Book Review: Three Mages and A Margarita, The Guild Codex: Spellbound – Book 1

Author: Annette Marie
Book Name: Three Mages and A Margarita
Release Date: September 14, 2018
Series: The Guild Codex: Spellbound
Order: #1
Genre: Paranormal Urban/Fantasy
Overall SPA: 4.5 Stars
4.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Broke, almost homeless, and recently fired. Those are my official reasons for answering a wanted ad for a skeevy-looking bartender gig.

It went downhill the moment they asked me to do a trial shift instead of an interview—to see if I’d mesh with their “special” clientele. I think that part went great. Their customers were complete dickheads, and I was an asshole right back. That’s the definition of fitting in, right?

I expected to get thrown out on my ass. Instead, they… offered me the job?

It turns out this place isn’t a bar. It’s a guild. And the three cocky guys I drenched with a margarita during my trial? Yeah, they were mages. Either I’m exactly the kind of takes-no-shit bartender this guild needs, or there’s a good reason no one else wants to work here.

So what’s a broke girl to do? Take the job, of course—with a pay raise.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4.5/5 Stars
Uniqueness Factor: 4/5 Stars

Personal Opinion: 4.5/5 Stars

This was such a fun and exciting read! It was cute and funny and intense. While there are typical elements found in a lot of other books in this genre, this one felt a little new and different from what I normally see.

One of those differences, and probably one of my favorites, is that our main character isn’t some magical badass hero. She is a human that stumbles into the magical side of this world. She doesn’t have any special powers, unless you consider snark and smartass to be super powers (which I kinda do). She is also bold and gutsy. Powers or no, she can hold her own, which I really enjoyed.

The guys are also funny, but not class clowns that can’t take things seriously, a deadly combination when it comes to character personalities in my book. While they are magical badasses to some extent, they aren’t invincible, their best being when they work together.

Another thing that I really loved about this was that, while there were all kinds of flirty teasing going on, this wasn’t an overblown romance. There is definitely some interest going on, but that isn’t the focus of the story. I love a good romance in a book, but it is nice every once in a while to see something a little different.

I enjoyed this so much I’ve already got the next one in the series cued up and ready to go.

 

 

 

Book Review: The Witchkin Murders, Magicfall – Book 1

Author: Diana Pharaoh Francis
Book Name: The Witchkin Murders
Release Date: June 7, 2019
Series: Magicfall
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy/Urban Paranormal Romance
Overall SPA: 3.25
3 Stars

 

 

Blurb:

Four years ago, my world—the world—exploded with wild magic. The cherry on top of that crap cake? The supernatural world declared war on humans, and my life went straight to hell.

I used to be a detective, and a damned good one. Then Magicfall happened, and I changed along with the world. I’m witchkin now—something more than human or not quite human, depending on your perspective. To survive, I’ve become a scavenger, searching abandoned houses and stores for the everyday luxuries in short supply—tampons and peanut butter. Oh, how the mighty have fallen, but anything’s better than risking my secret.

Except, old habits die hard. When I discover a murder scene screaming with signs of black magic ritual, I know my days of hiding are over. Any chance I had of escaping my past with my secret intact is gone. Solving the witchkin murders is going to be the hardest case of my life, and not just because every second will torture me with reminders of how much I miss my old life and my partner, who hates my guts for abandoning the department.

But it’s time to suck it up, because if I screw this up, Portland will be wiped out, and I’m not going to let that happen. Hold on to your butts, Portland. Justice is coming, and I don’t take prisoners.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3/5 Stars
This one was a hard one to rate as I liked most all of the characters, but not one of the major ones.

Uniqueness Factor: 4/5 Stars
While you have an often seen theme of the real world being changed by a catastrophic event that results in magic and magical beings, I do think it was presented in a new and interesting way.

World Building: 3/5 Stars
Like the uniqueness factor, I mostly enjoyed the world this is built on. I had a few issues with some of the founding facts of the world and how well the author made it work, basically some quirks that didn’t pan out for me.

Personal Opinion: 3/5 Stars
Overall, I enjoyed this book. I liked the majority of the characters and there was a freshness to the way magic was brought into the story in this world. That said, I didn’t love it. It was a good story, but there were a few things that kept it from being a much better story for me.

I was not a fan at all of Ray’s character. He comes across as a volatile, angry, nearly abusive person and I’m never a fan of those types of characters being the love interest in the story. This has a touch of the enemies to lovers trope for those that are interested in that theme, but Ray’s character makes it hard for me to get on board with the romantic aspect of this story.

The way the introduction to magic was presented in this book was really intriguing and I was drawn in by that, but there were certain aspects of it that made it hard to believe. The idea that certain things were difficult to obtain was awesome, but it fizzled a bit in the implementation of that idea because you don’t really see the lack. If a region is cut off with regards to communication and transport of goods, there are going to be much larger issues than what you see in this book. Access to a whole lot of different foods, especially something like coffee, kind of grated on me. Mostly because there was very little explanation as to how things were obtained after transportation channels were cut off. Again, I love the idea, but it didn’t feel completely developed.

Though I wasn’t a fan of those aspects, I was still able to enjoy the story.

*I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Other areas of note (not included in the SPA rating):

Cover: 2/5 Stars
I think I’m developing a peeve when it comes to covers. I get this fits the genre, but I’m kind of tired of seeing the ripped, scantily clad bodies, especially women, on most every single cover. Especially when they take up the majority of the cover and don’t really do much of anything to reflect any of the specifics in the story. I think for me it is as much about creativity as anything. How creative did you really have to get when you are doing pretty much the same cover as every other book in this genre?

Peeve Factor: 3/5 Stars
I didn’t include this in the SPA because it wasn’t a horrible abuse of my peeves, but it is worth mentioning and touches a bit on my personal opinion rating. I really don’t like characters like Ray. The angry, never thinks before he speaks, volatile and damn near verbally abusive character. I can tolerate them to an extent and am more willing to do so when it is a side character or a bad guy, but I really dislike them in a lead, romantic role. I’m even willing to overlook that when it is a part of character growth, but you honestly don’t see much of that at all in this.

Also, if you are going to create a world, especially a fantasy one with a magical aspect, I really want to see it fully rounded out. If you are going to do something like in this book and say that transport between regions or even cities is near impossible, then you really need to work on how your characters survive, because in the real world, EVERYTHING is felt on a global basis. There are probably very few areas of the US that could be truly self sustaining without some severe areas of deficits. If the situation in this world had happened over a period of time so that those regions could prepare, that would be one thing, but that isn’t what happened. Granted, this is really a small potatoes issue with regards to the overall story, but it is something that I notice and it irks me a bit when it is glossed over and not actually addressed or dealt with.

There were a couple of others that I noticed while I was reading, but they weren’t really big enough to stick with me by the time I finished. The ones I noted weren’t enough to make me hate this, but it definitely impacted how much I liked it.

 

Book Review: Eric Carter Series – Books 1 – 4

As usual, I can’t do things the easy way. Instead of my first book review under the new system being… oh, I don’t know, a single book? I have to do a review on a series. Or at least the first four books in the series so that is going to make this interesting, but I’m gonna just go with it.

Author: Stephen Blackmoore
Book Name: Dead Things, Broken Souls, Hungry Ghosts, Fire Season
Series: Eric Carter
Order: #1-4
Genre: Paranormal Urban/Fantasy
Overall SPA: 2.7 Stars

2.5 Stars

 

 

 

Normally, I’d post the blurb here, but since this is 4 books I’m going to just do my best to summarize them as a group (fair warning, I suck at general summarizations). These books are set in the modern world with the added bonus of magic. Ghosts and gods are real. Magic casters are mages and there are different types. All those types are apparently all arrogant assholes, including the main character. It pretty much actually says that in the books, this isn’t just my opinion. The main character, Eric Carter, is a necromancer. While there are a handful of supporting characters, they don’t really move much from book to book. They are there for a book or two and then they are done. Eric spends all of his time in all these books constantly trying to stay alive from all the various different people or beings that want him dead.

 

Cover: 3 Stars
Again, discussing these as a whole, they have a similar style, but aren’t very consistent with regards to the look of the main character. There is not a lot going on that applies to the books outside of that central figure. While the art is nice, I don’t feel like any of them are spectacular or particularly eye grabbing.

Blurb: 3 Stars
This is kind of a non-issue here as, obviously, the first book was enough to bring me in. I didn’t actually pay much attention to the others after that.

Characters: 2 Stars
I had a particularly hard time with this as I never really liked any of them. I kind of went back and forth on Eric, but the farther into the series I got, the less there was to make him appealing.

Plot/Themes: *
I’m not using this one in this rating because I feel like it is covered in the other areas. Besides, doing this as a series makes this one a little too broad overall.

Uniqueness Factor: 3 Stars
While many of the basic concepts in this were in line with a lot of other books in this genre, this focused more on the necromancy and brought in a lot of Aztec mythology, which was new for me.

Problem Free/Editing: 5 Stars
All four of these were really clean. Nothing jumped out at me as problematic or annoying.

World Building: 3 Stars
This was a tough one to call as there was a lot going on in these books. A whole lot of thought and planning absolutely went into them. The one thing that bothered me, and it cropped up multiple times, is that the author never really gets into the meat of the magic system and how it works, yet this is a prominent aspect of all of these books. The system just apparently works if the person wants it to. You do get a few little bits here and there with the character doing some specific things to get a specific outcome, but then they were often counteracted by the character being able to do the same or similar things without those actions. That aspect felt a little unfinished to me. I also wasn’t a fan of the extreme level of arrogance that was part and parcel of the mage group. The lack of structure for their society or their concern for anyone other than themselves was pretty off-putting.

Believably: 2 Stars
I’d have to say that if I were just rating the first book, this would probably be a bit higher, but as I got through the later books the less I was feeling it because of the above peeves. There is only so much constant chaos and dumb mistakes a character can make before that believability switch gets shut off.

Peeve Factor: 1 Star
These books smashed the ever loving hell out of my peeve button on a couple of fronts. One is the main, male character being pretty much an unemotional prick when it came to his interactions with the female characters, especially the couple of times there was any kind of intimate interaction (very few of these). Another is this never ending, constant battle plot line. Basically when a character stands up, they get knocked back down again before they can even get their balance, repeatedly. Continuously. So much so that it is unrelenting and never gives the reader a chance to breathe. These kinds of hopeless books drive me up a wall and I really dislike them. You also have the issue with the main character not just being a prick, but one that would qualify for a “Too Stupid To Live” award. Every single situation, he would run head first into, trip up somewhere ending up in some kind of epic shitstorm that the only reason he survives is mostly dumb luck with a side of requisite Super Mage Skills. There are only so many times a character can continue to make truly stupid mistakes that cause all kinds of drama and chaos before this starts to push my peeve button. These books tried really hard to break it. Oh, and spoiler altert! Everyone mostly dies. Except Eric, of course.

Personal Opinion: 2 Stars
I honestly wasn’t a huge fan. I read the first book, was intrigued by the interesting storyline, but didn’t love it. I wanted to read the second to see where it would go. I honestly caught myself a couple of times wondering why I was still reading because this hit several of my peeves, but I still picked up the next book anyway. I finally called it quits about a 1/3 of the way into book 4 when I convinced myself that just because this was in a series and I’d read the first few books, that didn’t mean I had to finish this.

I can absolutely see how others would really like these because I do honestly think that for the most part, the writing is really good. These just weren’t for me and I decided there are other things I’d much rather be doing or reading other than a book that left me feeling frustrated and kinda hopeless about anything happening other than dumb luck, Super Mage Skills, and people dying.