Light fantasy, fluffy mystery

I just finally posted my review of GGK’s Under Heaven; after I read that I really wanted something light and fluffy. I landed on a book I found at Books & Co, Magic to the Bone by Devon Monk.

It’s a unique setting: 21st century Earth, after the scientific discovery of magic. Magic can be collected like oil or electricity, and stored; when they use magic people don’t pull it from within, but from their surroundings, and every city now has cisterns of magic gathered from storms. And every use of magic has an effect on the user, which you can if you try mitigate by setting up a Disbursement. The effects on Allie, the first-person protagonist of the book, range from headaches to severe head-to-toe bruising to a sore throat, etc… And, sometimes, when she’s really lucky, gaps in her memory, to the extent that she’s begun recording everything in a book she carries with her. The effects can also, illegally, be transferred to someone who had nothing to do with the spell, who doesn’t even have to be present.

Allie is called in by a … friend? called Mama to help the victim of just such an illegal move, Mama’s young son “Boy”. Why all her sons are called “Boy” I don’t know, but … whatever.  They don’t seem to have other names.  Allie’s what is called a Hound, which means she can – literally – sniff out details of a spell, like who cast it. And what she finds when she Hounds Boy is … her father. Who is a very rich, very powerful, very manipulative (ordinarily and magically) SOB, from whom she has been estranged for years.

Now, however, she goes to his office to confront him about the spell – about which he claims to know nothing … and the reader knows this is true because in brief third-person chapters it is revealed that someone very evil is using a very gifted, very damaged young man (Cody) to forge the spell “signatures” of others, including Allie’s father on this spell.

Then, the same day Allie goes to see her father for the first time in several years, he is murdered. And she is implicated. (Guess how.)

What follows is a high-energy action-packed story about how Allie investigates her father’s murder, the young man with the strange gifts (who somehow transforms her gifts, which results in some interesting physical markings), and whether or not she can trust Zayvion Jones, the handsome and sexy and seductive man her father had hired to keep tabs on her (my initial instinct was NO – but I could be wrong), dodging assassins and magical rebounds.

I never really warmed to Allie, or anyone else except Nora, Allie’s best friend; I never let myself trust Zayvion, right up to the end, since it seemed to me that Allie threw herself at him a little too quickly, thoroughly, and heedlessly. The writing wasn’t bad at all; it was very much like being in Allie’s head, listening to her ordinary speech patterns. Setting was well painted; I like the concepts the book was based on; while I didn’t enjoy the ending I appreciated the method of it. Not bad at all, and certainly very different from Kay without being a too-drastic comedown; I won’t rush out and buy the other books in the series, but I won’t pass them up if I come across them second-hand. I do still love the cover, and if I were slim and twenty-something might seriously consider a sleeve tattoo like that …

Then, still seeking light and fluffy (because that wasn’t), I opened the latest Diane Mott Davidson, Fatally Flaky, which I found … somewhere. These are most definite “cozies”, those strange murder mysteries where ordinary people (that is, not cops or PI’s or other people with some business investigating murders) keep tripping over bodies, and then end up finding the killer before the police. Davidson’s series has the distinction of being, I *think*, the first to have recipes in the text (because the heroine, Goldy, is a caterer) – so it’s all her fault.

Hey, I can’t criticize these books too hard – one of my favorite recipes of all time came from Dying for Chocolate: Strawberry Super Pie. It’s responsible for a couple of the extra inches I’m carrying – I was making it pretty darned often for a while there. It’s amazing.

But they’re not exactly Literature. They’re fun and undemanding, which is all I was looking for this week, and the recipes are often pretty terrific. And Fatally Flaky was one of the better books in the series, even if it did adhere pretty strictly to the “client is a flipping crazed bitca” formula. It was a cute story, it was interesting to see Goldy’s son suddenly 16 (I missed a couple of books in there somewhere), and, er, et cetera.

One of the ones I’d missed was Dark Tort (about lawyers, and also cake – puns are de rigeur in cozies’ titles), which is what I’m reading now… NOT one of the better ones. I think in the whole of FF DMD managed to avoid one little quirk of hers which appears in nearly every other book, which always makes me roll my eyes so hard I’m afraid they’ll get stuck.  In Dark Tort (Goldy Culinary Mysteries, Book 13), it’s:  “My mouth watered as I placed the potato puff on a plate.  With the first bite, I almost swooned.”  She “almost swoons” a lot.  Don’t get me wrong – I plan on making the potato puffs.  I just gag a little every time she “almost swoons”. 

Limyaael’s rants have made me much more aware of how characters are described. I don’t remember descriptions in Under Heaven; I should go back and take a look. Magic to the Bone did pretty well; the first-person character describes herself in part by comparing her looks to her father’s, I believe when she goes to see him. DMD’s Goldy books are also first-person, and Goldy … looks in mirrors now and then. Oh dear.  The writing in these really does vary wildly in quality.  This one … Um.  Waitaminnit – there’s no recipe for the potato puffs? 

This one sucks.

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