Book Review: Magic of Thieves by C. Greenwood

Cover Magic of Thieves
Cover Magic of Thieves

Book: Magic of Thieves

Series: Legends of Dimmingwood, Book 1

Author: C. Greenwood

Genres: Fantasy


Synopsis (from Amazon book page):

“In a province where magic is forbidden and its possessors are murdered by the cruel Praetor, young Ilan, born with the powerful gift of her ancestors, has only one hope for survival. Concealment. In the shadow of Dimmingwood, she finds temporary protection with a band of forest brigands led by the infamous outlaw Rideon the Red Hand.

But as Ilan matures, learns the skills of survival, and struggles to master the inherent magic of her dying race, danger is always close behind. When old enemies reappear and new friendships lead to betrayal, will her discovery of an enchanted bow prove to be Ilan’s final salvation or her ultimate downfall?”

Notes of Interest:

Usually when I can find nothing to say about a book, it means it was a perfect match for me — the right book at the right time. It means it met or exceeded my expectations. It means I can think of nothing to criticize about it. I find myself in this situation with Magic of Thieves, but for the sake of offering up something for my fellow readers and the author, I will try to find some words.

I bought this book when I was looking for fantasy literature about elves. The cover art looked like an elf, so it was the cover that caught my interest first. Oddly, not once in the text do I remember seeing the word “elf”. There are references to Ilan’s mysterious heritage, but I don’t recall anything that specifies this main character is, indeed, an elf. Whether or not this character is elven doesn’t really matter in this case because the type of story and types of characters I wanted to read about were a good fit regardless. So, know that elves as a specific race or culture are not discussed, but fans of elves in literature will notice parallels concerning the magical race being eradicated.

This is also a good choice if you’re looking for a story about fantasy rogues.

What could have made it better for me:

I would have liked a little more expansion on who the magic people are. Are they elves? Or are they a race of magical humans? About all I gleaned from them, other than their psychic abilities, was that they have white hair. So, while I didn’t have any technical problems that broke immersion or character or plot issues, a part of me wishes there had been more information on this mysterious culture.

What I liked about it:

Looking back over my notes during the read, the thing that I seem to have commented to myself on the most is the language. It’s not often that a book’s language impresses me. “My body was numb, disconnected from my mind, as I lay listening to my heartbeat and feeling drops of sweat form, despite the cold, and trickle down my ribs.” It’s not exactly poetic, but it is very sensory. I can almost feel her anxiety myself.

The characters in this book were interesting without having over-the-top personalities. They felt genuine … even the bad guys. I love to see bad guys with dimension, and we definitely see that here with the way the thieves balance their humane and criminal sides. The good characters are as gray as the bad, so I also appreciated seeing heroes who felt more human than divine. Ilan, the main character, was well-designed as a female protagonist. She was strong without being bitchy; she was not a male character whose only feminine trait was a female name, like a lot of “strong” female characters tend to be. She had good agency, especially toward the end. Her coming-of-age story was dynamic enough to show that she is learning and growing with her experiences.

The plot is easy to follow. It was predictable in terms of genre expectations, but not boring. The characters kept it interesting, and there was a good amount of action between the interaction.

Recommendation:

I enjoyed this book enough that I will consider getting the next one in the series. The characters were well-developed. I’m curious to know more about these people that Ilan is from. I’m curious to see what she does next … and to see if any of the previous characters reappear to continue their journey together, or end up in opposition. I love fantasy tales about rogues, so this is right up my alley. It’s a bit like a Robin Hood tale, but with a darker atmosphere than “merry men” might offer.

Book Review: Inquisitor by R.J. Blain

Inquisitor cover
Cover: Inquisitor by R.J. Blain (Witch and Wolf Series, book 1)

Book: Inquisitor

Series: Witch and Wolf, Book 1

Author: R.J. Blain

Genres: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Action

Synopsis (from Amazon book page):

“When Allison is asked to play Cinderella-turned-Fianceé at a Halloween ball, the last thing she expected was to be accused of murder. She has to find the killer or she’ll be put to death for the crimes she didn’t commit. To make matters worse, the victims are all werewolves.

On the short list of potential victims, Allison has to act fast, or the killer will have one more body to add to his little black book of corpses.

There’s only one problem: One of the deaths has struck too close to home, and Allison’s desire for self-preservation may transform into a quest for vengeance…”

Notes of Interest:

This story is set in modern-day U.S., but Allison is over a century old; she’s a witch. But she’s not just any witch, she’s a werewolf, too. This is why the Inquisition (a group of witches and wolves who serve as a disciplinary, internal affairs type of organization) has accused her of murder. But this is also why she’s so desperate to clear her name and stop whoever really is killing innocent witches and wolves.

Because of the witch and werewolf characters, this story falls into the realms of fantasy and paranormal genres, but it is action-packed with Allison’s high-stakes life on the run as she attempts to change her identity and protect the innocent and those she loves. Her years of experience and solitude have turned her into a “lone wolf” — a wolf without a pack — but she can handle herself and take charge of the hunt like a pro.

I know there are several other witch-and-wolf-themed series out there, and to be honest I have not read them, but this is the first time I’ve encountered a situation where the wolves needed witches to help keep a check on their “inner beasts”. It’s an interesting concept, and one that could lead to either very deep bonds, or very deep rivalries.

What could have made it better for me:

Unfortunately, my first and lasting impression of Allison was not a good one. There’s a couple of possibilities why.

I’m going to fault my admitted bias against bad-ass, action-hero-type characters first. I’m talking about the type of character who gets the job done because of a single-minded focus, but shows very little emotion other than the drive to succeed at his goal. Perhaps the action genre is partly to blame because there are usually no in-depth side-tracks to help the characters feel like anything beyond soldiers fighting the good fight. I like action movies, but I prefer character-driven books. I like taking my time getting to know the characters. So, maybe I would have liked Allison more if the pace had slowed just enough for her to be something more than driven.

However, there is no literary rule that says characters have to be liked by readers to have interesting stories, and her story is interesting. I don’t feel Allison was poorly written. She just doesn’t have enough personality for me. Since I know I have a bias against minimalist characters, I won’t take away brownie points for that.

My only other complaint is minor. Considering the main characters are witches, there wasn’t a lot of magic thrown around. It’s present because it’s relative to shape-shifting, and characters are magically healed, but it’s subtle, except for one scene at the end. I would have liked to see more magic from the witches.

What I liked about it:

In spite of my dislike of dry, soldier-hero archetypes in books, I do like action movies. I liked that this was a very visual read. I felt like I was seeing an action movie in my head. I think it would be a good candidate for transition to an action film script for that reason. The plot is fast-paced, but easy to follow in terms of objectives: don’t get caught while unraveling the clues to find the real killer. That made it feel a bit like a murder mystery, too, but the explosions, guns, and urgent pace between moving and hiding, from one place to another, not knowing who to trust, was what I came away with more than anything else.

The concept of witches and wolves having to work together to balance each others’ power intrigued me, so I found myself wanting to know more about the politics and practicality of how that worked.

The references to Allison’s past were interesting, hearing about how she came to be the unique combination of what she is.

It had a big ending, which is what I expected from this kind of story.

Recommendation:

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It had a few errors that pulled me out of immersion, but the writing was clear and had a good pace. I’m undecided about whether to read any other books in the series because Allison didn’t interest me enough as a leading character to make me want to know more about her current story, although I would love to see more of her history. A prequel might interest me more than a continuation.

If you’re looking for horror genre werewolves or YA genre wizardry, this isn’t it. I can’t think of any particular books I’ve read similar to this one, but if you like urban action and paranormal combinations, you’ll probably enjoy Inquisitor.