Orion, p/b, £7.99
Reviewed by Pauline Morgan
Authors these days have a dilemma. With the current financial climate publishers, especially their financial department, are always concerned about sales of books. Any author is in danger of being dropped if their share of the market is not deemed great enough. The problem for the writer of a series of books, whether it is a trilogy or longer, is to keep the story arc going without frustrating the reader. Ideally, this means finishing each novel with a satisfactory conclusion to the events that form the main thrust of the plot but keeping the potential for carrying on the situation in a further book. At the same time there must appear to be a conclusion in case the next book is either a ling time coming or a change of publisher is needed. Suzanne McLeod did very well at the end of The Bitter Seed of Magic, the third in this series chronicling the adventures of Genevieve (Genny) Taylor.
McLeod’s version of London is peopled with fae. The section of the police force known as the Magic and Murder Squad is manned by trolls and witches. The trees you walk past may be, or inhabited by, dryads and pixies occasionally cause havoc in Trafalgar square. The most popular night clubs are owned or frequented by vampires and a kelpie has made his home in the Thames. Amongst this mix is Genny, a sidhe – the only sidhe outside the Otherworld. She cannot do magic herself but she can absorb and crack spells so part of her job with Spellcrackers.com is to clear up annoying spells. In The Bitter Seed of Magic, some of the problems she had been encountering became understandable when she discovered that all the supernaturals were hitting on her because they believed that if she became pregnant the curse that rendered the fae infertile would be lifted. Discovering that the fertility had been trapped in a pendant seemed to solve the problem. End of story? Yes, if the series had ended there.
At the start of The Shifting Price of Prey it becomes clear that the fertility has to be released from the pendant to restore it to the fae. No-one Genny knows has the information to do that. Tavish the kelpie suggests consulting a set of tarot cards. This proves frustrating, as the set only reveals one card at a time in answer to her question, although it does provide some clues and introduces another layer of complexity to the plot. It seems that she doesn’t know as much about the vampire hierarchy as she thought. There is an Emperor, who might hold the answer though he has werewolves at his beck and call that appear to be hunting her. Genny discovers this while she is doing a routine job for an unpleasant goblin who sells magical items including dried garden fairy. Before he can legitimately sell them Genny has to certify that they died of natural causes – something she is suspicious of as it is not the mating season (male garden fairies tend to kill each other during the rut). Then the police ask her to check the scene a disappearance at Regent’s Park Zoo for magic. It cannot be a coincidence that the Carnival Fantastique has set up in the adjacent park.
Although many of the plot strands are resolved the arc that was picked up at the start of the novel still has some distance to run. This, and at least the next in the series, The Hidden Rune of Iron, will continue the search for the answer to at least one problem (there is more than one). Despite this cliff-hanger Genny has made a number of discoveries not just about her own background but about the people she calls friends. She has had to make a number reassessments about her relationships and what she really wants from her life.
The book itself presents a number of complex, intertwined situations although some of the incidents or answers are predictable. For those who are already familiar with the series, this is an enjoyable if ultimately frustrating addition. Newcomers might well prefer to do some catch-up reading first.