Capsule Reviews

The past two weeks have been crazy, in a mixed but mostly not-good way. Finally (touching all the wood I can find) things are calming a little, or at least there’s a lull, and I found some time to read. I haven’t been able to just sit and read for a while, and it was a welcome luxury. Here were three books I managed to get through, and each one has something to recommend it.

The Quarter Storm, by Veronica G. Henry. This is the first in an Urban Fantasy series from Henry, whose historical fantasy Bacchanal wowed me earlier in the year. Set in New Orleans, The Quarter Storm follows a voodou mambo, Reina, as she struggles to make a living with her healing gift. When another mambo is accused of a terrible mutilation-murder in the French Quarter, Reina goes to the self-styled “priest king” of New Orleans for help. He refuses, as does Reina’s powerful mambo father. Even when Reina reluctantly reaches out her NOPD contact, her ex-boyfriend, she is rebuffed. In fact, all three men don’t just turn her down, they warn her off. Reina uses a combination of neighborhood connections and her magical abilities to suss out the true murderer. The book ends in a thrilling magical battle in a cemetery.

The first half of this story read slowly, and Reina, who is not a passive character, seems passive–largely because she’s getting stonewalled at every point. I liked the description of the magic and the voodou belief system, and I loved the secondary characters. The story’s setting in time confused me– Reina keeps mentioning hurricane Katrina as happening “ten years” ago, but by now it’s closer to twenty. Still, it’s an enjoyable introduction to the character, and I’ll be looking for the next book in the series.

Tripping Arcadia by Kit Mayquist. Mayquist’s debut is billed as a “gothic novel” and rightfully so. Lena, our first-person narrator, takes us on a journey into the dark twisted hearts of the Verdeau family, a group of Massachusetts tycoons whose family is built on secrets. All the necessary gothic tropes are here; a secretive, moldering mansion; beautiful young people bent on destruction, mysteries and secrets, lots of drugs and alcohol. There’s a bonus–herbs, herbal medicine and poisons take center stage. Plot issues interfered with my complete enjoyment of the book, and some key characters are under-developed, but Mayquist delivers on a mood.

Inheritors of Power, by Juliette Wade. This is the third book in Juliette Wade’s proposed five-book series, The Broken Trust. Right off the bat, let me say that you shouldn’t start this book if you haven’t read Mazes of Power and Transgressions of Power.

Inheritors of Power did not meet my expectations. It upended them, subverted them, and surpassed anything I was expecting. Wade’s overarching story takes place on a world where all human habitation is underground, in large cities. Society is stratified into rigid castes, with more and more power consolidated into one shrinking caste, the Grobal. In the first book, we saw, in terrifying detail, the cost (in lives) of the Grobal system. When they see the caste system, and all their systems, beginning to fail, the Grobal respond by doubling-down and intensifying control. The end of Mazes of Power saw a dangerous man brought to power, as Nekantor becomes the nation’s Eminence. Transgressions of Power showed us Nekantor’s brothers trying to avoid his corrupting influence (and his vengeance) while simultaneously trying to encourage small changes in this dangerously rigid society. The book ended on an optimistic note and left lots of mysteries and questions.

Inheritors of Power is like a giant magic trick, where we learn that nearly everything we believed is false or at least questionable. The discovery of a cache of documents and artifacts abruptly reveals how much true Varin history was erased, with consequences for everyone. The book utilizes multiple points of view to demonstrate the ripples moving through this world. That may sound a bit dry, but the relationships in this book make the story gripping. This book suddenly answers the question, “What does the ‘Broken Trust’ series mean?” and also asks a question: What does it mean to inherit power in this world?

This entry was posted in Book Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *