Monday, March 4, 2013

Urban Fantasy Review: Vicious Circle by Linda Robertson

Vicious Circle by Linda Robertson: Adult Urban Fantasy, 1st in a series

A girl's got to do what a girl's got to do....
Being a witch doesn't pay the bills, but Persephone Alcmedi gets by between reading Tarot cards, writing her syndicated newspaper column, and kenneling werewolves in the basement when the moon is full -- even if witches aren't supposed to mingle with wolves. 

She really reaches the end of her leash, though, when her grandmother gets kicked out of the nursing home and Seph finds herself in the doghouse about some things she's written. Then her werewolf friend Lorrie is murdered...and the high priestess of an important coven offers Seph big money to destroy the killer, a powerful vampire named Goliath Kline. Seph is a tough girl, but this time she bites off more than she can chew. 

She needs a little help from her friends -- werewolf friends. One of those friends, Johnny, the motorcycle-riding lead singer for the techno-metal-Goth band Lycanthropia, has a crush on her. And while Seph has always been on edge around this 6'2" leather-clad hunk, she's starting to realize that although their attraction may be dangerous, nothing could be as lethal as the showdown that awaits them.

World: This is a UF where the greater world is aware of the supernatural beings, which is always fun. The only ones that make an appearance in Vicious Circle are vampires, werewolves and witches (fairies are mentioned), and all seem to follow the standard rules of their type in the genre, with just a few minor tweaks. The protagonist, Persephone "Seph" Alcmedi, knows next to nothing about these creatures, and even seems to have a sub-par education regarding her own kind, the witches, so we learn about them along with her. The explanations feel forced at times, and I wish we got to experience these revelations as the action unfolds with more exposure to the general populace. There's a great scene where we see a couple of cops react to learning that an injured woman is a werewolf, and how they treat her in response is far more effective than any recitation of facts. That said, the history and politics of this world are intriguing and definitely worth exploring more.

Characters: I liked Seph and her POV was easy to relate to. She also gets extra points for being a columnist instead of the typical tough-girl jobs (cop, assassin, P.I., etc.) of so many UF heroines. However, she does represent several of the cliche UF tropes, including the absentee/dead parents, being "The Chosen One", and becoming the object of everyone's desires, especially to her two supernatural suitors (yes, I see another love triangle forming). But Seph is a good, caring person, smart, not overly snarky, and a brave protector with room to grow as a character. Some of the secondary characters are unmemorable, but the standout is definitely Seph's Nana, who manages to play both mentor and comic relief. Then there's the 'vampire-wizard' aspect, which is something I haven't seen before and could be really cool in the series.

Pros & Cons: My favorite aspect of the book was the invented mythology, rooted in ancient Africa, the Middle East and Europe, that is unique to this world and the witches in particular. The disappointing part for me was the general lack of diversity regarding both characters and location. We're stuck in Seph's rural house for way too much of the story, and there isn't a single POC or alternative lifestyle represented (except the generic supernatural variety, of course). Seph herself is of Greek and (apparently) Egyptian descent, but judging by the cover art and what description is provided, that heritage is largely ignored as far as her looks and behavior are concerned. The novel is set in Cleveland, which could be a super fresh urban environment for the genre, but it's a missed opportunity.

Fresh Factor: I really loved the attention to detail where Seph's magic was concerned. It was based on Wiccan practices and seemed very genuine (although I'm no expert, but I'd bet the author either has first-hand experience or did a lot of research). The rituals and spells flowed easily and it almost feels like you're involved as it progresses. Very cool.

Overall: Vicious Circle is a solid debut urban fantasy novel, and I give it 3.5 stars. It's not especially dark or gory, and while the plot is entertaining, it's also kind of thin, making it a quick, light read. For my tastes it could have used more action and had more of an edge. I'll be interested in reading further titles in the series to see how Seph breaks out of her shell to transform into a strong, confident witch and leader in the supernatural community.

If anyone would like to recommend more 'witchy' titles for me to read for the Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge, list them in the comments.



Kelly Hashway said...

I haven't heard of this one before. I could use a good witch book, though.

Ella Gray said...

Kelly - Hope you enjoy it if you get the chance to check it out :)

Lexa Cain said...

Thanks for the review. The premise sounds interesting, and I hope you are having fun with witches! :-)

Ella Gray said...

Thanks, Lexa! Witches are so much fun because there is such a large variety of ways to write them. I certainly won't run out of options for this challenge, LOL.

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