Review: Casting Spells, by Barbara Bretton

Casting SpellsFrom the back cover:

Sugar Maple looks like any bucolic Vermont town, but when the tourists go home, it’s a different story – inhabited as it is with warlocks, sprites, vampires, witches, and an ancient secret. And I know all about secrets. I’m Chloe Hobbs, owner of Sticks & Strings, a popular knitting shop where your yarn never tangles, you always get gauge … and the knitter sitting next to you comes out only after dark.

I’m also a sorcerer’s daughter – a single sorcerer’s daughter with Sugar Maple’s future in her hands, which means the whole town is casting spells meant to help me find Mr. Right. Who’d have guessed I’d find him in Luke MacKenzie, a cop investigating Sugar Maple’s very first murder? Bad news is he’s 100 percent human, which could spell disaster for a normal future with a paranormal woman like me – in love, in danger, and in way over my head.

The Snapshot Review

I Liked: The knitting shop! I don’t knit but it sounds just like a place I’d like to be, so cozy and comfortable. I also enjoyed Sugar Maple, the town, and the assorted weird secondary characters were great fun, too.

Not Thrilled With: The story started off with a discrepancy that bothered me throughout; some minor inconsistencies and not fully developed characters also prevented the story from really taking off for me.

Ms. Bookish’s Very Quick Take: A pleasant-enough, fun read.

The Full Review of Casting Spells

Chloe Hobbs is a sorcerer’s daughter. She’s also half-human, and at the start of the book doesn’t have any powers to speak of.

On the outside, Sugar Maple looks like any picture-perfect Vermont village, complete with little shops, holiday lights, tourists and snow. But the inhabitants of Sugar Maple are a little different. No, wait: make that very different. All manner of paranormal creatures make Sugar Maple their home, and they’re able to do so by virtue of a spell originally cast by Aerynn, a powerful ancestor of Chloe’s. And for so long as a female of Aerynn’s lineage lives in Sugar Maple, with sufficient magick to lay claim on Aerynn’s Book of Spells, the protective spell would continue it’s watch over Sugar Maple, keeping crime at bay and shielding the other-worldliness of its inhabitants from the human eye.

But there lies the rub: Chloe is the last in line, but she doesn’t have an ounce of power in her. It’s that pesky half-humanness coming out in her. And it’s wreaking havoc on the protective spell; things are happening in Sugar Maple that shouldn’t be happening. One thing in particular: death.

It’s actually at the beginning of the book that things get a little derailed for me. You see, the protective spell is a wonderful thing. It’s kept Sugar Maple crime- and accident-free for nearly 300 years. But lately it’s been a bit off. There was a schoolbus accident right on the outskirts of the village. And now, a death.

Here’s what bothered me: what about the accident that claimed the lives of Chloe’s parents 24 years ago? Where was the protective spell then? Chloe’s mother was a powerful sorcerer, and the spell would have been in full glory. It wasn’t until recently that the spell started to lose its power. So what happened 24 years ago?

I think the denouement was meant to address this, but it didn’t really answer my questions (how could it have happened? why didn’t it seem strange to anyone at the time?), so for me it remained unresolved.

Neither Chloe nor Luke, the cop investigating the victim’s death, were as fully developed as I would have liked, either. Chloe’s best friends, while fun and delightfully quirky, felt more like they were mothering her rather than being her best friends. And the balance of power between Gunnar and Dane was confusing; the twins divided a set of full Fae powers between them and while Dane was even more beautiful than Gunnar, “fate hadn’t been entirely unfair because Gunnar had claimed the lion’s share of powers”. This sounded to me as if Gunnar is the more powerful one, but as the story progresses, it becomes evident that there is actually a constant battle for this power.

Some things were rather predictable. I was able to guess where the Book of Spells was from about the middle of the book, for example. And the big battle at the end just didn’t work that well for me; I never had the feeling that the villain was quite as nasty as she turned out to be, so I wasn’t as caught up in the big scene as a result. I also couldn’t see why the villain waited so long to do what she did; nor was the motive for the victim’s death particularly clear. Because of these kinds of inconsistencies, the whole story didn’t come together for me as well as it could have.

Despite these quibbles, I found Casting Spells a pleasant-enough read. Bretton’s writing is easy and enjoyable. The various secondary characters are quirky and fun. The story itself is engrossing, and there are some very funny lines throughout, too. I definitely wanted to see what would happen, and find out if Chloe and Luke would end up together. Ms. Bookish’s Rating: B: Good Read ?

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