Author: Annie Bellet
Published: July 30, 2014
Characterization and badassery
Jade Crow is smart, wickedly powerful, and hunted. All she wants it to live a quiet little life under the radar and avoid getting noticed. You know, so her ex doesn’t track her down, tear out her heart, and eat it. Relationships, right? Anyway, the bad news for her is that although she has no interest in finding trouble, her friends become mired in it, and she just can’t let her friends down regardless of what it means for her. There are a lot of things I like about Jade Crow, in a whole spectrum of ways. (I’m restraining myself right now, but be prepared for me to geek out in the summation. There, you’ve been warned.) As far as badassery goes, Jade’s got it all over the place. She’s mentally tough, physically tough, isn’t overly concerned with her looks or self-doubt, and gosh golly she can throw down. The author did a good job of giving me a sense of Jade’s abilities without giving me the whole show. Clearly, she’s saving some for later, and I really, really like that. It’s like knowing that as much as I’m enjoying my entree, a really fantabulous dessert course is waiting for me. With a wine pairing. And maybe some cheese. That’s just joy upon joy. So, bottom line: Jade is badass in all the best ways that I like a protagonist (male or female) to be badass.
I also liked the supporting characters. They weren’t one-dimensional, as they are in many books. The fact that one of them was a leprechaun was definitely something different that I enjoyed. (I feel compelled to insert a lame Lucky Charms joke here….must resist.) One aspect I particularly liked was that Jade Crow and two of the supporting characters were Native American, and not in some silly cliché way. They are simply characters in a story that could have been anything else, but happened to be Native American. I greatly appreciate seeing some diversity in fiction, so I give Annie Bellet gets some big props for that.
Plot and pacing
The plot and pacing were bang on, the whole way. Annie Bellet got me from the very first page, pulled me in and took me on an adventure. There was none of the dreaded info dump that makes me give up on a lot of books before I make it to the second chapter. The world build was gentle and effortless. I really like fantasy books that are on Earth as this one is, or are at least Earth-like, because we can make assumptions about a lot of things. If an author doesn’t have to describe every single aspect of a world, the characters and the story can be the aspects of the story that really shine. More props to Annie Bellet for understanding that and really using it. She builds just enough “different” into her version of our world that it doesn’t feel like work to read the story. It’s all just enjoyment, which is exactly what I want from a book. Yeah, I italicized that. Because finding a book that manages to hit that sweet spot is just so good.
Prose and editing
There was a bit more use of swear words than I tend to prefer in a book. However, given that the characters are gamers, the language is organic to who their characters are. The writing was tight and pretty clean. There were just a few little editing issues I noted, but they didn’t detract from the story at all.
I’d say this book had more humorous tone than direct humor. I wasn’t tempted to laugh out loud, but the tone had both a lightness and a skeptical smartassery that kept me completely engaged. The variety of humor reflects back onto the characterization, which is spot on. Very well done.
“Nobody likes sorcerers. Probably because most of us are assholes who kill and eat the hearts of supernatural beings for their power.”
“Time to put on my Game Master face and get shit done.”
“’I will find ask him when I find him,’ Alek said with a tiny smile that made me think of screaming rabbits and blood spraying on white walls. Not a nice smile, really.”
“He went down and stayed down. Guess no one had ever told him not to bring a gun to a mage fight.”
Wah hah, now I get to geek out. Jade owns a comic book store, and she and her friends are gamers. This means tabletop, console, and pretty much everything else. I liked this aspect, as I’m quite the geek myself. (Although Jade and her friends call themselves “nerds,” which I think of as scrawny asthmatics with pocket protectors and a major fear of confrontation. I think of the sci-fi/fantasy type of fan who is into books, games, and movies related to the genre as “geeks.”) This book has references to Star Trek, Star Wars, Army of Darkness, Dungeons and Dragons, The Princess Bride, Magic the Gathering, and a whole bunch of other stuff that really tickled my fancy. Jade Crow and her friends definitely see the world from the perspective of fangeeks and gamers. Don’t worry if you aren’t a gamer yourself. The author has done a good job of explaining almost all of the references in a very organic way. Although this book should appeal particularly to the geek types like me, it’s a really good choice for anyone who likes adventure, mystery, and magic.