Sunday, July 22, 2018

Justice Calling (The Twenty-Sided Sorceress #1) by Annie Bellet

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Jade Crow has been on the run for quite some time but she's finally found peace in Wylde, Idaho. The supernatural community is attracted to Wylde because of the ley lines and the town is actually home to a plethora of magical creatures, though shifters seem to make up the majority of the population. Jade has built a fine life for herself, including friends and her own business.  Everything comes to a halt however when a Justice ( the shifters version of judge, jury and executioner) arrives in town, certain that Jade has committed some terrible crime. 

Because the Justice is able to read the truth of someone's answers, Jade is quickly let off the hook. Trouble however still finds Jade when a resident is found frozen in their animal form. Jade must now decide whether to help the sexy Russian Justice who just happens to turn into the biggest tiger ever and her friends, or flee before her abusive ex boyfriend shows up and makes a snack of her to gain her power. 

Justice Calling shouldn't really be called a book because at best it's a novella. It gives us a peak at the world and the rather large cast of characters, without really giving us a chance to know any of them in depth. Even Jade Crow, who is the protagonist is pretty much a mystery. All we learn about Jade is that she is a sorcerer, is on the run from an abusive ex and is a total geek. It really feels like Bellet was going through a check list when she was creating these characters.  There are LGBT characters, and Crow it seems is a protagonist of colour. Part of the reason why it felt like a check list is because there's no real characterisation to flesh them out, let alone cultural references that situate them properly. Bellet seemed more concerned with geek bonafides because she filled the book with gaming, movie and pop culture references that would have the geeks grinning with glee, even though they didn't really serve well in terms of character development. 

There's really not much tension in Justice Calling and I am going to crack this up to the fact that it's a novella masquerading as a book.  There are no twists and turns to speak of. Even the antagonist is so basic that it's hard to give him that label.  There's a budding romance between Jade and Justice but it's so paint by numbers that it's not even remotely interesting and there's no real reason to invest in this relationship.  We don't know much about Justice but I really didn't like the way he accused Jade of not having a life because she was thinking about leaving. It's clear that we are meant to see Jade as an abused woman and having a safe space from a known abuser is not cowardice or even selfishness as I feel that Justice implied but a matter of life and death. 

Having Jade be an abused woman could have been an interesting story point and it makes me ill saying that but Bellet didn't offer much meat to the story Bellet could have made this book into a novel by delving into Jade's past and how she came to reside in Wylde but instead she skimmed over the details barely giving us any real perspective. The story really could have been Jade the survivor. By making the decision to treat Jade's past in this fashion, Bellet cheated Jade and she absolutely cheated her readers. I assume that Justice Calling was meant to sell this series but it did a marginal job at best. It wasn't chessy enough to be good fluff and just enough fluff to not be taken seriously.  There's nothing to get lost in here at all. 

It's absolutely laughable to me that this book was recommended to fans of the Dresden Files and The Iron Druid series. It feel like Bellet was just throwing geek references at the wall in lieu of world and character building, making Justice Calling a barely entertaining read.  Justice Calling is the book that you pick up at the doctor's office while you're waiting to get called in and then put down and promptly forget. It's something you pick up to pass the time but quickly put down as soon as something more interesting comes along. I don't know how Bellet managed to build a series out of this but I can only hope that it gets better because a series of geek references without any real development doesn't sound like any real fun to me.