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