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Friday, February 4, 2011


Author:  Linda Robertson
Plot Type:  Urban Fantasy (UF)
Ratings:  Violence-3-4, Sensuality-3, Humor-2-3
           Vicious Circle (6/2009)
           Hallowed Circle (2009)
           Fatal Circle (6/2010)
           Arcane Circle (12/2010)
           Wicked Circle (12/2011)
           Shattered Circle (1/2013)

     This post was revised and updated on 3/12/13 to include a review of the sixth book in the series: Shattered Circle. That review appears first, followed by an overview of the series and summaries and/or reviews of the first five books:

            BOOK 6:  Shattered Circle            
     To emphasize the triangular power structure that has been building throughout this series, this book has three primary story lines, one for each of the three lead characters. Sometimes the character must act alone, but other times he or she works with one of the other two. Here's a very brief summary of each:

     Persephone (Seph), the witch: Steph begins the book with mixed feelings about her boyfriend Johnny, the newly crowned king of the werewolves. When he got his wolfy powers back in the previous book, he lost his man-mind and attacked her, and she hasn't heard from him since because he's been tied up with some mysterious personal matters. In the meantime, Seph shared a passionate kiss with the vampire Menesso after a vicious battle that climaxed the previous book, and she's torn about her romantic feelings for both men. When Seph's foster daughter, Beverley, has a traumatic magical experience that results in her quarantine in the vampire haven, Seph must rely on Menesso to help her. Seph is feeling very much alone with Johnny and Menesso busy with other matters and with Demeter (her grandmother) off caring for Eris (Seph's mother) in Pittsburgh. When she does a hasty meditation and is drawn into a hostile realm, her situation gets hellishly and dangerously scary. This last story line is the most woo-woo of the series so far, and I'm pretty sure there will be repercussions in future books.

     Johnny Newman, the werewolf: As the new Domn Lup (werewolf king), Johnny is dealing with the world of werewolf politics and intrigue and he doesn't like it at all. What he wants is to apologize to Seph for attacking her, but other things keep getting in the way. Then, his beautiful and ambitious assistant, Aurelia, attacks Seph and lets it slip that Johnny has a son, a fact of which Seph was unaware. Johnny is also feeling isolated as he tries to decide who he can trust in this dangerous supernatural world. Eventually, he gets dangerously involved in rescuing Seph from her meditation nightmare.

     Menesso, the vampire: After being stripped of his rank as the leader of his vampire haven and being replaced by Goliath, Menesso has his hands full trying to keep the two captive shabbubitum under control. Then, he comes to Beverley's rescue when she is involved in a magic-gone-wrong experience. Like Seph and Johnny, Menesso is going through some emotional changes as he adapts to his new status in the haven and in the vampire world in general. Many vampires believe that he is under Seph's control because she has marked him twice, so he must live with that stigma. Then there's the problem that the Excelsior (head of the vampires) wants to capture Seph, mark her and make her his his Erus Veneficus (court witch) so that she will be completely and permanently under his control. Menesso can't let that happen.

     Near the end of the book, Seph muses on recent events and stresses the bond among the three: "Menessos and I had been through a great deal tonight that Johnny knew nothing about. And Johnny and I had endured another round of danger that Menessos had not yet been told of. As I spent a moment studying each of them, I was sure they had also suffered situations this night that I was oblivious to....I understood the pain in their eyes, pain that had nothing to do with physical aches. I understood because I bore it, too. We were all here together. We didn't need to speak." (p. 363)

     Yet another story line has the sociopathic vampire, Giovanni, working with Liyliy and her two scheming shabbubitum sisters to destroy Menesso and to capture Beverley for their own nefarious purposes. All of the story lines are resolved—or at least semi-resolved—by the end of the book, but I'm sure that there will be further development of some of them in future books. 

     With its complex, but not complicated, plot, this is another strong entry in the series. The characters continue to be interesting as they keep developing in new and fascinating ways. Robertson includes enough back story for a new reader to tackle this book as a stand-alone, but I'd really recommend that you begin back at the beginning to get the full benefit of the character development and the building of the series story arc.

     Persephone (“Seph”) Alcmedi is a solitary witch living in a rural area near Cleveland, Ohio. She doesn’t like the politics of the local coven and prefers a simple life, writing her pro-werewolf newspaper column and getting used to having her cranky grandmother as a housemate. In this world, supernaturals have come out to society, and the attractive and rich vampires have mostly been accepted. Werewolves, however, are the most mistrusted of the supernaturals. They have few civil rights and are required to “kennel” in safe houses at the full moon. Seph provides cage space in her basement for her werewolf friends, one of whom is Johnny, a mysterious goth musician who has been flirting with Seph for months. Johnny is covered with tattoos, but he can’t remember how he got them or anything about his life before that time.

     Supporting characters include Seph’s grandmother, Demeter, also a witch, and a young orphan girl (Beverley) whose mother is killed early in the series. Theo, a werewolf who is one of Seph’s best friends, runs an investigation agency that Seph uses from time to time. Several werewolves from Johnny’s rock band turn up periodically.

     The thematic line that connects the series is the fact that Seph is the Lustrata—the magical one who is (prophetically) supposed to bring witches, shifters, and vampires together into peaceful coexistence—and that Johnny is the Domn Lup—the werewolf king (the only werewolf able to shift at will at any time of the month). Added to this pair is Menesso, the powerful leader of the local vampires. Together, they strive to get along with one another and to bring peace and balance to the supernatural world, all the while battling a variety of bad guys and gals.

     By the third book in the series, the Laurell K. Hamilton warning bells are ringing loudly. Here we have a mortal (if witchy) young woman with two love interests: a vampire and a werewolf, very much like Anita Blake  with her John-Claude and Richard Zeeman. In Robertson’s series, the werewolf (so far) is getting the girl, but the vampire hasn’t given up yet. Menesso is obviously the Jean-Claude character: rich, handsome, and impossibly arrogant. Although Seph is marked by Menesso, she also turns the tables on him by marking him with hexes, thus becoming his master—a flip on the Anita/Jean-Claude situation. Johnny is obviously meant to be the Richard character—the eccentric, sexy, werewolf—but Johnny doesn't have the rigid, jealous, moralistic outlook that Richard does. This may change, however, if Seph continues to be attracted to Menesso.

     Robertson lives in Northeast Ohio, as do I, and I can attest to the fact that she gets all of the Cleveland references right, including those battle scenes on the shores of Lake Erie and in the Glasshouse (part of the Cleveland Botanical Gardens)very atmospheric. So many urban fantasy series take place in New York City, or Chicago, or Seattle that it was a nice change to read about scenes right here at home that take place in very familiar places, like the University Inn—one of my favorite lunch spots (and where Seph sends her vampire bodyguard to get her away from the werewolves).

     READ-ALIKES: If you enjoy reading urban fantasy witch series, you might like to try Kim Harrison's HOLLOWS SERIES, which has a much darker and complex story line. For even more witchy series, click HERE to go to my CREATURE SEARCH page and then scroll down to "WITCHES." If you like the romantic triangle with the heroine, the vamp, and the werewolf, Laurell K. Hamilton's ANITA BLAKE SERIES is the archetype. 

            SUMMARIES OF BOOKS 1-4            
     In Vicious Circle, Seph tangles with a master vampire (Menesso) and his assassin (Goliath) as she tries to solve the murder of a werewolf friend. She's also working on her budding romance with Johnny. Thus begins the development of the powerful trio that links the witches, werewolves, and vampires. 

     In Hallowed Circle, Seph is nominated as high priestess of the Cleveland coven and must pass a grueling examination along with several other powerful witches. Unfortunately, this does not go smoothly, and one of the contestants is murdered. The older witches who head the coven don't much like Seph, since she has consistently turned her back on the coven to be a solitary witch. During the final ceremonies, the fairies attack, and Seph is forced to take a life.

     In Fatal Circle, the fairies try to use Seph in their battle to destroy Menesso. By now, Seph and Menesso are magically bonded, so there's no way that Seph will harm Menesso. As part of the fairy war, Seph’s ally in the Cleveland coven is killed, and there is a major battle that proves to be life-changing (or perhaps “death-changing” is a better word) for Menesso.

     In Arcane Circle, Seph and Johnny try to discover the secrets behind his mysterious tattoos before the Rege (the Romanian ruler of all of the werewolves) comes to town. In a great climactic moment, Seph finally gets to know her mother. 

     One hint for future plots comes in this book: the creation of a U.S. government task force within the Department of Homeland Security, the Specialized Squadron for Tactical Investigation of Xenocrime (SSTIX). These investigators are assigned to monitor and solve crimes involving “nonsters,” as the weaselly SSTIX agent calls supernaturals when he stops by to question Seph and Johnny about events that occurred in the previous book. I’m sure that we’ll be hearing more from those guys.

            REVIEW OF BOOK 5: Wicked Circle            

     As the fifth book opens, Menesso's estranged son, Heldridge, has sold him out to the Vampire Executive International Network (VEIN), accusing Menesso of being under the control of Persephone, his Erus Veneficus (aka court witch). The leader (called the Excelsior) of VEIN sends the shabbubitum to get to the bottom of the situation. The shabbubitum are a trio of crazed vampire sisters who have been cursed to dig into people's minds and seek the truth. Menesso, of course, has so many secrets that have built up over his centuries of life that he can't afford to allow the shabbubitum to invade his mind. Plus, he was the one responsible for locking them away centuries ago, so they're out for revenge. 

     In the meantime, Johnny gets accepted as the Domn Lup, so life should be good, but, in fact, ever since his magical tattoos were removed, he's had trouble controlling his wolfish nature, particularly in the areas of violence and lust. Seph is having her own problems. She realizes that she loves both Menesso and Johnny and that she has to make some romantic decisions. Seph continues to have a problematic relationship with her newly found mother, Eris. During the climax of the previous book, Eris was grievously and permanently injured, and she is now using Seph's guilt over that injury to manipulate her. 

     As the plot plays out, two new villains surface, and I'm sure we'll seeing more of both of them. The first is Liyliy, one of the three truth-seeking sisters, who has a violent and embarrassing run-in with Seph and is determined to make Seph pay. The second is the sociopathic Giovanni, one of the advisers to the Excelsior, who hates Menesso with such blind rage that he will do just about anything to ruin him. All three of the leading characters have life-changing experiences in this book, and by the end, we're not certain what the repercussions will be for each one—and for their triumvirate. 

     A secondary plot line focuses on a SSTIX agent as he works a cold case with connections to Johnny. That story thread represents the only weakness in the book because the tone changes too quickly from the hard-driving action and suspense of the main plot to a quick flood of sweet sentimentality. Also part of that thread is Johnny's sudden behavioral change at the very end of the book. After struggling mightily with his beast through most of the story, Johnny has a minor epiphany, and all of a sudden he turns into Ward Cleaver. This just didn't work for me. Mostly, though, this is another great chapter in the CIRCLE series as the characters develop into more and more complex individuals and the series story arc moves along at a fast, but well-planned, pace.


  1. Patricia--thanks so much for posting about the books! (My google alerts spotted it.) You're in NE Ohio??? Would love to talk books and UF and such with you over coffee sometime...if the darn snow ever melts. :-D

    Seriously, email me if you want to meet up at a coffeeshop! rockinwriterlinda AT yahoo


  2. Book 5, "Wicked Circle" is scheduled to be released 12/27/2011.