Sunday, June 19, 2011

Right Hand Magic

Right Hand Magic

Written by: Nancy A Collins

Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Roc
Language: English
December 2010, $6.99
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Fiction

MEET THE NEW GIRL ON THE PARANORMAL BLOCK . . . Like most Manhattanites, aspiring artist Tate can't resist a good rental deal-even if it's in the city's strangest neighborhood, Golgotham.  For centuries werewolves, Valkyries, centaurs, and countless other creatures have crowded these streets, where no cab will venture.  Golgotham's most prominent citizens, though, are the Kymerans, a race of witches who provide humans with the charms they desire and curses they fear. Tate's new landlord is a Kymeran sorcerer-for-hire named Hexe.  Despite being the son of Golgotham's Witch-Queen, Hexe is determined to build his own reputation without using dark Left Hand magic or his mother's connections.  As Tate is irresistibly drawn into Hexe's fascinating world, they both find that the right hand does not always know what the left hand is doing . . .


Many moons ago I fell in love with Sonja Blue. She was my kind of girl and the world Nancy had created was just plain wonderful. I was hooked. So, when my local Borders closed down I picked up far too many books (like you can ever have too many) and this was one of them. I don’t know why it took me so long other than both the cover and back summary kind of sounds exactly like half of the urban fantasy out there right now. And I am kinda bored with all that at the moment, which is why I have been drawn to young adult stuff lately.

It begins with Tate, an artist whose metalwork sculptures (aka loud noise and late nights) have got her kicked out of her apartment. Rent isn’t cheap in most of Manhattan, but there is a place in Gologotham, the supernatural side of New York. Not only is Tate pleased to mind that this ‘humble’ little apartment is bigger than her last one, but her landlord Hexe is adorable and one of the few Kymerans that practices only right hand magic.

Insert a teenage were-cougar, a motley of witches, centaurs, Valkyries, snarky familiars, and a plot involving illegal underground fight pits and one nasty villain and there you go.

Things I loved: I will say that Collins is great at world building. Golgotham is interesting and fun. I like the different neighborhoods. I like the fact that there is a place just for tourists. Kind of like a Chinatown but supernatural. You have Irish pubs full of leprechauns and who needs cabbies when you have centaurs. I like the idea, of the aforementioned Chinatown or Little Italy, that a group of similar individuals chose to create their own community, their own little haven within a bigger city. This is not to say that every Kymeran lives there as obviously you’d need some political and financial pull, etc and I expect that a few Kymerans have decided that the Upper East Side is more to their taste.

I also liked that Tate is normal. No wicked weapons at her disposal or magical powers. Granted she is a trust fund baby, but one that has chosen to go on her own way and on her own terms. She’s curious and creative and I would love to see some of those sculptures in real life. She’s also not without her faults. While she may talk the snarky talk, she’s much more of pacifist than I would like.

Things I didn't love so much: Unfortunately there is quite a bit of the bad. Great world building does not equal an awesome book if you dont develop your characters or your plot, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

One thing that really bugged me was that Kidron, one of the centaurs is out on the town at the local bar celebrating Hexe’s birthday aka off duty (Normally he is a cab as in hansom cab driver) His stablemate is with him and they are both wearing elaborate caparisons. This I get. Getting dressed up for the party is a bit hard since t-shirt and jeans are a bit underdressed and problematic when you are half human and half horse. But then she describes that they still wear manure catchers slung under their tails. Really? Sentient beings not only cannot be polite enough to hold their bodily functions in while just hanging out, but apparently it is quite necessary. I know that all of those debutants in sequins and lace are probably just wearing a Depends underneath it all. It bugged me. A lot. Obviously. And yes you can counter with bathroom stalls, etc but when centaurs compose quite a bit of Gologotham than you would think there would be arrangements kind of like Handicapped stalls. I am not sure why she included it.

Of course diaper wearing centaurs are the least of my nitpicking. So lets continue. While I like Tate and Hexe, their romance is superficial and forced. Especially when this is obviously the first of a series. Let me get to know them. Let them get to know each other. Wedding a human debutante and a Kymeran prince just because they’ve decided to forge their own paths despite their families and because they are both good looking isn’t enough. I didn’t believe it. I didn’t get the warm fuzzies. I wouldn’t even date Hexe, which is sad. I get that he’s the good guy, but when he is so stereotypically and superficially the good guy, a decent character gets wasted because he is neither balanced, interesting or developed. Though the same could be said for Tate when I think about it.

The plot, while it had potential, again was uneven. Maybe Collins meant it to be a one off and then by the time it went to print ROC decided that it should be a series and marketed it as such. *Shrug* I don’t know. But, like the characters, the plot was a bit forced. Not due to the actual fight club part of it, but because the villain was so cookie cutter right down to his evil henchmen. Maybe I just expect more out of Collins or apparently I need to revisit Sonja Blue again. There's just something missing from the entire book. I think its tension. There was never a moment where I didnt think that they would save the day, that they wouldn't get together, that somehow everything wouldn't fit perfectly and conveniently into place at the end. It was too easy which makes for blandless. I never got the feeling that Hexe using right hand magic was hard for him. I never got the feeling that he wasnt frakking perfect and that is incredibly monotonous.

Buy or Borrow: Sadly the world building is great which makes up for what I really didn’t love, but not enough to make me shell out money to buy the next. Borrow maybe. From the library. For free.

Part of: Tales of Golgotham

Book One: Right Hand Magic

Book Two: Left Hand Magic (due late 2011)

Also Recommended: For an interesting take on magic and an urban setting I would recommend Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series.

2.25 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

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