In this contemporary fantasy series installment, a young woman continues to explore her destiny as a magic user who can enter any fictional story.
“My name is Elana Black,” says this novel’s 20-something narrator; “I work in an indie bookstore…and oh yeah, I fight monsters. I am not reasonable.” Ever since she discovered her magical skills, including the ability to infiltrate fictional worlds and change them, she’s been studying magic with the Aos Si, a guardian figure who resides in “The Knowing” (the “land before creation”), and archery from Chalsarda, a warrior Elf. Now Freyja, the Norse goddess of love and war, wants Elana to kill her brother, Freyr; she believes that this will prevent Ragnarök, the destined final battle (and death) of the gods. However, Freyr knows of this plan and has chosen his own champion—a sorcerer named Kodran Osvifsson, who’s fictional in our world, and whose weapon is a dreadful, unstoppable monster called the Nuckalavee. A contingent of Fae called the Gardeners wants something from Elana, too. As if that weren’t enough, a prophecy regarding her missing childhood friend, Lucia Cruz, will soon be fulfilled—which, according to Elana’s vision, will mean the death of someone close to her. Bell (Empty Threat, 2017) gives his bookworm heroine a wryly wisecracking millennial voice: “hardly anyone else has worked retail while also training in archaic forms of combat, knowledge of magic, and enough studying that even I started to resent reading.” In-jokes about fantasy and sci-fi characters, including cheesy men who leer at women (“Everyone notices, and everyone is grossed out by it, okay?” says Elana), also amuse. The fast-paced, jam-packed plot becomes confusing, however, and it might have benefited from a slower pace to allow readers to consider its implications. For example, if all worlds are both true and fictional, then what exactly is the role of an author? Also, Bell overplays the fact that Elana keeps rejecting her friends’ offers of help.
A fantasy novel with bewildering lore but an appealing heroine and strong action scenes.