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Fair Niche Mystery
on July 11, 2012
This is a pretty fair niche mystery. I don't know that it adds too much to the genre, and it's not the most original story I've ever read. But it was a quick, easy read, and it had its moments where it was rather fun.
This was one of those strange books that I enjoyed while I was reading it (for the most part), but the second I put it down, I was struck by its flaws. (Literally. I opened the computer, ready to give this a better review, but the second I started to type, I thought, "Wait...") The characters are well-written - at least overall. The material pertaining to Wicca seemed pretty accurate. And the mystery wasn't terribly obvious (though the real core of the book isn't really the mystery but the relationship between the characters and the heroine's journey of self-discovery).
However, there were a few little things (and one or two big things) that bothered me about the novel. I don't think these are spoilerish, but I suppose they might be. For example...why the strange focus on the fact that the main character needs only one hour of sleep a night? To make the readers jealous? I suppose it could be the author's attempt to demonstrate how "powerful" she is - after all, there's a good deal of focus on how much energy she has, and that she has always turned to other non-magical ways to get it out. Only it doesn't seem like the other witches have a similar issue, so it's just Katie. She's so incredibly powerful, you see.
Don't get me wrong; I expected her to be a powerful witch. You don't pick up these books to read "The Adventures of Mediocre Katie and Her Much More Awesome Friends." That said, she shows up in town, everyone loves her - or comes to respect her (except a couple of bad guys, perhaps). She's quite possibly the best baker who has ever stepped foot in a kitchen. She has two hot guys fighting over her. She's an insanely powerful witch who just makes everyone else more powerful by her presence. She's so powerful, in fact, that she can't even sleep because of the sheer amount of POWER in her. I don't know. I guess it was just a bit too much for me.
Which is not to say that I didn't enjoy Katie's character. I did. I just wished that some things were toned down a bit. It veered a little too close to Mary Sue territory for me.
I did enjoy most of the supporting characters, with the sole exception of Steve. I truly loathe Steve's character. Words cannot express how much. My intense hatred for Steve comes down to one thing: "Katie-girl." I don't know how many times he calls her that in the books (short of "almost every darn time he refers to her"), but if I had this on my Kindle, I'd count up the number of times. Just so I could imagine punching the character in the face for each and every instance.
There was just something so PATRONIZING about that particular nickname. Particularly in one instance, where he stresses the second half of the nickname. "Katie-GIRL." In the context, it came off even more patronizing than the nickname normally does, and my general dislike for him (based off my irritation over the nickname) fell somewhere around "deep disgust" level. I can't see him as "hot" - as he is so constantly described - and I don't understand why she's supposed to be attracted to him. Hmmm...an apparently genuinely good guy (who is also, might I add, not described as having fallen out of the ugly tree to hit every branch on the way down) or the patronizing jackass? Tough call, Katie! I can totally feel your dilemma there! </sarcasm>
The other big issue I had with the books had to do with Katie's parents. I don't really want to give a lot away, but...Katie's a powerful witch, but she didn't realize it until some early point of this book. As I think one can assume from the basic plot, her powers can be dangerous, even inadvertently. She particularly needs to be careful because she's SO powerful - and her mere presence is enough to intensify spells and the like - that she has to watch out for black magic.
I don't want to go into spoilers, but if you've read the back of the book, you know that her aunt is a witch. Mildly spoilery: her mother, at least, probably suspected (and likely knew) she was a witch as well. Now, if that's true...wasn't it incredibly irresponsible of her parents to hide their knowledge about Katie's abilities from her? If they realized how she had "inadvertently" likely cast a spell that made her miserable as a young child, we're to believe...what? They just looked at her and went, "Sucks to be you, baby. Be careful what you wish for." I mean, really, their child was only miserable and alone; it couldn't possibly be their problem or their concern. They just sat back and figured to heck with it; the odds of her doing something similar again (or worse) were probably not that good? And if she's so powerful that she needs to be careful of black magic, they figured...well, there's no way that complete ignorance of what could happen could go badly for her, so it's best to keep quiet?
This is the thing that drives me crazy about this sort of story. Particularly when it's not a question of "we don't know if you have this ability, but nothing we've seen has ever indicated you even might, so we kept it to ourselves." It makes the person who kept the secret seem highly irresponsible at best and a complete and utter jerk at worst. (Yes, the word I'm thinking in my head is much stronger than "jerk.")
I do understand that it's the construct of the story. It's more fun if you're there with the character from the "beginning" so to speak, from that moment her powers are discovered. The problem is, the way this author constructed the backstory to justify her ignorance, I have nothing but utter disgust for her parents, and we haven't even really "met" them yet.
I did enjoy this book when I was reading it, but these issues really spoiled my enjoyment of the story overall. I actually didn't know who the murderer was for quite some time, which is nice as I hate it when the solution is obvious from the moment the murderer is introduced. I do think that the stories have some potential. I may even pick up the next book (particularly if it's titled "Hexed Steve Dawes Becomes a Ferret"), to see if I change my opinion about her parents or any of the above. I think this is the author's first book, and it is actually a fairly solid first effort. Unfortunately, this particular book also has enough flaws to spoil my enjoyment of the story, once it was finished.