fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsTarnished and Torn by Juliet BlackwellTarnished and Torn by Juliet Blackwell

Tarnished and Torn is the fifth book in Juliet Blackwell’s WITCHCRAFT MYSTERIES series. If you haven’t read any of the books yet, I’d recommend that you start back at book one, Second Hand Spirits. This is a pleasant cozy mystery series that isn’t going to stun you with brilliant ideas or delight you with its literary finesse, but it consistently does what it sets out to do — it entertains. Its strength is the cast of characters who are likeable right from the start and who grow on the reader as, over the course of five books, we learn more of their history, witness their triumphs and tragedies, and (most importantly) come to care about what happens to them in the future.

In Tarnished and Torn, Lily attends an antique jewelry show with her friends. While she’s there, a fire starts and someone is murdered in a way that’s reminiscent of ancient witch hunts. Lily is worried about this, of course, so (as usual) she decides to start nosing about and discovers that she has a connection to the victim and one of the suspects. The case gets complicated, involving quinceañera dresses, an ancient Aztec legend, cursed jewelry, fire dancing, and demons. It ends with a dramatic scene at the wax museum.

In each of the WITCHCRAFT MYSTERY books, I’ve learned something new. Juliet Blackwell never comes across as teachy, but I have picked up some of the culture of the Haight-Ashbury area and I’ve learned more about Latino culture and legends, botany, the history and practice witchcraft, and vintage clothing, among other things.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsMany readers will be wondering about Lily’s love life, which is complicated. (Don’t worry, no spoilers!) There are some changes for Lily on the personal front and it’s still not at all clear if she’ll end up with any of the men we’ve met so far. Juliet Blackwell is teasing us, but the romance is perfectly balanced with the other aspects of the plot, never taking center stage for long, and always keeping us eagerly reading and hoping for more. Lily is a woman who wants a beautiful lasting relationship, but she’s not going to mope around when things aren’t going well. She’s got a great job, several good friends (we’ve watched these friendships develop over the course of the series), and a strange but sweet (and often hilarious) little gobgoyle for a familiar. These things are important to Lily, and I love that about her.

If you’ve been happy with the series so far, you’ll be pleased with Tarnished and Torn. It’s another solid entry and I’m very much looking forward to book six, A Vision in Velvet, which is due out in July 2014. I’m listening to Xe Sands narrate the audio version of this series and, as I’ve said before, I think she’s fabulous. I wouldn’t consider reading the rest of the series in any other format.


  • Kat Hooper

    KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.