Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Star Witch (Lazy Girl's Guide to Magic #2) by Helen Harper

Ivy, the Laziest of All Witches, is still being pulled into the machinations of the Hallowed Order of Magical Enlightenment. And not just because she finds Winter hot and isn’t entirely willing to see him lead her life

The Order needs a witch to investigate some possible grisly magical murders… one without official capacity. Sounds like a job for the talented Ivy - especially since the murder is happening on the set of her favourite reality TV show.

We return to Ivy and our completely non-heroic heroine. A protagonist who is perhaps the most normal person I have ever read. She’s lazy, she hates getting up early and certainly before her cup of tea, she is too idle to be easily impressed. Her lofty goals in life is to happily lay in front of the sofa bingewatching bad television. And she’s a fan of bad reality TV

And that works - because this is who Ivy is, a normal person. And while the genre is full of protagonists who are Not Like The Others and like classical piano concerto and Impressionist art or classical literature; actually being interested in popular entertainment, especially something as low brow as reality TV, is unheard of!

Her daily interactions also excellently continue this thread of normality. Sure she is a very powerful witch, an extremely talented witch - but she also lacks focus and concentration and willpower. Basically, she’s too lazy to reach her full potential. And how many of us could be many things if we could bring ourselves to get up an hour earlier, go to the gym a bit more, spend a bit more time studying.

And when she’s investigating the crime and mystery, she doesn’t make vast leaps of logic and be RIGHT. She makes massive leaps of logic, in enthusiasm as the amateur investigator. And is hilariously, sillily, wrong - because she isn’t a perfect savant or brilliant and half the time she’d be putting in twice her current effort just to half-ass something. And it’s not frustrating. It’s really, it’s fun and I really love her - because she also doesn’t really take herself all that seriously. Or the situation she’s in. She joins a reality TV show as both a huge fan and entirely aware of just how silly it is. She plays with the job, the events, and is willing to have absolutely immense fun all from an epic place of really Not Caring.

This applies even to her crush on Winter. Like many people she can indeed be stirred from her laziness because she wants to impress the hot guy. But even then she has her limits - he can stir her to act but not keep her concentrating on it. Her relationship with Winter is fun, they’re direct opposites who work well together and have a nice amount of shark. Yes, Winter is still the up-tight, rules-obsessed over achiever -but Ivy nicely melts him in the same way that he gets her to actually focus on things.

Throw in a hilarious take on reality TV, openly pillorying the inability of the contestants, the blatant caricatures and stereotypes as well as tricks like letting all the contestants meet early so they have chance to get to know each other and not be still on “first impression good manners”.  And she happily accepting the role of the Nasty One in between winning events by being too lazy (and losing them the same way). And a feud with wardrobe lady who dresses her ridiculously sexily - I love her response to Winter’s apoplexy about how all men will be staring at her: “that’s their problem, not mine.” We also throw in more weighty issues like nepotism and tv personalities using their influence to sexually harass the vulnerable

Through that we have the investigation with legitimate monsters and black magic and things to worry about, some excellent red herrings, some nice action scenes and a really complicated and difficult choice that rests on Ivy. It brings in some nice order politics (which has been fraught after events of the next book which promises for more layers and complexity for the future) and really adds layers to the head of the Magical Order by making him not just a villain or an antagonist but someone who actively respects Ivy and her skills. Albeit he feels he has to make decisions which are certainly not in Ivy’s best interest.

Oh and we have a talking cat. Brutus is still amazing and he’s a lot lot lot lot lot more crafty than I originally thought from the first book, doing sneaky things we don’t entirely know about because he’s a cat. He’s secretive. He doesn’t brag or boast because he’s a cat and doesn’t give a shit what you think.

I love Ivy. I love her interactions with Winter way more than I did. I love the world and the concept. The diversity not so much. She has a POC friend called Iqbal but she only calls him when she needs him and she’s vanishingly minor. She snarks about the reality TV contestants who are there to fill obvious racial stereotypes which is a good point - but… that is kind of all they are. We have some women around Ivy but not a lot around her in a meaningful manner. There are no LGBTQ characters.

I love this series and I’m not ready for another terrible revelation. This is a trilogy. A trilogy. There’s only one book left