Magic in Manhattan Trilogy (Therin)

Monday, March 28, 2022

Magic in Manhattan Trilogy (Therin)
Spellbound, 2019
Starcrossed, 2020
Wonderstruck, 2021
by Allie Therin

Premise: In Prohibition-era New York, Rory is hiding his real name and his past, but most importantly, his magic. When he meets a handsome rich man who needs his help and leads him into a larger community of magicians, he doesn't know how much danger he's walking into.

I had to add the author's name to the title of this post because apparently there's more than one series with this (fairly generic) title. 

I enjoyed these books quite a bit, even if I spent some time during the first one musing on the nature of tropes, genre conventions, and originality.

You see, this is not the first fantasy-historical-action-romance series I've read in which the leads are a tall, non-magical, well-traveled aristocrat and a short, poor but powerful magician. Who comes into possession of a magical artifact (a ring) of significant power over the course of the first book. And the rich guy wants to help his poor boyfriend be less poor, but he's too proud. 

Despite the similarities, this collection of tropes is not enough to say that the Magic in Manhattan series is definitely inspired by K.J. Charles' fantastic Charm of Magpies. In fact, a list of similarities that might have readers looking askance at two sci-fi books will just land two romance novels on a list of "if you liked X, read Y!" The idea that you can read many authors' different takes on the same basic tropes is a feature of the genre. 

The two series have a lot of differences as well; the older one is set in England, the new one (obviously) in New York. The stories themselves are pretty different, other than a few relationship bumps and twists that both probably have in common with dozens or hundreds of other romance books/series.

However, as a relatively recent convert to reading more romance, it took me briefly aback to read something that had so much in common with another series.

I did end up liking this series and read through them all rather quickly. The books weren't as packed with interesting characters or plots as my favorites in the genre, but they were a lot of fun. I was occasionally kicked out of my enjoyment by character stupidity or excessive plot contrivance, and I like my romances a little spicier, but still - fun reads. 

3 Stars - Good Books on average for the lot. 

Shatter the Sky

Monday, March 7, 2022

Shatter the Sky
Rebecca Kim Wells, 2019

Premise: Maren always planned to travel the world with Kaia once they came of age, even though she would have been happy just living in their small village forever. But when Kaia is taken away, Maren will risk everything to go after her. 

So... this isn't a bad book. I found the style compulsively readable. 

It's just really, REALLY not for me. Or anyone looking for complex stories or characters. It's YA to the point of pain, for my taste. 

Yes there's a twist at the end, sort of, but it's not really unexpected at all, and everything up until then is not even YA-caliber plot, it's middle-grade. The outside world the village elders teach Maren is evil? To my honest surprise, it's... evil, except for her super-special new friend. Huh.

Everything is what it says on the tin. Characters who seem trustworthy are trustworthy. Characters who seem evil are evil. Hurting dragons is wrong, man! Because... it seems like it should be! Maren has super special dragon powers because she comes from the dragon village! Her lost girlfriend is (at least through the end) mostly worthy of her undying, kind of unhealthily obsessive devotion (even though Maren's also into this cute lost prince character, but I had this book recommended off the strength of another polyamorous-friendly YA, so we know where that's going.)

Despite all that, it was still mostly enjoyable to read, which really tells you something about the level of prose skills on display here. The bombastic save-everything-with-one-last-minute-deus-ex-power ending even worked surprisingly well, although I don't know that I care enough about the next part to read the sequel. I hope this author eventually writes something with a more interesting plot and world. 

2 Stars - An Okay Book