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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Review: Hard Magic

Hard Magic (Luna Books)Title: Hard Magic
Author: Laura Anne Gilman
Page Count: 329 pages
Publisher: Luna
Genre: first in a series, urban fantasy
Copy for review provided by Netgalley.com in anticipation of an honest review

50 words or less: Twenty-something Bonita Torres is done with college and trying to find her first job and the search is not going well.  When she gets a call to interview for a job she didn't apply for, she figures it can't hurt and shows up at the designated time.  Little does she know that that one choice will set a whole boodle of other events in motion quickly and dramatically.

I will say one thing here at the onset of this review: I was not aware that this was a spinoff book from another series.  In retrospect, that may serve to address some of the issues I had with this book, and reading the other, prior series may clear things up for me, or they may not.  Read and decide, folks, read and decide.

I read Hard Magic about a month ago and it's been sitting in my review queue ever since.  I find that, as I'm sitting now to write this review, I'm really hard pressed to remember much about the book except that the concept was original and the characters were fun but simultaneously bland and a little annoying. 

Let's just start at the beginning.  Bonita (Bonnie) on her own is likeable enough.  She has a unique narrative voice and her observations of the world around her are spot on, but I have to say that her life situation and her chafing against it got annoying in a big hurry.  She's supposed to be a starving college grad, but is living in a hotel compliments of her impossibly wealthy surrogate father who happens to be a Council member.  She has people shooting at her and out for her blood but a large portion of her conscious thoughts seem to revolve around whether or not the person she just met would be fun to sleep with (although these thoughts are never acted upon.)  I found that Bonnie did a lot of talking but relatively little acting in all facets of the story- she takes a lot of stands and has a lot of opinions but is never called upon to put her money where her mouth is, so to speak.  We hear all about how openminded she is and how free-spirited she is but all I read about was someone living off of Daddy's money fantasizing about her boss.  Just saying.

The supporting characters are pretty lacking in development, too- I can't honestly remember any of their names.  There was tension between the characters and bickering and office drama but that's pretty much all there was- endless squabbles in the break room being refereed by the founders of the paranormal detective agency where they all worked and murmured speculation that they'd all be out on their ears if they didn't get a real case soon.

What salvaged this book for me, though, was the worldbuilding surrounding the idea of forensic magic, and the way magic is used in this book, both offensively and defensively.  I found the idea of investigating magical crimes with magic to be really interesting and the description of the techniques that the team developed in the lab to be really engrossing, to the point that it overshadowed the issues that I did have with this book.  Bottom line, the balance between plot and characters was a little off, the character development didn't ring true, but the backdrop for the story was so vivid that I was still reading until the end just to see how the elements would come together.

Overall Grade: B

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