An avid reader calls it as she sees it on books, publishing and the written word in general.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: The Bitter Seed of Magic by Suzanne McLeod

I am so tired of sexy vampires. Particularly ones whose entire personality can more or less be summed up as ‘mysterious’. If they are in a rather bland love triangle where the heroine is torn between the good guy and the sexy vampire bad boy, I begin to lose the will to live.

So it’s not good news that The Bitter Seed of Magic by Suzanne McLeod features such a vampire and such a triangle. I picked the book up looking for light entertainment, and it is in fact the third in the serious (I confess, I read books out of order, so sue me – that’s what happens when you’re taking your choice from what’s on the library shelves). But unfortunately, I didn’t find in particularly entertaining, and just now when my eye caught the quote on the cover calling it a “Fresh, unique and urban paranormal fantasy at its best [sic]” I nearly choked on my coffee. Although on second thoughts the lack of grammar and punctuation in that quote is probably something of a giveaway, either as to the quality of the recommending publication or the quality of the editing.

Which brings me to the editing of the book. I accept that writers have tics, in fact we all have writing tics (you may have noticed one of mine is overuse of the em-dash and brackets – probably punctuation overuse in general, actually.) McLeod suffers from the same problem with the em-dash, which I noticed but sympathised with. The one tic that did drive me absolutely bonkers when reading this book was the italics. To give you an idea, I opened it at page 5 and found no less than seven italicised words. One instance is, fair enough, a foreign phrase of two words. The rest? Thought, crack, human, looked and look. Apparently McLeod italicises anything that may have some magical significance, then italicises some more for emphasis. But this is the type of thing that a competent editor is supposed to fix, and I simply cannot understand why no-one addressed this. It made me consider putting the book down a few pages in, although I did eventually get used to it (sort of).

It’s a shame in some ways because sexy vampires and stereotypic character relatonships aside, there is some good world-building here. It’s fundamentally an urban fantasy with strong celtic elements, as well as a few vampires and witches for good measure. The main character, Genevieve, is likable enough, although she does seem to have a disturbing tendency to throw herself into bed with other members of aforesaid love triangle. It seems a little odd, possibly because the sexual tension between them also seems rather forced. I can’t put my finger on exactly why, but perhaps it’s something to do with the fact that McLeod doesn’t provide reasons for Genevieve’s actions other than that the men are, of course, sexy (and supernatural). In fact, the lack of convincing backstory is another conspicuous hole in the plot.

Ah, the plot. Let me just say, I was pretty sure my brain was going to explode out my ears at some point, and not in a good way. I would bet you whatever you like that McLeod is one of those writers who makes things up as she goes along, because the way everyone turns out to be related to everyone else at the end seems implausible to say the least. It rather suggests that having dug herself into a rather deep and complicated hole some fancy footwork was required to get herself out again. And unfortunately, by that point I’d lost track of whom was related to whom and it didn’t all make that much sense anyway.

My verdict? It could have been better, but bad editing has ruined what was in any case a not-very-original book. One for the sexy-vamp-fans only.


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