Author: Laura Anne Gilman
Book Name: Hard Magic
Series: Paranormal Scene Investigations
Blurb: Welcome to P.U.P.I.–Private, Unaffiliated, Paranormal Investigations
A handpicked team trained to solve crimes the regular police can’t touch–crimes of magic.
My name’s Bonnie Torres. Recent college grad, magic user and severely unemployed. Until I got a call out of nowhere to interview for a job I hadn’t applied for. It smelled fishy, but the brutal truth was I needed the work–so off I went.
Two days later I’m a PUPI–me and Nick, Sharon, Nifty and Pietr. Five twentysomethings, thrown into an entirely new career in forensic magic.
The first job we get is a doozy: proving that the deaths of two Talents were murder, not suicide. Worse, there are high-profile people who want us to close up shop and go away. We’re sniffing out things they’d rather keep buried.
Looks as if this job is gonna get interesting. The only problem is, we’re making it up as we go along….
Review: There was an awful lot of what I considered good potential in this that didn’t end up realized. After starting extremely dry and slow, with a whole lot of info dumping, things finally started actually happening at about the 40% mark. That is way too deep into a book to get things going and you are going to lose a bunch of readers if you can’t make it interesting long before then. I was very nearly one of them.
The world building here is lacking. We know that we have Talents, people with the ability to use and work magic; Nulls, non-magical humans; and Fatae, which I was a bit confused on, but got the impression that they were some sort of non-human fae. Where that gets seriously confusing is whether or not Nulls are aware of those other types of people and beings. At times, it seems as if they do not, and it is even alluded to a couple of times with a brief mention of witch hunts. Then in the next moment you have some seriously strange Fatae out in the open, but there is absolutely no explanation as to whether or not Nulls see them as they are because they know about them so there isn’t any reaction or if they see them but see them as a normal human and only Talent and other Fatae can see them for what they really are. There is also no explanation of all the apparent damage that gets done by Talent and their use of current.
For me, this lack drags down the ability to really sink into the story because I’m constantly wondering what the people on the outskirts of the story are seeing and thinking while all of this other stuff is going on or why there is no reaction to what would seem to be incredibly strange happenings. Just because it isn’t an issue that is brought up in the book does not mean it doesn’t exist. They many not be getting mentioned, but those outskirt people in a story are the negative space. You may not see it, but it is still there and helps form the shape of what you do see. It needs to be dealt with one way or another. This is kind of a head in the sand kind of approach to world building if you don’t.
The magic system created for this world also seems incomplete or a kind of mish mash of ideas tossed around. In the beginning of the story, Bonnie uses crystals in an attempt to scry but we do not see any use of any external focus or tool in the rest of the book by any of the characters. While there is something of an explanation of how the system works, it also seems to contradict itself and ends up not making a whole lot of sense. Talent apparently can’t read minds, but that is basically what seems to happen a lot, especially between Vanec and Bonnie. It is almost as if the system concept got changed midstream while this was being written. It is explained that Talent can burn out if they try to pull too much current, but there isn’t any real consequence for using it at all. No kind of checks and balance kind of thing in place. There also isn’t any kind of structure around who has what level or kind of power and why. There are no clear limits of what it can and can’t do. Like I said, it feels incomplete, like it wasn’t fully thought out.
I had a hard time getting any kind of solid feel for Bonnie’s character as who she is changed from chapter to chapter. Almost all of the characters were much the same way, but since Bonnie is the focus, the need for a definite personality is much higher and nothing ever really got set with her since she was kind of all over the place.
This was far from an awful story, but it was also pretty far from great. I may pick up the next in the series to see if it gets any better, but I’m not holding out a lot of hope because there was a lot that was just not there with this one.