Sunday, April 14, 2013

Book Review: Siren Snow by Victoria Barrow

Hey y'all,

I know I have been at this for a while. But I'm tipping my hand to reviewing once more. Hope this one tickles your fancy.

Title: Siren Snow
Author: Victoria Barrow
Genre: Urban Fantasy

I’m borrowing the blurb from Amazon, because it also gives you a taste of the author’s voice:
“Winter is not exactly the ‘season of the witch.’ It’s cold in Washington: everything is covered in snow; EVERYTHING. But it doesn’t bother Lucilla Sinclair, the Witch-Warden for Washington state. She’s perfectly happy performing minor enchantments at her little arcane shop in Redhaven, an old fishing town turned tourist attraction. She has Mishal, her tall, dark-skinned elemental guardian to keep her warm; and Irwin, her raven familiar to pass the time. Magickal mischief in the cold, quiet state is slow for the most part, but when a freak winter storm lands a half-transformed Siren on her front porch, Lucy’s life becomes increasingly strange. Her dreams
are suddenly assaulted with visions of a beautiful demon man, and her waking hours are spent warding off a cadre of mysterious shadow creatures. With the life of the Siren in her hands, Lucy must trek through the snows of Canada in a race against time. Her mission: to find the one person with enough knowledge of forbidden black magick to fix the broken Siren Melusine before her seven days on land are up. This is gonna be a rough week.”

Plot: As described in the blurb, this story is about a Witch. And not just a Witch. A Witch-Warden – someone tasked with protecting us lowly humans from the things that go bump in the night… and day… all the time, really. They’re busy people. I liked this idea of a Witch whose job it was to protect us all. She wasn’t the only one. Each US State has its own Warden… and I presume other places around the world do, too…

Humans have an innate distrust of magick (different from regular magic – card tricks and the like) folk… I can see that, too. We like to think we’re pretty awesome… can’t be having some folks with magick protecting us… what if they decided to turn on us? Yep, we’d be screwed… so it’s a tenuous relationship.

So, there was a storm, and a big slimey monster, and a Siren washed up with a nasty cut to her leg. Not just any old cut, a cut inflicted by something nasty, making it bleed black. Not good. And so Lucy embarks on a trip to get the Siren all fixed-up.

On the whole, the plot is a decent one. There’s a quest, and we get to see how the characters perform during the fulfilment of that quest – and meet a couple of other interesting ones along the way.
I found it a touch slow at times – some things just don’t need to be described in quite so much detail… for me. But others will approve, I’m sure.

As the story progressed, I found my sense of drama waning. I think it was that several times we were forewarned about what could go wrong… but it didn’t really. Or, if it did, it felt as though it was sorted pretty easily, IMO. Anyway, eventually, I just wasn’t worried any more.

Several of the characters had very strong voices, which was great.

Lucy (Lucilla) is pretty cool. She’s rough and ready to tackle what the world has to throw at her… I think you would call her pragmatic. She doesn’t react emotionally to much. And even when she does, she analyses herself doing it… This may have kept me from getting too close to her.

I rather loved Irwin, her crow familiar. Right from the get-go we get a great picture of who he is, as he lands of Lucy’s shoulder and requests pancakes for breakfast.

Mishal, Mishal, Mishal… I get the feeling we’re supposed to fall in love with him, because he clearly loves Lucy more than she thinks he does. And he’s tall. And black. Oh, and he’s got super pale eyes, like, startlingly, white-blue eyes. But I don’t know. Apart from the overdone description of him in those early pages, I didn’t really get a feel for him. At times I got a good picture of his protectiveness, but at other times I didn’t know why he was just standing there letting Lucy do all the dangerous stuff… For a big, black, fiery man, he felt a little bit like a tool for the plot, and when he wasn’t needed he just stood there, frozen. And then he’d lament over how he’d failed to help out, and I’d be yelling (in my head) “But you didn’t even try!”. But perhaps there was more going on than I understood.

The demon: I wish he’d played a bigger role. He interested me a great deal. I take it he’s going to make another appearance in future tales… here’s hoping. Once he turned up I was like “Move over, Mishal, let this one in.” But, then, I do have a thing for the bad boys, so Mishal and I got off on the wrong foot right from the get-go. Whereas, Mister Demon-man… hello.

Melusine, the Siren… Yeah, I never really cared about her. Not all that much. Sure, I wanted Lucy to save her for Lucy’s sake, but I just didn’t really get into Melusine herself.

The Tank was cool… no, not a big military vehicle, I’m talking about a fish tank… a communication device… with feelings…

And Aunt Rissa. She was cool, too. She had the whole Tardis-like house thing going on, and I liked how she talked to Lucy – no beating around the bush.

Overall Appraisal:
I gotta say – I loved the opening… very cheeky.

And then I got this: “..blinking pale blue eyes at me.”, “..his startling white-blue eyes..”, “The most startling of his features were his eyes, though.” and “It was not his abnormal height, or the pale eyes…” within the first two pages… TWO pages. Enough with the eyes already! I got it! Luckily it stopped after that, because the story in and of itself is quite good.

What I love most is the author’s imagination – she sure has one! From a Witch with helpers in several forms (a guardian, an animal familiar, imps, a fish Tank with its very own personality), to a beautifully described demon and strange sea monster, this book has a lot going for it.

When these leaps of imagination turned up, I settled more deeply in my chair, or pulled my blankets up, and said to myself “Ah, here we go…” and let myself be wowed.

At times I felt that a substantive edit wouldn’t have gone amiss to really bring out Ms. Barrow’s talent and not let it get lost amongst some of the less interesting detail. But I am well aware of how expensive those are.

Format/Typo Issues:
Yes, there were some. Format was fine. There were very occasional typos, and more commonly remnants of an incomplete edit (where words had been rearranged, but one of the words from the original phrase remained).


A well-earned “I liked it” 3-stars.

I can’t bring myself to rate it up with some of my favourite well-structured, well-edited jobbies, but it is nonetheless an entertaining tale and I wish Ms. Barrow every blessing in continuing her writing career. There is a formidably talented imagination at work here.

Ms. Barrow provided me with a free copy of her book in exchange for an honest review.

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