Author : C.M. Waggoner
Published By : Ace
Year Published : November 5, 2019
Genre / Tags : Fantasy, Mystery, Adventure, Romance
Formats : Paperback, eBook
# of Pages : 400 pages (Paperback)
Onna can write the parameters of a spell faster than any of the young men in her village school. But despite her incredible abilities, she’s denied a place at the nation’s premier arcane academy. Undaunted, she sails to the bustling city-state of Hexos, hoping to find a place at a university where they don’t think there’s anything untoward about providing a woman with a magical education. But as soon as Onna arrives, she’s drawn into the mysterious murder of four trolls.
Tsira is a troll who never quite fit into her clan, despite being the leader’s daughter. She decides to strike out on her own and look for work in a human city, but on her way she stumbles upon the body of a half-dead human soldier in the snow. As she slowly nurses him back to health, an unlikely bond forms between them, one that is tested when an unknown mage makes an attempt on Tsira’s life. Soon, unbeknownst to each other, Onna and Tsira both begin devoting their considerable talents to finding out who is targeting trolls, before their homeland is torn apart…
Note : Thank you Netgalley and Berkley Publishing Group for providing an ARC of this title for the purpose of review.
Unnatural Magic is a unique and mature fantasy debut with two distinct viewpoints occuring in different regions. The setting and atmosphere bring to mind a sort of victorian era, but imbued with magic.
This is the first time I’ve read a fantasy novel that was quite fixated on trolls living amongst and communicating with humans more or less harmoniously. The trolls in Unnatural Magic are broader and stronger, cultivating a matriarchal culture that contrasts interestingly with the the patriarchal one of humans.
The first viewpoint is Onna’s, she is a young human woman- a studious pupil of magic who wishes to attend an elite magic academy. She’s rejected entry, mainly due to a preference for wizards over witches that prevails in her culture. Undeterred, she travels far and is finally recognized- becoming the protege of a gifted magician with a mysterious past. Together, they are looking for a murderer who has been targeting trolls and threatening the relative peace the two races have been starting to attain.
I almost DNF’d this book early on after reading a few of Onna’s chapters. The writing during her sections aims for a sort of elegance that came off as too decorated, and full of technical world building info dumps that I found barely digestible. The plot during Onna’s sections can be summed up quickly, and I found myself barely able to stand the world of humans in this book. Their conversations, their stuffy culture, even Onna is sadly bland more often than not in the way she carries herself and her thought processes.
However, there is a whole other perspective- that of a troll named Tsira and a human soldier Jeckran. On the cusp of DNF’ing, I encountered these chapters and was immersed. The writing style during these sections is more free-flowing (if often crude) and by far more eventful. Tsira is likable and fascinating. The way she and Jeckran interact is startlingly unique, as they come from very different walks of life yet grow close after traveling together on what starts off as a thrillingly dangerous journey. Tsira is a powerful warrior and future leader, Jeckran is a sort of damsel-in-distress who is eventually able to hold his own and is enamored by Tsira’s strength.
Their relationship is a real inversion of traditional roles, bringing something very unconventional that I’ve never seen focused so closely upon in fantasy. Once their adventure was fully underway, even Onna’s chapters became easier to read as I tried to focus on the many creative tidbits that merge to create a full picture of this world.
This is a case where the amount of effort that went into this book is so noticeable and admirable, but certain larger plot elements that should have been fascinating and garner much interest (the murder mystery that plays a role from beginning to end, unmasking the culprit) just left me cold and not that interested. The ending is also weirdly abrupt. Overall, a mixed bag.
Overall Rating – 6/10
Why You Should Try It – Highly detailed and unusual world, trolls and humans being the main focus. The cultural norms developed here are well developed and contrast in an interesting way. I liked Tsira and Jeckran. The highly differing styles of the viewpoints show great versatility.
Why You Might Not Like It – I didn’t care for Onna and her companions and the style of her chapters was consistently unappealing. The climax called for more excitement.
Thanks for reading my review of Unnatural Magic! Have you read it or have it on your TBR? It’s worth mentioning that if you read the first few chapters and are immediately fine with the style, you’ll likely feel differently toward this book. I knew very early on that some things weren’t working for me, but decided to stick with it after being enchanted by the uniqueness of Tsira and Jeckran. Thanks as always in advance for your likes and comments, hope you’re having a wonderful weekend. ~ Kitty