The Bitter Seed of Magic by Suzanne McLeod
Up until this point, reading Suzanne McLeod’s SPELLCRACKERS series has often been an exercise in frustration. The novels were often confusing, but were well-written enough that I couldn’t dismiss them and always felt there was huge potential for the series. With book three, The Bitter Seed of Magic, McLeod finally strikes the right balance between clarity and obfuscation.
The Bitter Seed of Magic focuses on the curse laid on the lesser fae of London by the sidhe queen Cliona. The curse is introduced earlier in the series, but McLeod recaps it in the prologue, a refresher for which I was grateful. Among other things, it has blighted the lesser fae’s fertility, which causes problems for Genny Taylor as the various fae races see her — specifically, impregnating her — as the key to saving their people. The other main plot thread, though the two are linked, is a series of murders of female lesser fae. Genny investigates these crimes and learns more about the messy history of Cliona’s family tree and how it relates to the curse.
I was briefly worried that this book would be confusing too, especially since the fae and the vampires often give Genny cryptic information instead of straight answers, but as I mentioned above, this time the balance is right. The Bitter Seed of Magic is mysterious without being confusing. I didn’t always know how the pieces fit together, but I always felt confident that they belonged to the same puzzle. Heck, I feel like the first two books make more sense now too, after finishing this one.
Also especially satisfying is Genny’s character growth. In this installment, she grows a stronger spine against the powerful vampires and fae who seek to manipulate her, striking hard bargains to give her leverage against them. I also love her determination to not let magical forces control her sex life. Her emotional reactions to revelations about her personal history are compelling. And the ending is fantastic, bringing a touch of lightness into the dark world of SPELLCRACKERS and dealing with the fertility issue in a refreshingly non-cliché manner.
I was worried about The Bitter Seed of Magic, but ended up really enjoying it. I look forward to The Shifting Price of Prey, scheduled for US release in June 2012.
Spellcrackers — (2008-2014) Publisher: ‘My name is Genny Taylor. I work for Spellcrackers.com. It’s a great job, pays the rent, lets me do the thing I’m good at — finding magic and cracking it — and the bonus is it’s run by witches, which stops the vamps from taking a bite out of me. Not that vampires are the big bad any more, not since they launched a slick PR campaign — oh, and they brought the goblins on board. Now the vamps are sought-after celebrities, and Getting Fanged and taking the Gift are the new height of all things cool. But only if you’re human. And I’m not. I’m Sidhe fae. And I know firsthand just how deadly a vampire can be.’ When Mr October, a sexy calendar pin-up vamp, is accused of murdering his girlfriend, an old debt is called in and Genny is forced to help prove his innocence, risking her job and the protection it offers — and threatening to expose her own dark secrets. Searching for the killer plunges Genny deep into the hidden heart of vampire society. It’s not long before she realises that she and Mr October are both unwitting pawns in a centuries-old power struggle between London’s non-human communities… and it’s not just her own neck that’s at stake, but the lives of all London’s supernaturals.
This sounds like a book I’d like to read, but it also confuses me a tad: should I start reading here, in the middle of the series, since the first couple of books weren’t all that hot? Or do I go back and read everything? (The completist in me is likely to do the latter, just because I wouldn’t be able to stand it otherwise.)
I think it would work better if you started from the beginning. My experience was something like this: book one was hugely confusing, book 2 was confusing for a large part of it but wrapped up well in the end, and then this one was just right, as Goldilocks would say. :) But it does help to have read the first two. This one started feeling a little like October Daye, and from me that’s a very good thing.