Art by Paul Young
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
First published: 2 October 2012
This edition published: 4 October 2012
On the cover:
(Taken from the Strange Chemistry website)
15-year-old Julie Richardson is about to learn that being the daughter of a witch isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. When she and her best friend, Marcus, witness an elderly lady jettisoned out the front door of her home, it’s pretty obvious to Julie there’s a supernatural connection.
In fact, there’s a whisper of menace behind increasing levels of poltergeist activity all over town. After a large-scale paranormal assault on Julie’s high school, her mother falls victim to the spell Endless Night. Now it’s a race against time to find out who is responsible or Julie won’t just lose her mother’s soul, she’ll lose her mother’s life.
I was planning to review this book on release, but then I went into my unplanned blogging hiatus. And when it comes to reviewing this book, I'm glad that happened. It gave me time to get a better perspective on the book. You see, I didn't really connect with it. And when I first planned to review it I blamed that solely on the book. Now that I can look at it from a distance of a few months, I've realized that it was actually mostly down to me, and I am capable of giving a much more objective review.
Lets begin with what I didn't like, or more correctly what made me not connect with the book. There's a romantic angle to the story that is given quite a lot of space. I'm not generally a fan of romance in SFF, and the way it was done here was not to my taste at all. Not because it was badly done, it isn't. Cummings has captured pretty much dead on the awkwardness of teenage/first love. And that was why I had such a problem with it. You see, I'm rapidly approaching forty and am done with that a long time ago. In fact I've turned into quite the cynical bastard when it comes to awkward love, and teenage style drama. (I could go into details here, but this is a book review, not my autobiography.) That it is captured pretty much exactly as it actually is, when seen in retrospect, made it uninteresting to me.
This problem was magnified for me by the feeling I got that the "love angle" took away from the main story. The "drama" did slow down the other parts of the story, and that was annoying for me considering how I felt about it in the first place.
But as I said above, this was my personal feeling about something I didn't connect with. Something I perhaps, as someone about twenty years older than the main target audience for the book, wasn't really the right person to connect with anyway. So I'll say again, that this part of the story was both well done, and realistic. So if it is something you like, it will definitively be something that should make you pick up the book.
The book literally gets off to a flying start. The reader is thrown right into the middle of things without any form of setup at all. This can be a bit jolting, but it works very well in pulling you in and hooking you into the novel. There's an instant "need" to see where this is heading.
Cummings writes very good action sequences, and the book is at its best when there's paranormal events going on. As you can gather from the title, this events are poltergeistly (, surely that is a word,) in nature for the most part. But we do get to see the main character, Julie Richardson, engage in a more direct confrontation in the later stages of the novel. This is also very well handled, and Cummings manages to convey a lot of tension when he writes the action.
Being a book with a witch as the main character there's of course some magic in the novel. This is well handled, and has a solid foundation in real magic. But having said that, and having read quite a bit about magic myself, I did feel that it could have been a bit more focus on the hows and whys of magic in this story. There's a slight tendency to it being taken as granted. Or perhaps a better way of saying it, is that I felt like Cummings did take for granted that the reader was familiar with the basics of magic. To me this made the magic in the book a bit bland, it doesn't really have something that sets it apart from other books that contain Wicca style magic.
That being said, there are some really interesting ideas about magic, especially when it comes directly to Julie, in this book. I expect that to be explored in a follow up volume.
All in all, this very much has the feeling of a first volume. An introduction, or a set up, for a character. And it does that job very well, you come away with the feeling that this is a setting, and a set of characters, that you would want to return to at a later date.
I've mentioned the romantic angle of the book extensively. But despite my problems with that, I think this is a good book. It is worthy of a read, and there's enough in there to keep even the non-romantic interested.
For those that are interested in witches working in modern times, I would say that this is an essential read. And the above mentioned romance should be perfect for those that like that.
I know I will be returning to a follow up to this book, and I'm looking forward to see what happens next with Julie. (Hopefully she gets laid before the next book so there's not so much frustrating romance.)
NOTE: And ARC of this book was given to me by the publisher.