RogerBW's Blog

Justice Calling, Annie Bellet 02 February 2017

2014 modern fantasy/romance. Jade Crow runs a comics-and-games shop in Wylde, Idaho, where lots of magical creatures congregate. She's hiding from someone. But she isn't going to be able to stay hidden.

Let's deal with the elephant, or rather mouse, in the room first: at 24,000 words this is a short novella rather than a novel, so don't pay full book price for it, and don't expect more than the basics; there's no room for much in the way of character development, and the necessary background infodumps to get the series started mean that the plot has to be pretty simple too.

The short version: Jade Crow had really bad relationship problems, of the potentially helping end the world sort never mind probably dying, and has been hiding out for the last twenty years so as not to come to the ex's attention. And she's a sorceress, which is a type of magician that other magical creatures distrust. But now one of the judge-jury-executioner types of the shapeshifter community has rolled into town and is going to cause Upset.

Oh, and he's extremely hawt.

This is basically literary junk-food, but Bellet is a competent writer and it's junk-food that tastes good. There's a serious, pivotal, life-changing moment… that you'll miss if you blink, because we have to get on to the next bit and words ain't free. If this were the first section of a single novel, some of the world-building could be punted into the rest of the book and the stuff that stayed could be expanded; this feels more like the notes for the book.

There's only one real wrong note for me, a reference to the "Dungeons and Dragons Player's Guide" which… no, it was always the Players' Handbook. Especially for someone who grew up playing D&D in the 1980s. It's the sort of thing that no gamer would get wrong, and the author's error makes the heroine's gamer credentials come over as fake. (It's already a bit of an uphill struggle, because: why do you need fantasy escapism in a life that already has fantasy and magic and stuff? There are several potentially good answers to that, but we don't get any of them here.)

It looks as though the next few books in the series get slightly longer, but not much. Definitely not to be taken seriously. Followed by Murder of Crows.

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