Sunday, April 1, 2018

Shadow Hunt (Disrupted Magic #3) by Melissa F. Olson

Nulls are infertile. Everyone knows this. Scarlett certainly knows this

So being pregnant was… unexpected to say the least and raised all kinds of implications which she has to learn about quickly

But the luparii witches have arrived - they want their Barghest back (Scarlett’s cute pet abomination) and more - they plan something big - possibly apocalyptic and Scarlett is the key to stopping it and likely much much more.

I think this book represents a rather excellently timed shift. After two books that have established Scarlett’s life, her relationships (fraught and in flux as they are), her friends, her purpose in the city and how she relates to the city’s leadership, this book turns more outwards and even a little grander. While, at the same time, not necessarily pulling the focus from Scarlett or her more regional concerns

The arrival of the Luparii brings not only a sinister threat to the city to be hunted down before they bring carnage. They also represent the greater supernatural community, the wider supernatural politics

The examination of null physiology, null breeding and how this relates to the witches also adds a much larger scale to the whole world, the nature of magic and the nature of the supernatural. It expands the world from a relatively narrow circle around Scarlett and puts and entirely new spin on it looking at her world and especially her place and importance within it. Again, it doesn’t shift the focus but it does expand it far more with consequently raised stakes

I also think it brings some really fascinating stakes to Scarlett herself. She’s always been a good character - capable and strong without being wonder woman, confident without being too reckless (as far as urban fantasy protagonists go - let’s face it this is a genre where everyone has major overdoses of recklessness) and she’s caring without setting herself up as a martyr. She has friends but a lot of them she doesn’t entirely trust especially within the supernatural community, while she also has some excellent, powerful friendships with people like Molly who are clearly in a very different mental category for her than her political allies.

But now her very very personal decisions have such a broader context including for the future of all magical races and at a time where global supernatural politics just became very very confused and very subject to change. It is both very personal to her while also having vast implications which promises a whole lot of exciting storylines in the future.

I think this works well with the renewed focus on both Scarlett dealing with her pregnancy and her reconnecting with her brother and considering the deep implications of him being involved in her life. While we’re widening the lens we do have this excellent call back to Scarlett;s personal life so the focus of the story doesn’t change entirely.

The direct plot itself is a search and destroy - not so much a mystery as a hunt with a hidden enemy with considerable power. There’s not a lot of questions as to motives or who is behind this but a lot of action and hunting and running. There is an unfortunate habit of the hunted protagonist deciding she really needs to wander around alone going on. But generally it’s an exciting well paced plot full of sinister enemies and desperate good guys with a few fascinating twists which is always good

I thought the ending was somewhat epic but I also found it surprisingly narrow. We had a wonderful grand battle that was set up as epic and was… fun? But perhaps not quite living up to how it was laid out. But I think this is less due to the awesomeness of the fight and more due to the excellent job of setting up the conflict and then the rather narrow focus during it.

Also her barghest is the cutest abomination man was not meant to know ever.

I do feel, though, that I haven’t seen enough of the other predominant characters in this book; especially central core characters in her home city like the heads of each of the supernatural councils. I feel sometimes that I am not understanding the relationship between them and Scarlett. However, I think this is my fault - this book series appears to be a spin off of an older book series that covers far more of this and I actually appreciate an author who isn’t bogging down their books with unnecessary recaps. The book still reads extremely well without this information - but I think would be even richer when I pick up the other series as well

We have some POC - Sashi, a side character witch is south Asian, there’s a Native American witch matriarch who is all kinds of nice and snarky and we’re reminded that the (deceased) father of Scarlett’s child is a Black man. But I think Jesse, her new love interest, good friend and general foundation in her life is the most prominent POC as a latino man - we generally have a few POC scattered around but not in hugely major roles I’m hoping Jesse’s now escalating presence will change that

We have no LGBTQ characters.

This story is excellent on its own, it’s got a great plot, it’s exciting and fun with some excellent characters I really enjoy following with an interesting world and a really good concept of the null in this greater supernatural world - giving her both a great deal of influence and skill while, at the same time, not giving her super powers or constant levelling up. I’m leery of how her special status may reflect on her pregnancy but that remains to be seen. On the whole this is one of my pinned series I always look forward to.