Ahoy there me mateys! I received this fantasy eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. So here be me honest musings . . .
I was excited to read this full-length novel from the author who brought us hippo cowboys. This is a murder mystery set in a magical school. Ivy is a professional PI that spends her time investigating cheaters and such. She has always been upset that her twin sister got the magic and glory and she got the grit and mundane. But this murder mystery could be the step that takes her to the next level. Unfortunately this was a book that had problems and ended up being highly unsatisfactory.
The positive things that made me finish the book were:
- I loved the hippo books so much for their characters and world-building that I gave the author the benefit of the doubt.
- It had a very nice set-up. I was highly engaged by the premise. I expected the overall journey to be worth it.
- I liked some of the practical magic on display. I particularly liked how healing magic worked.
- I enjoyed the characters Rahul and Mrs. Webb.
- There is good use of romantic consent in this book.
- There is some nice diversity in the book.
While those things keep me reading, the world-building and plot made it harder and harder to finish the book. Unfortunately, there were major issues that made this an unlikable read for me.
- The Main Character - Ivy is a woe-is-me drunk who makes bad choices all the time. The sympathy from the beginning is destroyed by her desperate and slightly pathetic choices. She makes ridiculous decisions and then tries to justify how they work within the investigation. She also uses the investigation as an attempt to play-act her life as a magician. Someone was murdered and she wants to play make-believe. It was odd.
- The Other Characters - I didn't really love any of the characters besides Rahul and Mrs. Webb. And those two weren't particularly unique despite their enjoyability. After the hippo books, I frankly expected more.
- The Magic - I liked the practical, if silly, uses for some of the magic (like all the magic of Rahul) but how it works is never actually explained. Also there is no real indication of what adults do with their magic other than teach. Why do the magicians hide it from the world? Is it used for the greater good ever? It seems from this book that magic seems to be used for things like protecting the coffee machine from students and for the students to pass notes to each other. I wanted more insight into the rules of magic and the uses that were only hinted at.
- The World-Building - I feel like neither Ivy's life in the "real" world or the school are truly set up as actual places. They felt kinda like a two-dimensional film set only without the visual clues. The suggestion of parts taking place in Oakland or Sunol seemed irrelevant to the story.
- The Chosen One trope - This felt shoe-horned in. There is never a good explanation of what being the Chosen One actually means or what the consequences are going to be.
- The Romance - While Rahul was me favourite character, the romance subplot stalled the action and was pointless. It did not need to exist at all.
- The Murder-Mystery - I knew immediately who-dun-it so it came down to wanting to know the whys and wherefores. And I found those to be lackluster and stupid. I get why the characters made those emotional choices but frankly didn't care. It just all seemed so melodramatic and pointless for no reason. And how the solution was exposed was silly.
- The Ending - One of the worst endings ever. Ivy made two horrible and ridiculous choices. The author decided to leave the ramifications of the case and the effects on the students and staff are not discussed. The book ends in such an odd fashion that I thought there might another book coming. Nope. This be a standalone.
The author includes lots of dark topics in this book and then never explores any of the actual life consequences of such choices. She ends the book with no closure or realistic ramifications. Instead the entire plot felt more like a facade for Ivy to realize that a) her problem is herself; and b) for her to fall in lust. Shame because I wanted to like this one. Unfortunately it must walk the plank! Arrrr!
So lastly . . .
Thank you Macmillian-Tor/Forge!