Sorcerer Marla Mason, small-time guardian of the city of Felport, has a big problem. A rival is preparing a powerful spell that could end Marla's life-and, even worse, wreck her city. Marla's only chance of survival is to boost her powers with the Cornerstone, a magical artifact hidden somewhere in San Francisco. But when she arrives there, Marla finds that the quest isn't going to be quite as cut-and-dried as she expected...and that some of the people she needs to talk to are dead. It seems that San Francisco's top sorcerers are having troubles of their own-a mysterious assailant has the city's magical community in a panic, and the local talent is being (gruesomely) picked off one by one.
With her partner-in-crime, Rondeau, Marla is soon racing against time through San Francisco's alien streets, dodging poisonous frogs, murderous hummingbirds, cannibals, and a nasty vibe from the local witchery, who suspect that Marla herself may be behind the recent murders. And if Marla doesn't figure out who is killing the city's finest in time, she'll be in danger of becoming a magical statistic herself...
Comment: This book is one of the several ebooks I had had in the pile the longest. Well before I even got an e-reader, when I read .pdf files in my computer, I got several ebooks in the genres I liked the most at the time, PNR and UF. But some were a bit forgotten, then I'd get to other things first and time passed by. I'm trying to read them though, just to not have wasted the effort it took to get them. However, perhaps because they no longer strike my fancy or perhaps because I wouldn't enjoy them no matter the time I were to pick to read them, some have been quite a let down.
In this book by author TA Pratt - this being my first attempt on reading something by him - we have Marla Mason as a protagonist. Marla is a witch and she is on a mission to find a way to defeat a rival before she casts a spell to overtake the city Marla is the sort of manager of. In order to achieve her goal, Marla travels with her companion Randeau to find a cornerstone, a magical artifact that will allow her to battle her enemy. The problem is that the stone is hidden and those who could help her find it end up dead within hours of meeting Marla. Will she be able to solve her problems before she looses "her" city for good?
This is an UF story with many of the elements one can find in the genre. It was interesting to recognize several of the expected details like the powerful main character, a funny sidekick, a quest that isn't easily solved but of course the heroine/protagonist gets there quicker than most, some red herrings along the way, some disappointments before the end where gloriously things are solved. This story isn't heavy on romantic elements which I sort of missed but perhaps it's explained for being a first book in a series or because the author is a man, I can't say.
However, despite the winning elements that usually sustain a plot like the one here, the specifications and original details weren't something that won me over and to be honest I was quite eager to just have the book finished.
I think my biggest issue was with the characters themselves. And if one can't enjoy spending time reading about the characters then it's difficult to have a better liking to what's on the page.
This doesn't mean the writing wasn't intriguing but the personality of the characters and the world building weren't appealing enough for me to, for instance, want to keep reading about Marla.
Marla is the main character, she is clever and witty, powerful and kick-ass but I didn't like her. I think the little clues about her personality, about her past and her motivations didn't endear her to me at all. I felt her character was mostly dubious regarding morals and the concepts of right and wrong and I couldn't feel I had a grip on her true feelings. It was all about her task, her need to win over something even if for that she had to go over some people. Although this wasn't the case of a sanguine attitude all the time, several information about her past choices, her way of acting just made me think she was not likable and I didn't really want to invest in understanding her, even if she becomes "better" in following books.
For me, one of the best things about any book is the dichotomy between the plot and the character's decisions throughout. So, in this book we have a plot with many harsh situations, with a little too raw scenes and sometimes secondary characters (mainly the enemies) and not always common or stable occurrences that could show us the character's quieter sides. Unlike other UF series, where we can also have complex plots but in between more domestic os sweet descriptions of the character's lives/dreams/ideals or things alike these lines, in here we didn't. Why should I care about Marla? Why should I accept what she's doing is the best course of action? I just didn't care enough to be bothered and because several scenes were unappealing, I just wanted to get over with it.
After Marla's adventures combined with some scenes that include a lot of different things, I can grant the story that (like the cannibal character), and also after the introduction of too many details to fully remember, the book is ending and what we have been sort of promised from the start - Marla finding the stone to defeat another witch - actually ends in a very unexpected way but by no means, an amazing one. In reality, it's very anti climatic and I thought to myself why I bothered.
I'm debating more and more my personal rule of finishing all books I read. It seems (usually) older readers are right: with time and age one has less patience for unappealing things.
I did finish this book but since I didn't enjoy the way the characters were portrayed nor how they behaved in general, I won't continue this series.
But it's a cute cover and some little details were original.