Book Review: ‘Unnatural Magic’

Review by Lauryn Angel

C.M. Waggoner’s Unnatrual Magic seems like the kind of novel I’d love. And in many ways, I did enjoy it. But in others, it was only so-so.

Onna Gebowa is a magical prodigy. She can memorize spell parameters faster than the male students at her village school, and, even more impressive, she writes her own spell parameters. And yet, she is denied entrance to the most prestigious school of magic. So she travels to Hexos, where she joins forces with a wizard to solve the murders of local trolls.

Elsewhere, half-troll Tsira has never really fit in to either the human or troll populations, choosing instead to live on her own. Everything changes for Tsira when she finds a dying human soldier –Jeckran – in the snow and decides to nurse him back to health. The two develop a friendship and live an almost idyllic life – until a magician shows up, intent on murdering Tsira.

The book is told from the point of view of all three characters in turn: Onna, Tsira, and Jeckran. From the beginning, it’s clear that the three characters will be drawn together by the troll murders taking place, but the novel takes much too long to make that happen, and when it does, the murder mystery is solved pretty quickly – so quickly, in fact, that the end of the novel feels rushed. This is a shame, because once Onna and Tsira’s stories combined, I started to really enjoy the novel.

Part of the issue I have with the book is that while I loved Onna’s part of the story, Tsira’s story is hampered by the addition of Jeckran’s point of view. We get Tsira’s story, and then we get another angle on it. Waggoner could just as easily have cut Jeckran’s point of view and limited that part of the story to Tsira. Instead, we get a story that feels out of balance, with more emphasis on romance than I usually like in my fantasy novels.

Still, Waggoner is a fantastic story teller, and I would certainly read further adventures in Hexos – it’s a very richly designed world. It took maybe 100 pages before I felt invested, and I appreciated the in-depth exploration of troll culture, as trolls are usually depicted as enemies in fantasy (at least the ones I’ve read). I had no idea that trolls lived in a matriarchy, and found that aspect of the story intriguing. I also liked the depiction of magic in this world as being a matter of mastering parameters as much as innate ability.

I really wanted to love this book, but parts of it dragged – until the story went much too fast. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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