Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Path to the Key (Destruction of Magic) (Book 1) – review

Author: April Canavan

First published: 2017

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: Magic is fading throughout the world and the supernatural realms can feel the strain growing daily, but Sarah doesn’t care about any of that. She cares about protecting her son from her vampiric ex-husband who is obsessed with gaining power. She’ll stop at nothing to ensure that Alex doesn’t get his hands on Jackson, even if it means welcoming more vampires and other supernatural beings into her life. Their journey takes her across the country, seeking the help of a witch that has invaded her son’s dreams. A vampire named Zander threatens to bring all of her carefully constructed walls crashing down. She’ll break every rule and every preconceived notion they have about her, as long as she can save her son and give him the future that was stolen from her. Sarah’s path connects to the very battle that she tries to avoid, and when she embraces not only her growing power, but also her destiny- she might be able to change the tides of fate.

The review: depending on what you think this book might be will, in my opinion, dictate how you find it. The book straddles the paranormal romance and urban fantasy genres. The thing is, despite some qualms around tying romance into abuse as often happens in the genre, the paranormal romance is simply a romance with (often sanitised) monsters. As such they are undemanding and, whilst there are certainly well written and interesting examples, the bar is set very low. Urban fantasy, on the other hand, is more demanding as a genre – despite being pulp in essence. Solid rules, thought out situations and a plea from me to stay away from your characters being the most important in the world (at least until book 11 in the series). The bar is higher.

Path to the Key is a solid paranormal romance. As a paranormal romance I can buy that vampire Sarah, who has just escaped an abusive relationship would jump the bones of her ex-husband's brother as she gets wrapped up in the romance of it all (as that is the raison d'être of the format) even if the fact that said ex-brother-in-law threatened death and was physically violent towards her just a few hours before makes it seem unreasonable as a character reaction if said genre was more demanding.

As an urban fantasy I was left a tad cold, I’m afraid. Let us begin with names. I could accept ancient characters changing names or modifying them to more modern versions as times move on. However, we had characters called Alex and Xander (twin brothers, why their names where essentially the same was beyond me) and Jonathon, all three thousand+ years old. Contemporary, to them, journals kept their names the same. It just became unviable in my mind, they were Anglicised – yes there was Alexander the Great but his name is Anglicised from Aléxandros – and modernised. Speaking of the journals, I assumed that the witch’s magic allowed Sarah (a modern American girl) to read them rather than being stumped by the ancient languages, so perhaps the magic modernised/anglicised the names as well – though the book doesn’t say so. The rules around these creatures seemed only loosely built and subject to the story rather than vice versa. We are dealing with the most powerful creatures in the world, apparently, who hold the fate of the world in their hands. That fate seems to be the death of magic – something the average non-magical creature would probably not really care about to be fair.

Despite these powerful creatures, I didn’t feel a sense of peril as I read the book, unfortunately. As it was, it became apparent that death doesn’t have to mean the end and so the lack of a sense of peril made sense. The urban fantasy side needed more building, I think, and it needed staging over a longer story. However, if I sound negative, it wasn’t the worst I have read and as a paranormal romance the book worked – hence if reading it as that I think you’ll get a solid slab of what you expect. 5 out of 10.

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