The End of Magic by Amber Benson

The End of MagicThe End of Magic

by Amber Benson
Series: The Witches of Echo Park, #3

Paperback, 310 pg.
Ace Books, 2017

Read: May 18 – 19, 2017


I don’t know how to talk about this book without discussing the series as a whole or getting into plot details that no one wants me to, really. But I’ll try.

The Last Dream Keeper left things in a very dark place — even for the middle installment in a trilogy. So it was with a little trepidation that I started this — just how much darker were things going to get? Thankfully, not much. Which is not to say that the book took on a euphoric or optimistic feel, but there were glimmers of hope within the darkness. Some small moments of victory in the face of loss before the main action of this particular novel took off.

The Flood is gaining momentum — the anti-magic movement is getting governments around the world to turn on witches, to start interring them (at best). While running for their lives and liberty, someone they have to unite to take a final stand. Lyse MacAllister, herself still new to magic, takes up the challenge to lead her sisters against the Flood.

When talking about book 2, I said: “And when I say that the plot takes this book in dramatically different directions than you expect, it is almost impossible to believe that the closing pages of this book and the closing pages of The Witches of Echo Park belong to the same series — much less are separated by only one novel. Somehow, however, Benson pulls it off — I really have no idea how. When I think about it, it doesn’t make any sense — but in the moment, it absolutely worked.” That’s even truer for the difference between Book 1 and 3. It’s impossible to guess your way through this plot — but it’s all real, it all flows organically.

I (and many others, I realize, I don’t claim to be original) have often said it’s all about execution. There are plots that when described, I’d say I wouldn’t like that I have — and vice versa. If you gave me either the series outline or the book outline — I’d have said, “Nope, not for me.” But Benson pulls it off in a way that I: 1. enjoyed reading and 2. appreciate. I don’t know how to talk about the plot anymore than that.

These characters all seemed real — all of them (even the pair that really didn’t exist in our world) felt like people you could go meet in real life. Well, maybe not the people in The Flood, let’s be honest. But everyone else absolutely did. Which is a real strength in a book that got as outlandish as this one.

I’ve read all of Benson’s books (at least her solo books) now — and it’s great to see her develop into the writer of this book. Nothing against Death’s Daughter or the rest of that series, but the depth of character and craft in this series is beyond that. Yeah, I maybe didn’t like everything she did with these characters or the books, but I liked the way she went about it.

I’m throwing in the towel here, I just don’t know how to talk about this book — strong characters (in every sense of the phrase), honest emotions, a bananas plot, and an ending you won’t see coming until it’s too late jump out of the way. Heroism, (not just romantic) love, magic, family — this series has it all. Give it a try.

—–

3.5 Stars

Advertisements

The Last Dream Keeper by Amber Benson

The Last Dream KeeperThe Last Dream Keeper

by Amber Benson

Series: The Witches of Echo Park, #2

Paperback, 307 pg.

Ace, 2016

Read: March 25, 2016

Picking up right from where The Witches of Echo Park left off, Benson takes her coven deeper into the conflict with the mysterious forces threatening the Witches Council. The opening chapters of this book had me hooked soundly and almost immediately brought me right back to where I was when the first book ended. You want Lyse and the rest to really gel, to become the family they could be (and might have been before Eleanora’s death). Sure, you want them to get to the bottom of things, thwart evil and all that — but mostly you want to see them form a strong unit, maybe have a taste of happiness.

But circumstances won’t let that happen. Somewhere around the midway point (I think maybe a little beofre) the book takes a huge turn — the coven splits up. Some on personal missions, others off on an effort to enlist others to their cause, and some to keep things going at home. This was a risky move — these books are at their strongest when you have these women interacting with each other, drawing on each other’s strengths, augmenting their own weaknesses. So to eliminate this possibility takes real guts — I’m not sure I liked the move, but what Benson does with that kicks everything into a different gear — more action-packed and explosive. The magic that so defined the series up to this point is still there, it’s just used pretty differently.

And when I say that the plot takes this book in dramatically different directions than you expect, it is almost impossible to believe that the closing pages of this book and the closing pages of The Witches of Echo Park belong to the same series — much less are separated by only one novel. Somehow, however, Benson pulls it off — I really have no idea how. When I think about it, it doesn’t make any sense — but in the moment, it absolutely worked. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough, and when it was done I started looking forward to whatever craziness Benson’s got in store for us.

—–

4 Stars

The Witches of Echo Park by Amber Benson

The Witches of Echo ParkThe Witches of Echo Park

by Amber Benson
Series: The Witches of Echo Park, #1

Paperback, 294 pg.
Ace, 2015
Read: March 18 – 19, 2015
So, you have a coven of witches (who don’t like to be called that) who connected to some global network of covens that are under attack. We’re not given much information on that part — just enough so that the threat of violence is real, if shadowing (and mostly so far removed as to not be a looming presence). The local leader of the coven –the last of a generation, it seems — is dying of cancer, and she recruits her great-niece (or something), Lyse, to take her place. Lyse had no idea her great-aunt (or something) was a witch — or in Lyse’s point of view, she had no idea her great-aunt was a little crazy, not full-blown insane, but unhinged enough to believe in magic. But she goes along with her dying wish, and is initiated into the coven. At which point in time, enough crazy stuff starts happening that Lyse has to admit that, yeah, there’s something to that magic stuff.

We don’t get nearly enough time with the rest of the coven to really connect with them — this is about introducing us to the world, about Llyse and Eleanora, and connecting Lyse to everything. It’s only in retrospect that I noticed that I didn’t get to know everyone as well as I wanted to. Lizabeth was close — but I think it’d take 200 pages devoted to her for me to have enough. I wouldn’t need as much time with the others, but, well, trust me on this — Lizabeth is one to watch. They all seem fun and interesting, but no one else comes close.

I’m really light on details here, because the novel’s an introduction to the series — so the details about characters and the tiny bit of plot are all there really is. Which is fine — for this book, not for #2 in the series. I did spend most of the last 50 pages thinking the ending would be unsatisfactory, but she pulled it off — again, for the first book of a series, not for anything later.

This is so different than Benson’s last series, the Calliope Reaper-Jones novels. Honestly, they don’t even seem like they were written by the same person. The characters, the world, the emotions at play, even the magic system feels more grounded, more realistic (if you can say that).

Most Urban Fantasy reads like a Detective/Mystery novel with Magic/Supernatural elements mixed in. This one felt like a Chick Lit (meaning that in the nicest possible way, and just to describe things) book flavored with magic. Which makes it stand out from the pack — by quite a ways. The cover reflects that, I think. Lyse (I assume) doesn’t look like she’s ready to kick butt and take names, she looks like someone who could be my neighbor in the middle of bad day. This is not going to appeal to every UF reader, but I dug it.

On the one hand, it doesn’t take too many pages before you’re pretty sure you know what kind of story this is, how things are going to go. It’s solid stuff, don’t get me wrong — nor is it predictable. It’s just a certain type of story. Yet even knowing that (and I was right, more than I was wrong, anyway) the way that Benson unspooled things drew me in further and further. She set the hook well.

By page 55 I was prepared to call this Benson’s best by a mile — and I only became more convinced the further I read. Friendship, family, devotion, screwy-beliefs, a touch of romance, and magic — Benson brings it all. If you’re up for an Urban Fantasy that doesn’t read like every other one you’ve read, give it a shot.

—–

4 Stars