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Monday, December 27, 2010


Author:  Nancy A. Collins
Plot Type:  Urban Fantasy (UF)
Ratings:  Violence4; Sensuality3; Humor3
Publisher and Titles:
       Right Hand Magic (12/2010)
       Left Hand Magic (12/2011)
       Magic and Loss (11/2013) (FINAL)   

     Horror writer Collins has written an urban fantasy series set in the heart of an alternate Manhattan in a 6-block by 9-block section called Golgotham. In this world, supernaturals are part of society, but they live in areas that are segregated from humans. Golgotham has existed since the days of the American Revolution, when the reigning Witch King made a deal with George Washington and Thomas Jefferson that in exchange for the witches' help against the British, the new American government would grant the supernaturals a sovereign country of their own within American borders. Currently, human tourists visit Golgotham to take advantage of magic (e.g., witches' curses) and buy souvenirs, but they treat the supernaturals mostly like a freak show (e.g., taking photographs, buying t-shirts).  

     Golgotham, with its narrow, car-free streets and supernatural inhabitants is entered through the Gate of Skulls. A Manhattan cab driver will only drive you to the edge. From there, you either walk or hire a cab driven by a centaur or a satyr. (Be wary of those sly and dangerous satyrs!) The supernaturals also include leprechauns, nature spirits, Valkyries, Amazons, various shape shifters, and the Kymeransan alien race of sorcerers with technicolor body hair, cat-like eyes, and powerful magical talents.

    Collins provides a glossary to help the reader with the more unfamiliar creatures. Unfortunately, she doesn't include an explanation for the Kymerans. The heroine, Timothea Alda Talmadge Eresby (aka Tate), has turned her back on her wealthy family so that she can concentrate on her art, but she still cashes her trust-fund checks every month. Tate is a metal sculptor, building human and animal figures out of recycled metal bits and pieces. When her condo kicks her out for making too much noise, she finds a room in Golgotham and becomes one of the very few humans living there.

    Tate's new landlord is Hexe, a purple-haired Kymeran prince (and heir to the throne) who has also broken away from his family. Hexe confines himself to good magic (aka right hand magicand refuses to use dark magic (aka left hand-magic). 

               NOVEL 1:  Right-Hand Magic               
     In the series opener, Hexe and Tate rescue a teen-aged were-cougar from the Malandanti (the Golgotham equivalent to the Mafia) and begin to fall for each other. Supporting characters include Hexe's familiar, Scratch, a cat-like demon, and Lukas, the rescued shifter.

     I wish I could like this book more, but there are some problems. Told in the first person by Tate, the language in her interior monologues is very different from her language in her dialogues. In the dialogues, Tate speaks in an awkwardly profane, slangy manner, whereas in her monologues her language is free of both profanity and slang. It just doesn't match up. 

     Although the descriptions of Golgotham itself were interesting, Collins seemed to keep throwing weird creatures into the mix just for the effectnot for any real connection with the plot. One more problem: Tate has no magical abilities, and she's not even a well-trained fighter. Mostly, she just hangs back and lets the supernaturals fight it out, getting in a lucky hit or kick every once in a while. I wonder how she will hold our interest in future books if she doesn't develop some kind of magical talent.  

               NOVEL 2:  Left-Hand Magic               
     As the second book opens, trouble is brewing between the humans of New York City and the supernaturals of Golgotham. After a brawl between some drunken college students and a leprechaun at a local bar, the crowd gets out of control, both the Paranormal Threat Unit (the supernatural police) and the New York City Police Department (the human police) arrive, and some of the Kymerans begin to use magical weapons against the NYPD. Soon, a (supposedly) human trio calling themselves the Sons of Adam begin attacking Kymerans and other supernaturals on the street in the dead of night. In reaction, Hexe's Left-Hand-practicing Uncle Esau forms the Kymeran Unification Party, vowing to force all humans out of Golgotham, once and for all. In the meantime, Tate has to pay back a debt to Quid (of Quid's Pro Quo) for a favor he granted Tate in the last book. Pay attention to that little scene, because it will come back to haunt Tate later in the book. The plot follows the development of hostilities against humans in Golgotham, which complicates life for Tate. Both Hexe's mother and Tate's parents want Tate to move out of Golgotham, but she is determined to remain independent and stay with the man she loves. Hints are given that the two mothers have had some kind of past history, but no real facts are divulged. 

    In this book, we learn more about the history of the Kymerans, including the wild hair colors. Here is Hexe explaining things to Tate: 
     "Back in ye oldie [sic] daysbefore Kymera sankthere were three distinct castes: the Aristocrats, the Crafters, and the Servitors. The Aristocrats had blue hair and were the ones with the strongest magic. The Crafters had yellow hair and were talented in the creation of talismans, scrying stones, tarot cards, and the like. The Servitors werewell, they were redheaded and served the Aristocrats. And so it went for millennia. Then, fifteen thousand years ago, Kymera was drowned by a massive tsunami. Only a hundred Kymerans managed to escape the Deluge on their dragons. My ancestor, Lord Arum, led them to New Kymera, in what would become Eastern Europe. Because there were so few left, the castes were forced to mingle, and that's when green, orange, and purple hair began to appear among my people. Yet the royal family has always remained some shade of blue, at least until I came along." (p. 186)    

     Remember, Hexe has purple hair, so that means that his biological father (whom he has never met and knows nothing about) was probably a Servitor (because blue + red = purple). At the end of this book, Hexe finally learns the identity of his father.

   Once again, this book overloads us with irrelevant details. At one point, Tate takes three pages to describe the interior of a restaurant owned by a mermaid. Nothing plot-related happens in the restaurant, so why bother with the description? There are other instances of this same authorial quirk. For example, we get endless descriptions of the weird toppings that Hexe orders on each of his take-out pizzas. Descriptions that either set a mood or tie into the plot are valuable to the readerbut these descriptions only demonstrate that the author can imagine fantastical images, but apparently doesn't know how to make them meaningful to the story

               NOVEL 3:  Magic and Loss                
This is the publisher's back-cover blurb for the final book in the trilogy: 

     Located on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Golgotham has been the city’s supernatural district for centuries. Populated by creatures from myth and legend, the neighborhood’s most prominent citizens are the Kymera, a race of witches who maintain an uneasy truce with the city’s humans…

     It has been several months since Tate Eresby developed her new magical ability to bring whatever she creates to life, but she is still learning to control her power. Struggling to make a living as an artist, she and Hexe can barely make ends meet, but they are happy.

     That is until Golgotham’s criminal overlord Boss Marz is released from prison, bent on revenge against the couple responsible for putting him there. Hexe’s right hand is destroyed, leaving him unable to conjure his benign magic. Attempts to repair the hand only succeed in plunging Hexe into a darkness that can’t be lifted—even by news that Tate is carrying his child.

     Now, with her pregnancy seeming to progress at an astonishing rate, Tate realizes that carrying a possible heir to the Kymeran throne will attract danger from all corners, even beyond the grave...

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