Book Review – ‘Dreams of Gods and Monsters’ (#3 Daughter of Smoke and Bone) by Laini Taylor

Dimensions, monsters, angels, forbidden love… and a drawn-out ending.

Genre: YA, Fantasy

No. of pages: 613

What power can bruise the sky?

Two worlds are poised on the brink of a vicious war. By way of a staggering deception, Karou has taken control of the chimaera’s rebellion and is intent on steering its course away from dead-end vengeance. The future rests on her.

When the brutal angel emperor brings his army to the human world, Karou and Akiva are finally reunited—not in love, but in a tentative alliance against their common enemy. It is a twisted version of their long-ago dream, and they begin to hope that it might forge a way forward for their people. And, perhaps, for themselves.

But with even bigger threats on the horizon, are Karou and Akiva strong enough to stand among the gods and monsters?

The epic conclusion to the Daughter of Smoke an Bone alludes to an epic battle between supernatural races that will spell out the future existence of mankind. I was so excited to see where Laini Taylor was going to take us and what fate lies for star-crossed lovers Karou and Akiva.

This is over 600 pages felt looong! I really think ‘Dreams of Gods and Monsters’ could have achieved the same thing at half its length. I want to say there was a heavy undercurrent of lamenting that didn’t sit well with me as a reader. I’m trying to pull positives out – I loved the chimera and their personalities; I love Suzanna and Mik with their quirky humour. But Akiva felt a bit two dimensional – I wanted more to his story than love and war. The concept of this trilogy is really interesting, the mythology feels unique but it didn’t envelop me like I was expecting. There was a kind-of twist at the end, but it did not surprise me… I was already forming those ideas in my head from the first novel, so I didn’t get any surprises, no world-shuddering climax… it just ended long-winded and underwhelming.

This series has shifted from being a character driven story in first person in the debut, to a plot driven story in the sequels… and has removed me father and father away from the story. I repeatedly kept putting down books 2 and 3 due to disinterest. I really wanted to love this series, but I’m afraid it all went downhill for me after the first book in the series. There felt like there was a lot going on – so many new characters and plot elements introduced in this concluding novel that it was all over the place. From what started as such an intimate and treasured story, it turned into a discombobulated mess. But that is just my preference, I always find my interest wanning on plot driven tales. I need to make an emotional connection to the characters and stay with them a while to really enjoy a read. If the story is jumping from character to character, place to place, and continually introducing new aspects to the story when it’s meant to be wrapping things up… well to bogs down the pacing considerably and makes me care less about the characters. It breaks an already established writing style, and all the hard work the author has put in is undone.

I had a hard time actually working out Karou’s arc for this conclusion – There wasn’t much growth for her character – it seemed to have already reached its precipice. This book was all about acceptance – letting her feel like she was allowed to take what she wanted. And because that’s what we’ve been working towards for a long time it didn’t feel as cathartic as it should’ve been.

The writing is beautiful, Laini Taylor has a gorgeous way of phrasing things. However, I wanted a more epic conclusion to this trilogy… it felt a little underwhelming and after the culminating event the story continued for a few chapters to wrap everything up – which I usually appreciate, but this just felt waffly. I’ve lost my love for this franchise – the concept is great but I quickly became bored and not a trilogy I’m particularly inclined to recommend. This first book is great, but after that…

Overall feeling: it all fell away into dust.

© Casey Carlisle 2023. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Days of Blood and Starlight’ (#2 Daughter of Smoke and Bone) by Laini Taylor

Uncovering Karou’s past with an angel may just bring about a war with monsters.

Genre: YA, Fantasy

No. of pages: 510

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a world free of bloodshed and war.

This is not that world.

Art student and monster’s apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is—and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she’ll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.

While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.

But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?

After falling in love with this franchise I’m excited to jump back into the dark academic world of Karou and her art college and cafe. Uncover more of the mythology of Angels and Chimera. And follow more of the forbidden love between Karou and Akiva… oh and see if she and stop a supernatural war.

I really hate admitting this, especially after loving ‘Daughter of Smoke and Bone’ so much, but ‘Days of Blood and Starlight,’ for the most part, was, well… boring. The pacing was slow, there was so much tedious content that didn’t drive the plot forward. I could summarize the entire book in a few pages and you wouldn’t feel like you missed anything. Granted the ending was pretty epic – a nice few plot twists; but the entire book leading up to those last few chapters was soul-suckingly dry. In fact I put this book aside a number of times to read other novels.

Where ‘Daughter of Smoke and Bone’ was told in first person from the perspective of Karou, we get multiple perspectives, and moments of omnipresence departing from the intimacy of the first person narrative in ‘Days of Blood and Starlight.’ It was fun at first, but then it became more and more scattered. Jumping backward and forward in moments in time solely for plot devices and reveals. I got a little discombobulated. Disorientated. It completely pulled me from the narrative and it was very hard to get lost in the world of Angels and Chimera in very short chapters jumping all over the place – not to mention that not a lot happened. Some posturing from the White Wolf and Karou whining about events that ‘Daughter of Smoke and Bone’ ended on… now she was basically in a holding pattern.

I felt like Karou had lost her mojo. She was being manoeuvred. Controlled. All of her independence, adventurous spirit, inquisitiveness was gone. It didn’t make for thrilling reading. All the things I loved about ‘Daughter of Smoke and Bone:’ the first person POV, the urban fantasy genre, the dynamics of Karou’s found family, and unravelling a mystery – this sequel delivered a scattered narrative geared more towards high fantasy, a bunch of new characters that did not interact with each other much, and those that did, was precursory. The one shining light was Zuzanna popping back into Karou’s life. And that was pretty much it. Karou and Akiva’s relationship felt like some whingy complicated thing that tried to be angsty. I lost all investment I had for them.

I wanted to fall in love with this book so badly, but it just didn’t happen. I perused over some reviews on Goodreads, just to check that I wasn’t having a brain embolism, and was gratified to find that there are others who share my opinion, so now I don’t feel so bad about my dislike for this middle book.

I’ve invested a lot of time in this series already, and with only the final book to go, ‘Dreams of Gods and Monsters,’ and that cliff-hanger – so I’ll definitely continue going on with the franchise. But I think I will have to reserve judgment on my recommendation until the completing the last of the trilogy, because the first two books are practically polar opposites. The conclusion will be the tie breaker….

Overall feeling: save me please.

© Casey Carlisle 2023. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

#bookporn #coverlove

Who has been loving the ‘Shadow and Bone’ television series? I’ve yet to read this duology, and have to get to it before season three comes out… just in case there are spoilers. Plus, King Nikolai is my favourite character from the franchise.

Book Review – ‘The Bane Chronicles’ by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan and Maureen Johnson

Glimpses into Warlock Magnus’ past…

Genre: YA, Urban Fantasy, LGBT+

No. of pages: 507

Immortal warlock Magnus Bane’s life has been long, adventure-filled, and never dull. Though snippets of his past have been hinted at in the Mortal Instruments and the Infernal Devices, here his deepest secrets are revealed: his involvement in the French Revolution, his witness to the speakeasies and sleaze of Prohibition, and his place in smuggling Camille Belcourt… or his first date with Alec Lightwood.

Eleven stories in this collection fill many a delightful gap in Magnus Bane’s colourful history. Shadowhunter fans won’t want to miss a single delicious detail.

This read like a contemporary autobiography – you know the ones where there’s a bunch of essays of certain events? Each chapter deals with a different place, topic, or time, filling in gaps between the events that have taken place in The Mortal Instruments series and The Infernal Devices trilogy. It is all told in that chaotic and humorous tone that we have come to associate with Magnus Bane. I laughed out loud so many times that this book has become my instant most favourite book of the Shadowhunter universe to date.

Don’t expect a storyline, don’t expect any major reveals or new characters, this is just a fun peek into Magnus’s life that is totally all about fan service! It was great to get a little more background on many characters from the previously published books, and get to spend more time with the early times of Magnus and Alec’s relationship. I have to say I was squee-ing like a tween at the adorableness of this couple.

I was hoping for a more in-depth peek, and maybe a glimpse into the future of Magnus and Alec but I’m certain they will pop up again later in the books that follow this one.

The narrative style is very tongue-in-cheek, and makes light of serious situations (much like Magnus does) but has some heart to it. I feel like we could have gotten to know Magnus better, but it is what it is. And my impression of this collection of short stories is purely down to entertainment value and fangirl service.

It doesn’t necessarily expand the Shadowhunter universe any, but if you love the Magnus/Alec pairing than this is catnip for you.

Overall feeling: My Heart!!

© Casey Carlisle 2023. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Daughter of Smoke and Bone’ (#1 Daughter of Smoke and Bone) by Laini Taylor

Great start to and interesting trilogy with angels and monsters… and a alt-chick in art college.

Genre: YA, Fantasy

No. of pages: 418

Around the world, black hand prints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”, she speaks many languages – not all of them human – and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

A great urban fantasy with an interesting twist on the angel genre. I’m not a fan of the angel genre in the first place, hence the long period of time it has taken me to start reading this trilogy since I was convinced to purchase the books. I was pleasantly delighted to discover the world building and mythology – it’s not necessarily religious, more of accessing a different dimension. And it was fascinating to learn all about the chimera.

Karou is an intriguing protagonist, and learning about the world through her eyes as a courier-fetch girl raised by chimera, sending her on tasks to collect teeth from customers. Otherwise, Karou is attending art college and loves to hang out with her bestie at an oddity of a café. It gives me a little bit of The Mortal Instrument vibes, but I really enjoyed the artsy world and the unusualness of chimera… and the secrecy behind it, and Karou is thirsty to find out more.

The tone and atmosphere is dark academia and mystery and it completely drew me in. I want to unravel the mysteries and love the college aesthetic. It gives me alt-chick vibes.

Then there is Akiva, an angel that appears in Karou’s life that she is inexplicably attracted to. And it’s not the fluffy feathered winged variety of angel you usually get in this genre, but more like a fire/molten lava special effect with his wings… kind of like a holy fire type of thing which was fun to read. There is also a hint that there is a past between them which doesn’t make sense because Karou has spent her whole life being raised by a found family of chimera. It was refreshing to read that there isn’t necessarily an antagonist – or bad guys at this point in time. Especially with monsters being in the mix. Taylor does a great job of humanising them and building relationships and community.

I got intrigued about the past lives angle, or maybe Karou’s soul from in a different place/time… It left me interested in finding out more.

The writing style is melodic and artful in itself without being too elitist. I was easy sucked into the world of Karou and her chimera, and finished the book in two settings. The pacing is consistent throughout and I was never bored in any place of the narrative. The book ends on a few twists and cliff-hanger that had me keen to jump into book two, ‘Days of Blood and Starlight.

A solid recommendation from me, which is saying something because I’m not the biggest fan of fantasy – but this one really drew me in.

Overall feeling: Colour me impressed

© Casey Carlisle 2023. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘City of Heavenly Fire’ (#6 The Mortal Instruments) by Cassandra Clare

The Shadowhunter gang rally once again to fight enemies from all sides.

Genre: YA, Urban Fantasy, LGBT+

No. of pages: 733

Clary and her friends fight the greatest evil they have ever faced: Clary’s own brother.

Sebastian Morgenstern is on the move, systematically turning Shadowhunter against Shadowhunter. Bearing the Infernal Cup, he transforms Shadowhunters into creatures out of nightmare, tearing apart families and lovers as the ranks of his Endarkened army swell.

The embattled Shadowhunters withdraw to Idris – but not even the famed demon towers of Alicante can keep Sebastian at bay. And with the Nephilim trapped in Idris, who will guard the world against demons?

When one of the greatest betrayals the Nephilim have ever known is revealed, Clary, Jace, Isabelle, Simon, and Alec must flee – even if their journey takes them deep into the demon realms, where no Shadowhunter has set foot before, and from which no human being has ever returned…

Love will be sacrificed and lives lost in the terrible battle for the fate of the world.

What a lovely ending to The Mortal Instruments series. It was fun getting to revisit characters I’d fallen in love with 10 years ago. When I started book #4, after having watched the television adaptation my disappointment grew as the book and plot had been spoiled for me – should have known that, I don’t know why I thought any different. ‘City of Heavenly Fire,’ however was so different to the television show, I got to experience it for the first time.

This is a chunker of a novel, and the first couple of hundred of pages felt paced a little slow. We are introduced to a slew of new characters. At first I wasn’t sure why we were spending so much time with them, but by the end it’s obvious Cassandra Clare did this on purpose to set up her next trilogy in the Shadowhunter universe. I really enjoyed my time reading this book, but felt it was a little too long, and had moments where this got waffly. There were also a few times where I felt like the author had a checklist of things she wanted to explore and resolve and the scenes did not feel organic to the plot or character motivation. But that is me nit-picking as to the reasons why I didn’t feel like I completely got into ‘City of Heavenly Fire.‘

Cassandra Clare is the master of drama and plot twists, but for some reason this finale did not feel as big as her other novels. I didn’t get all that emotional, the reveals lacked some wow factor… or maybe I’m turning into some sardonic robot and I’m going dead inside? As I said before, I really enjoyed ‘City of Heavenly Fire,’ but it just didn’t have the punch I was expecting – especially with such a huge word count.

Clare’s writing style is as breezy as ever, once I got through the first quarter the pacing picked up and I fell into the regular rhythm and completed the book in one sitting from the halfway point onwards. I loved that we got to explore new places, new characters, and the gang had to work together to face down seemingly insurmountable odds. There is still the silly teen humour and sarcasm at weird moments that is fun, but we can really see how these characters have grown, and they are not so bumbling anymore. Though, I was surprised at the juxtaposition of the Clave – one moment praising our group as hero’s, and the next dismissing them as inexperienced teens who don’t know enough to weigh in on important matters… I mean, pick a lane Clave!

The resolution, or epilogue, where we sort out the character arcs and development was a little meh. I felt, though sweet, we could have gotten a little more insight into their future directions. It just resolved some emotional issues and then ended. I don’t know if that means these characters are going to be revisited in future novels in the universe, or that’s all we get. It was a little of that flipping through the last couple of pages wondering if there were some missing…

The main plot was outstanding. The elevation of antagonists, the theme of the Clave turning on itself and politics of the Downworlders really builds a realistic tapestry with the Shadowhunter universe. Things constantly change and grow, alliances shift, people in power are succeeded… I’m not usually one to enjoy political manoeuvrings that much in novels, but Cassandra Clare has a flare in her writing. The machinations of the political climate are so clearly character motivated that it is engaging to read.

So, I’m glad I’ve finally gotten around to finishing this series, the characters have earned a place in my heart. I would have liked a more succinct story, and a more explosive and resolute ending, but The Mortal Instrument series is hard to deny why it is so epic, so popular. It is the cornerstone for urban fantasy for me, and for a genre that I’m not all that into, that is saying something. A definite recommend for me. I feel the YA demographic will appreciate the themes of identity, found family, coming of age, morality, and paranormal elements all wrapped up in teen drama and angst.

Overall feeling: That was a journey!

© Casey Carlisle 2023. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘The Siren’ by Kiera Cass

A wishy-washy, practically white-washed tale of Greek mythological creatures.

Genre: YA, Fantasy

No. of pages: 327

“You must never do anything that might expose our secret. This means that, in general, you cannot form close bonds with humans. You can speak to us, and you can always commune with the Ocean, but you are deadly to humans. You are, essentially, a weapon. A very beautiful weapon. I won’t lie to you, it can be a lonely existence, but once you are done, you get to live. All you have to give, for now, is obedience and time…”

The same speech has been given hundreds of times to hundreds of beautiful girls who enter the sisterhood of sirens. Kahlen has lived by these rules for years now, patiently waiting for the life she can call her own. But when Akinli, a human, enters her world, she can’t bring herself to live by the rules anymore. Suddenly the life she’s been waiting for doesn’t seem nearly as important as the one she’s living now.

The mythology of Sirens is interpreted in this young adult centric world of partying and pretty dresses. The work of a Siren is isolating and deadly – calling sailors to their death. But as Kahlen begins to question why things are as they are, will it mean her death or the destruction of the things she holds most dear?

This was a quick and easy read. It drew me into the narrative well enough and kept me engaged, but wasn’t what I would call outstanding. I liked how it explored the themes of control, abuse, loneliness and depression. The mythology is solid, but there is something about this story that I can’t quite identify that it missed. Maybe it was the frozen maturity of the Sirens – who are meant to be well past 50 years old, yet still acting like superficial teens. The characters felt underdeveloped.

There was a wide range of ethnicity, but we don’t see their culture being represented. It felt mostly white-washed.

The Sirens were allowed to have some semblance of a life outside their duties demanded by the Ocean, but we only hear about clubbing, shopping, reading, and painting. I would go nuts if that was all I was doing for 80 odd years. I just feel like there was so much missed opportunity for the girls to grow and develop… or heck even use their powers in a more subtle way to expand their worldly view. This book felt like it was written by, and for tweens. There wasn’t a lot of complexity in the characters or with the plot.

The romance felt sweet, but fell under the trope of ‘instalove’ for me. I would have liked to see it develop a bit more and see them falling for each other for more than their looks and one or two superficial interests.

Kahlen wasn’t a particularly engaging protagonist. She’s pretty much a goody-two-shoes in the Siren stakes. She also does not engage much with the other Sirens, or with the general population; but instead whines about how unfortunate her predicament is, how guilty she feels for luring many to their deaths. It would be a great starting point for an interesting character arc, but unfortunately that is all she does. I was hoping to see her try to make amends for her actions. Challenge the Ocean harder, explore the reasons why she has to do what she does, seek help to deal with her guilt and grief. But all in all she is an incredibly passive character.

Cass’ writing style is somewhat melodic, but given that the Sirens travel the globe, visit exotic places and explore the ocean, I was expecting a lot more atmosphere – a balance of the beautiful and the terrifying. There was no mention of the creatures living in the ocean, of pollution, of the wonders of the deep. I felt let down. But the word choice and sentence structure is lent to that younger end of the YA demographic, so I can see them being able to digest this easily, and if enraptured by the fantasy of looking pretty, having little responsibility, going shopping and clubbing and staying young for 100 years, they will enjoy this.

I still don’t understand what the thing about the Ocean constructing prom dresses for the Sirens out of salt was all about – was it to keep modesty for the characters given the target market? The other thing that got me was an 80 year old woman, with a big chunk of life experience, still did not know how to style her hair or put on makeup. I mean come on!

Despite the glaring contextual issues and plot holes ‘The Siren’ is a pleasant and easy read that was nice escapism, but it felt a little flat and underdeveloped. But having discovered that this was Cass’ first attempt at writing a novel, and had been passed on by many publishers, and only later published due to the popularity of The Selection series, I  can understand this novel a little better in this light. But maybe the publishers should have done a better developmental edit to help Cass really shine and keep an upward momentum in her catalogue.

Overall feeling: cute, but… meh!

© Casey Carlisle 2023. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘City of Lost Souls’ (#5 The Mortal Instruments) by Cassandra Clare

Can true love really be corrupted?

Genre: YA, Urban Fantasy LGBT+

No. of pages: 544

Jace is now a servant of evil, bound for all eternity to Sebastian. Only a small band of Shadowhunters believe he can be saved. To do this they must defy the Clave. And they must act without Clary. For Clary is playing a dangerous game utterly alone. The price of losing is not just her own life, but Jace’s soul. Clary is willing to do anything for Jace, but can she still trust him? Or is he truly lost? What price is too high to pay, even for love?

We see this franchise start to get its legs again with our MC couple being splint and placed in opposing sides. Sebastian (Clary’s brother) being our main antagonist and seeing himself as the love interest… um yuck, do we need to re-visit the whole incest thing again. This whole situation is a massive test of Clary and Jace’s love. Cue all that delicious angst!

I feel like Clary is using some of her newly learnt skills, but hasn’t completely learnt from her past experiences. While I love this character development, I can feel the hand of the author guiding the story by making Clary impulsive at times. 

The Alec-Magnus storyline is starting to frustrate me… is it really needed? They are my favourite characters, but the way this was written it felt superfluous to the plot. Are they there just to tread water until a plot point in a later book?

Simon and Isabelle are so cute and I’m living for it. But the whole Maia-Jordan thing feels unneeded. Maybe because they aren’t the OG group? I don’t know, I wasn’t as invested in their story, and they got quite a bit of the narrative. I could have used with a much shorter presence just to tie up their plot points.

Joslyn effectively all but disappeared despite being an active Shadowhunter and present in Clary’s life. Felt like missed opportunity for tension, and a forgotten aspect on Cassandra Clare’s behalf. Especially as Clary and Jace are getting more intimate (and he is now evil?) I was really hoping for more of a family dynamic to build tension.

Really loving the direction of the story. I typically don’t get into fantasy as much these days, but ‘City of Lost Souls’ completely dragged me in.

Having a clash of characters introduced in The Infernal Devices present in this continuation of The Mortal Instruments has been a delight. Loving the connected/extended universe.

Again, I wish the television adaptation hadn’t spoiled this book for me; but nonetheless another enjoyable read for the franchise. I was engaged the whole way through. There were moments where I was skimming ahead from non-important minutiae and details. Also, there’s starting to get a lot of repetition of sayings and descriptions – a good editor could have picked this up. We don’t need to be constantly reminded of obvious facts or that when someone is walking barefoot that they are padding somewhere… just minor details that irked me

There were slight differences to the tv show apparent at the end, which was a sliver of hope that the final book can bring more surprises and I won’t feel like I’m reading a written summary. 

City of Lost Souls’ did feel a tad too long, but it was not reflected in the pacing. 

Overall feeling: Oh the torture (the good kind)

© Casey Carlisle 2023. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘The Fascinators’ by Andrew Eliopulos

Outlawed magic, a group of teens, and a new romance…

Genre: Y/A, Fantasy, Romance, LGBT

No. of pages: 352

Living in a small town where magic is frowned upon, Sam needs his friends James and Delia—and their time together in their school’s magic club—to see him through to graduation.

But as soon as senior year starts, little cracks in their group begin to show. Sam may or may not be in love with James. Delia is growing more frustrated with their amateur magic club. And James reveals that he got mixed up with some sketchy magickers over the summer, putting a target on all their backs.

With so many fault lines threatening to derail his hopes for the year, Sam is forced to face the fact that the very love of magic that brought his group together is now tearing them apart—and there are some problems that no amount of magic can fix.

A small town gay romance with outlawed magic thrown in – this sounds like such a great premise and definitely roped me in. Especially the dreamy cover art!

The blurb sounded really exciting… the execution of the story was somewhat lack lustre. I found the pacing slow throughout, and the climax – well there was no climax. I’m still scratching my head trying to decipher what this story was all about. It reads like just a bit of a story, an instalment in a series. But given this story was so long, and not a lot happened, and the ending was kinda… blah. Well I just don’t see myself investing in this any further even if it does franchise. The characters weren’t particularly interesting. They all felt fairly vanilla.

We start off for the majority of the book following Sam’s POV but in the second half we get small chapters or paragraphs from other random characters POV’s – it came out of nowhere and flew in the face of what had already been established as the mode of storytelling. It was a little jarring at first.

The writing style is nice. But I often found my mind wondering while I was reading, and when I snapped back to reality to find I’d completed a page, only to have to re-read it to find out what I missed… that’s not a great sign. I needed richer prose, better world building, some angst and tension in the characters that drive the plot forward. There were elements of all of this, and I feel if this book had been more heavily edited it would have met the brief. It has a lovely feel about it, but on the whole a tad waffly.

I can see the potential of Andrew Eliopulos, but I feel ‘The Fascinators’ would have performed better from a heavier hand in a developmental edit to make the plot more explosive and really jump from the page, and a content edit to help reduce superfluous words and let the characters and world building shine.

I want to say this was a very predictable story – but I can’t. It doesn’t feel finished. It has to be the biggest disappointment for an end to a novel I’ve read in a very long time. I did not get a sense of completion, or of hope; instead I was flipping through those last pages wondering if there was something I had missed.

I’m sorry but this is one book I won’t be recommending to my friends. They would feel as despondent as I am. Which is such a shame. Eliopulos has all the tools to be a great storyteller, but this one just needed a little more work.

Overall feeling: Where’s the rest?

© Casey Carlisle 2023. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.