Sunday 29 September 2019

Review: Purrfect Magic

Purrfect Magic Purrfect Magic by Samantha Coville
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Light and cheerful (considering the multiple messy deaths in it), this NA magic academy story rides the popular wave begun by Harry Potter. The first-person protagonist starts out as an overprivileged brat, but quickly gains a sense of responsibility as the school comes under threat.

The romance feels more middle-school than post-high-school, and the numbers don't always add up (somehow, 25 people are divided into pairs, for example, with nobody apparently left over). The villain's inside person was pretty predictable, partly because so few characters are developed at all, or even named; and almost every significant person has the cliched green (or rather "emerald") eyes.

The pre-release copy I got from Netgalley has all the usual kinds of errors, though not in too great profusion, and a good copy editor could have it nice and clean for publication without too much trouble.

The kittens who are also ancient demons were fun, and the defend-the-school plot moves along briskly, but it never threatens to rise above the general run of its genre, as I'd hoped it might. A solid three stars, entertaining but unspectacular.

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Review: Witches Protection Program

Witches Protection Program Witches Protection Program by Michael Okon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Logging on to Goodreads to review this, I was presented with a quote by Tracy Chevalier: "I have consistently loved books that I read when sick in bed."

My experience differs. This book, for example.

It's essentially an average action movie in book form. The plot is thoroughly expected, and the characters never attain any depth beyond their familiar types. What worldbuilding there is is tissue-paper thin. It seems to be trying to be Men in Black, but it doesn't even quite pull off being Men in Black II.

If it had been played for comedy throughout, elements like the mind-controlling face cream and the inexplicably steampunk weapons might have worked, but as it is they're simply absurd.

There's nothing really wrong with it, as such - apart from the occasional mid-scene shift in point of view, which is generally considered a rookie error - but it's so thoroughly mediocre that the only rating I can give is three stars.

I received a copy via Netgalley for review.

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Review: The Books of Conjury: The Complete Trilogy

The Books of Conjury: The Complete Trilogy The Books of Conjury: The Complete Trilogy by Kevan Dale
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

At a high level, this generally worked for me as a story, with exceptions that I'll talk about below. At the level of detailed execution, though, it has a lot of room for improvement, hence my three-star rating.

It also contained a lot more mayhem and death of innocents than I usually prefer, though it wasn't like I didn't know that going in.

I picked it up (on a BookBub promotion) in part because a couple of the Amazon reviewers specifically described it as "well edited". I'm afraid they were mistaken. Most (though not all) of the commas and apostrophes are in the right places, true, which puts it ahead of a lot of books, but it's rife with hyphens where no hyphen should be, words missed out of sentences, sentences mangled in revision, verbs not agreeing with their subjects, fumbled idioms, vocabulary errors (like confusions between straight and strait, taught and taut, loathe and loath, wretch and retch, belied and betrayed, synched and cinched, troupe and troop, gate and gait, internment and interment), and a long parade of dangling modifiers. I marked 220 issues (including some that weren't copy editing issues, which I'll discuss below), and I didn't mark every one. Even considering that this is three books in one, that's still on the high end for books I review, which is why I've put it on my "seriously needs editing" shelf.

Apart from the copy editing, there were issues with anachronisms, continuity, and things I just didn't believe. There's a suspicious number of large windows for the glass technology of 1736-37, which is when the book is set; there's also a very minor female character called Aubrey, which was a name not used for girls until the 1970s (or for boys in the 18th century, for that matter), and a mention of adrenaline (discovered in the 1890s).

Other problems of background include a mention of a group of lords, "one a member of Parliament, no less". All British lords, properly so called, are members of the House of Lords, and none can be members of the House of Commons, so this is nonsense.

Early on, a woman supposedly freshly arrived from England appears to recognise hemlock trees, which are North American natives. This same woman (the viewpoint character and protagonist) has nothing remotely English about her; both she and her master, also supposedly from London, use the very American phrasing "off of" repeatedly, for example. I was never convinced of her Englishness in any way (and it would have worked just as well for the story if she'd arrived from some other American colony).

There are a few minor continuity problems, but the big one is that two characters set off on a dangerous journey to get a particular magical substance that is locked up in a specific place. However, by the time their journey ends, their purpose in making the journey has changed to enacting the magical ritual for which the substance is needed, and (without having visited the place one of them specifically said it was in) they appear to have had the substance with them all along.

That same journey also gave me some of the biggest examples of things I just didn't believe: a large man in his early 80s able to make it through a gruelling physical trial, and a woman in her late teens able to haul him around physically, including onto a horse. Given that there's magic, and it can do a very wide range of convenient things, they could have used spells to give themselves more strength and endurance (at the risk of injury or exhaustion later on), but they didn't.

There's also the idea that, along with everything else she was studying, plus all the work she did, Kate managed to learn German, a notoriously difficult language, well enough to read a random passage, in less than a year (along with, presumably, a number of other languages; the spells are mostly in languages other than English, and are quoted in full a bit more often than necessary). And, among all the death, that certain characters made their way through a highly dangerous area and didn't die. (A few of them had magical protection, but the soldiers and others with them didn't.)

And, of course, there's the staggering coincidence at the beginning, when someone who should have died somehow doesn't, and ends up meeting exactly the person who can help her, and who she can help, because without this meeting there is no story. It's a bit too obvious a hand of fate/God/the author.

So, numerous issues. The heart of the story is sound, though, and with better editing; more attention to detail, time period, and continuity; and a bit of reworking of the less believable parts, this could be a strong four stars.

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