Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Flash Of Hex - Jes Battis

A Flash Of Hex
An OSI Novel
Jes Battis

Urban Fantasy

If you haven’t read the first novel in this series, NIGHT CHILD, this review isn’t going to do much to spoil it. The author spoils it, in near totality, during the first chapters. Clearly, she intends that readers will pick up the books and read them in order. I know that authors have to walk a line between making successive installments accessible to new readers and entertaining those who started at the beginning; and that’s got to be a tough line to toe. But here, readers are treated to some fairly clunky exposition, detailing the fight with, and the identity of, the last book’s Big Bad. I have to wonder if the author meant to leave this out and assume that readers had already been through the first book, but had second thoughts.

In either case, what you need to know is that Tess Corday is an Occult Special Investigator in Toronto. She and her partner, Derrick, work for CORE, investigating occult crimes. The murder scene that begins this case is unlike anything anyone has seen. A young teenaged boy, immobilized and suspended from the ceiling by magic, his throat cut just enough to let him bleed to death. He bled into an old, ritual cauldron. It looks like some banned dark ritual. The victim was the son of a very old and powerful sorceress, who insists on inserting herself into the case.

The investigation widens to include similar incidents in Ontario. All the victims were young, potentially powerful, sons and daughters of powerful mage families. The question is, what does the killer hope to gain from these deaths? Another investigator from Ontario, Miles, arrives to consult with the Toronto group. His specialty is being able to see traces of the magic done in a given space. The trail is fairly twisted, and leads to a connection with Tess.

During the course of the book, Tess takes the irritatingly self-involved attitude that the murders are somehow all about her. It’s a relief when someone finally tells her that the world does not revolve around her. It doesn’t stop her from believing it, however. The final battle with this book’s Big Bad is entirely undermined by not one, but two, deus ex machina moments that go completely unexplained. This is urban fantasy, so the author doesn’t have to play by the rules of our physical world, but these instances severely undercut everything that had happened previously. It’s entirely possible that these incidents will be explained in a future installment, but that doesn’t prevent me from feeling cheated in this one. I do have to say, though, that the scenes leading up to this are very atmospheric and well done.

The author has created a very detailed and realistic alternate world for her novels. Tess, Derrick, and Miles are all multi-dimensional characters who are completely believable in this world. Tess, in particular, has a history that deserves a lot more exploration, and there are plenty of characters on which to build future stories. The investigation is interesting, and the foes they face are quite inventive. With a few tweaks, this series could be a real winner, and I’m interested enough to stick around and see what happens.

Rating: 6
June 2009
ISBN# 978-0-441-01723-2 (paperback)


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