable because of them. All in all, a very promising start. My copy of the sequel is on its way. B

 

Cheers,

Angie

Angie is a bookish sort with a soft spot for urban fantasy, YA, historicals, and mysteries. Ever since she read The Witch of Blackbird Pond and made the acquaintance of one Nat Eaton, stories with no romantic subplot need not apply. Her favorite authors include Robin McKinley, Juliet Marillier, Sharon Shinn, Mary Stewart, Megan Whelan Turner, Kristin Cashore, Patricia Briggs, Ilona Andrews, and Ellen Emerson White. You can find Angie at her blog www.angie-ville.com or on Twitter @angiebookgirl.

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REVIEW:  Realm Walker by Kathleen Collins

REVIEW: Realm Walker by Kathleen Collins

Realm Walkers Kathleen Collins

Dear Ms. Collins,

There’s something almost guilty about watching two characters who should be together, and aren’t, interact. It’s even more decadently wicked when the two people in question are married – and can’t see what’s in front of their noses. Such is the case with Agency Walker Juliana Norris and her estranged vampire master husband, Thomas. It’s enough to have Atlantic Starr’s “Secret Lovers” playing in the background – though not for the reason the song suggests. When Thomas comes back to town to claim his wayward bride, he’s in for a somewhat rude awakening. The cadre of people he’s been squeezing for information about his mate seems to enjoy playing matchmaker for the pair, even as Juliana and Thomas are forced to fight for their lives against a specter from their pasts and a demon who delights in taunts, both of them revealing secrets in a dark comedy of errors that could have far reaching consequences for them all.

As much as I enjoyed the story and characters, I’m afraid to say that a lot of the plot was boilerplate and rather forgettable – though, in its defense, it flowed beautifully. It’s a standard gifted, bad-ass female with a secret meets brooding, super powerful vampire with secrets and they’re surrounded by friends who have secrets love story. While the slightly surprise magical fix to the demon infestation problem was well crafted and a pleasant surprise, it just came off as a little “meh.”

Juliana, as the protagonist, is well developed. She’s strong, mentally and physically, and she tends to think outside the box – which she definitely needs when dealing with everything in her life, especially the demons. The problem with her, though, is that she spends way too much time in pain. If she’s not been beaten senseless physically, she’s been battered emotionally and wants to drink her cares away. Let’s not mention how many times she’s died. At one point, it even becomes a self-referential joke. I flashed back to the movie “Pitch Perfect” and the line “We get it. You have NODES.” Of course, I’d have to paraphrase slightly to “We get it. You’ve DIED before.” Honey, in this genre, it’s the rare heroine who hasn’t died / had a near death experience / had a dead dream lover / dealt with some other kind of death fetish. Death has become the new black, and it’s everywhere.

I’m a little torn on Thomas. The dark, broody vampire thing has become so overdone that you might as well stick a fork in it. Thomas broods so much that I wanted to reach under him to check for eggs. I wanted to see a little more of him, get a bit more of the personality besides the Team Edward oldest fan aspect. Most of the time, he came across as flat and possessive. I didn’t really feel or see the love aspect. On the other hand, he did have flashes of brilliance where I couldn’t help but grin at him, no matter how over the top the situation. Throughout the story, it’s clear that he cares for her, but I don’t know that the love can overcome his static feeling. It’s not giving away too much to say that Thomas arranges for Juliana to have access to Elder Vampire Blood (his, of course – he couldn’t have his precious wife drinking a lesser vintage). Only he has his lackey NOT tell Juliana that it’s Thomas’ blood. And that…left me with a very strange question. See, I figured that if a pair was as mated and bonded as Juliana and Thomas, she might be able to tell the vintage. Apparently, though, all blood tastes the same. Who knew?

I enjoyed the supporting cast of characters, though some of them felt quite interchangeable – particularly Juliana’s boss, Jeremiah, and her boss’ boss (I think?), Ben. Nathaniel and Michael, Juliana’s partner and best friend, respectively, are very well done – I wanted to see a whole lot more of Michael. The interplay between the two way too brief. Actually, even in their short interludes, they had more chemistry than Juliana and Thomas.

All in all, I wanted things to be a little tighter and a little more memorable. I enjoyed the book, but it was easy to put down and didn’t grip me as much as it had the potential for. The ingredients were there, but it could have stood a bit more mixing and a little extra time in the oven.

As always, thank you for sharing a piece of your mental universe with readers. A little escapism never goes awry. For this being your first book as well as the first book in the series, I think you did well – and I look forward to reading more as you grow as an author. C-

Mary Kate

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