Spellbent Mass Market Paperback – Dec 29 2009
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"Gripping . . . marks the debut of a real talent . . . I couldn't put it down!"—Sarah Langan, author of Audrey's Door
"With a cast of unforgettable characters and relentless action and suspense, Lucy A. Snyder masterfully weaves a fantastical plot into a real-world setting, never once breaking stride."—Deborah LeBlanc, author of Water Witch
"Lucy Snyder hooks you from the beginning, delivering a strong protagonist and a fresh, engaging world of magic. I can't wait to see what she does next."—Alice Henderson, author of Voracious
"An exhilarating ride of magic and mayhem."—Sèphera Girón, author of Mistress of the Dark
"In her thrilling trial-by-fire debut, Snyder's heroine—Jessie Shimmer—is transformed from young apprentice to first-class magical butt-kicker . . . the same transformation the author herself has undergone in the creation of this fully realized new urban mythology. I can't wait for book two!"—Christopher Golden, author of The Myth Hunters
About the Author
Lucy A. Snyder is the author of the story and poetry collections Sparks and Shadows and Chimeric Machines. She has a B.S. in biology and an M.A. in journalism and is a graduate of the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers' Workshop. Born in South Carolina, she grew up in the cowboys-and-cactus part of Texas and currently lives in Worthington, Ohio.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
The governing circle consists of seven powerful witches and wizards who act as the local government for those with magic in Columbus and a few counties beyond. The leader is named Benedict Jordan. Instead of helping Jessie and Cooper, they cast an isolation sphere on the area, trapping all within. In other words, they expect Jessie, Cooper, and every other innocent soul within the entire downtown area to die.
In the aftermath, Jessie and her familiar, a ferret named Palimpsest "Pal", struggle to find a way to rescue Cooper. However, Jordan and his allies are intent on forcing Jessie to sign a binding contract to forget about rescuing Cooper. In exchange, Jessie would not be charged for what happened and her horrible injuries would be treated. (Jessie lost an eye and the lower part of an arm while fighting the demon.) Until Jessie signs, she will not be healed, her band account is gone, she is evicted from her home, and she suddenly has a criminal record that causes her to lose her job. To make matters worse, Jessie has a spell cast upon her so that anyone who offers her help would be instantly killed and allows Jordan to track Jessie where ever she goes. But Jessie's unknown and untapped powers are growing and Jessie and Pal are obstinate about rescuing Cooper.
***** FIVE STARS! It is hard for me to believe that this is Lucy Snyder's debut novel. I found myself unable to stop reading as Jessie went from being a small acolyte to a fierce kick-butt sorceress-warrior. If you do not read this gem, then you are missing one of the best books of the year! Totally striking! *****
Reviewed by Detra Fitch of Huntress Reviews.
Why is it so good? The action never stops. The writing is good enough to propell the story forward into one big, wild, exciting hell of a joyride. My only complaint is, I can't stand the main love interest. Thankfully, he's out of the picture through most of the book.
If this book could convert a literary fiction reader like me into an urban fantasy fan, it's got to be something special, right?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
My problem lies with the heroine of the book. I just don't get her. And I don't like her much either.
Jessie lives in an unhealthy relationship with her former teacher Cooper. He facilitates her emotional and material dependency, isolates her and hinders her development. Law is a flexible thing to them and the bottom of society is where they want to be. I don't know if Cooper does these things deliberately to Jessie or not. However, if you try to come up with something positive to say about a character and the only thing coming to mind is "At least he doesn't beat her", it doesn't bode well. The worst thing about this situation is, that Jessie begins to see those things, but doesn't deem them important enough and lets them drop.
When Cooper accidentally opens a door to a hell, gets pulled in and a demon escapes, Jessie is the only one who can save her boyfriend. Authorities don't want her to go after him and when she refuses to cooperate declare her anathema. No one in the magical community is allowed to help Jessie, but her newly awakened familiar Palimpsest proves to be quite the wicked one.
I understand why Jessie wants to save her boyfriend. I can't see how a nearly dead person with no resources, no help, no plan thinks she can do the impossible, though. See, while fighting the demon Jesse got hurt. Badly. She lost an arm (it's a green pus oozing mess), an eye (filled by a ping-pong ball), got poisoned and suffered other severe injuries. She's with one foot in death's door and hurting horrendously, but could be completely healed if she agrees to leave her boyfriend be. Pain of this magnitude can't be ignored or pushed away by sheer contrariness. Pain is a big motivator. It motivates you to make it go away! So I don't understand why Jessie doesn't try to find a way around the agreement after she's healed. Especially since she doesn't know what to do anyway!
Her familiar saves her. He knows the right spells and potions for the right situations and agrees to help her even though he could get into big trouble himself. Lucky Jessie.
Aside from my problems with the characters I thought that the ick factor of this story was pretty high. Ferret droppings and bloody maxi pads fuel spells, there are beings made of sperm and menstrual period, the heroine tries to scoop out her faux eye with a spoon and has green pus oozing out of her arm stump, etc., etc. .
SPELLBENT is well written, but not to my tastes. If Lucy A. Snyder starts a new series, I might give it a try, though.
Then, things get *worse*. Benedict Jordan, the leader of the city's magicians, gives Jessie a choice: either she agrees not to rescue Cooper, or else she becomes anathema. Jessie is definitely not the kind of girl who'll leave her boyfriend to rot in Hell, so she chooses anathema. Jordan proceeds to ruin her life and leave her with nothing. Nothing, that is, except her never-give-up attitude and Palimpsest, an uptight ferret familiar who is described as having the voice of a Canadian librarian. (Not knowing any Canadian librarians, my brain has substituted an unholy cross between Rupert Giles' voice and C-3PO's.) Pal provides much of the comic relief in Spellbent.
Together, Jessie and Pal do everything within their power, first to survive, then to save Cooper. Jessie's tenacity and resourcefulness make every step of her journey compelling. Jessie could be forgiven for wallowing in angst, given what happens to her, but she doesn't. She never stops moving toward her goals. I read Spellbent in a single afternoon and evening, unable to tear myself away. I had to know what happened next!
It's a good book even before we get to Hell, and then it's the Hell scenes that really blew me away. I was expecting the usual flames and pitchforks, but Snyder doesn't go that conventional route. Cooper's Hell is an intensely personal one. And wow, is it dark. I think my jaw was on the floor when Jessie (and I) learned about the horrific events that lay at the root of the entire plot.
Spellbent is dark enough that it won't be for everyone; a previous reviewer compared the gore level to that of Ilona Andrews' first Kate Daniels book, Magic Bites, and that's a pretty accurate parallel. This comes in part from the horror elements and in part from the magic system that Jessie and Cooper use: ubiquemancy, the art of finding the magic in everything. This sometimes means unsavory ingredients, like bodily fluids. It can get a little gross. But at the same time, it adds a verisimilitude that I can't help but respect. Ancient and medieval "spell recipes" often called for ingredients that would make most of us squeamish.
A minor aside: There's an odd little editing glitch in my e-ARC (it may be corrected in the published book). Jessie remarks that she's "not afraid of some third-string football-player rapist," which had me rereading earlier pages to make sure I hadn't missed anything. I hadn't; we meet the football-playing rapist in the next scene. It has no bearing on the plot, so all it did was make me scratch my head for a few minutes.
Jaded urban fantasy fans should consider giving Spellbent a try. Snyder adds together a determined yet flawed heroine, fun secondary characters, a plot with tons of forward momentum, and one seriously creepy Hell, and the end result is a visceral, powerful modern-day Orpheus myth.
And I love the magical world Snyder has built. It's authentic, dimensional, convincing, and full of surprises. (Wait until you find out what Jessie does to Mikey!) From the very first pages, you believe in this universe. World building is the hardest part of the fantasy writer's job, and Lucy A. Snyder does the work with a master's touch. Jessie Shimmer is so real and likeable I wanted to call her up and ask her to meet me for coffee. The other characters, from Jessie's familiar ferret, Pal, to the other magic workers live and breathe right there on the page.
Spellbent is a hoot, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. It made me laugh, and I really cared what happened to the characters. Snyder has a keen touch for dialogue and for bringing a distinct voice to each of her people. And ferrets. It's hard to believe this is a first novel. But anyone familiar with Snyder's work knows her gifts as a wordsmith, so it's not completely surprising.
I can't wait to read the rest of the books in the series and find out what happens to Jessie, Cooper, and the other folks. Snyder did an excellent job of bring closure to this first novel, and in setting up the situation for the sequels.
Buy this book, go someplace where nobody will interrupt you, and prepare to get down. Don't start it right before you're supposed to go to sleep, because you'll be up until you finish it. Who knew Columbus, Ohio, could be so much fun? Five stars, all the way.
Cooper, along with Jessie as his aid, will bring forth a rainstorm to break a drought that's causing major problems for the farming community outside of Columbus. As Cooper goes through his typical ritual, something goes very wrong and he ends up opening a portal to Hell. Cooper is pulled in, leaving Jessie alone to fight a demon that has come out of the portal. Suddenly, Jessie's dead aunt calls her on her cell phone, and Pal starts talking to Jessie. It's up to Jessie to subdue the demon formerly known as Smoky, Cooper's familiar fox terrier and stop it from causing destruction in the downtown area. But, Jessie is still a novice and barely stops the demon and ends up almost dying and losing an eye and part of her left arm.
Even though it seems things couldn't get worse for Jessie, they do. The leader of the governing circle of the seven powerful witches and wizards, Benedict Jordan, places a magical gag order on Jessie to stop her from rescuing Cooper. Jessie has to sign a magical binding contract or she will become an outcast leaving no one who can help her. She knows something is off with Jordan, and along with Pal, a ping-pong ball she uses for an eye and the help of Cooper's brother, Warlock, she'll channel more magic and power so she'll be able to walk through the fires of hell to get her man back and find the answers she needs. With enough willpower, she hopes to get her old life back, and hopefully grow back a new eye and arm so she doesn't look like a freak.
Spellbent should have been another action packed urban fantasy combined with a bit of humor and on the edge of your seat action. Unfortunately, this debut by Lucy A. Snyder was an utter train wreck of unbelievably bad dialogue and badly edited scenes. Half the time I couldn't figure out what was going on. Also, Pal the ferret, who's a combination of reason and condescension, brings nothing mentionable to the plot or with helping Jessie. Pal's voice is described as a Canadian Librarian, which for the life of me, I'm still trying to figure out what that sounds like and why would we care?
The story is cluttered with descriptions that are so amazingly over the top and not in a good way. I thought it was bad enough when Jessie goes rooting through the garbage can for a used maxi pad for a magic spell, but I was mistaken because it gets worse. When Warlock and his girlfriend, Opal end up making some special creatures due to the combination of Opal's menstrual period and Warlock's sperm that was mixed together in a toilet that was it for me. Among other scenes like this, I couldn't figure out if Snyder was going for a more dark comical fantasy tale, where she tried to succeed in writing something differently that stands out from the normal urban fantasy series being published. If so, she hasn't accomplished that in any way.
Jessie is annoying and very immature. There is really nothing to recommend her. The villain Jordan makes a very forgettable appearance. Warlock had his moments, but he was written as such a sad sack and as close to a drugged out hippie character as you can get.
The overall plot of Spellbent is in a word- dull. The motions Jessie goes through to find Cooper don't deliver in any way and has a major lack of focus and the push needed to keep the reader interested. The writing is very much surface writing, as in there is no meat or depth, and by the time I finished reading, I couldn't remember half of what happened.
Spellbent is a very weak book that strives to be something more and fails in every way.
Jessie Shimmer is an apprentice wizard who wants nothing more than to spend a pleasant afternoon with her lover and Master, Cooper. Instead their spell to summon rain goes wrong and Cooper vanishes, leaving Jessie alone in a park suddenly torn apart by magic. Despite being sealed off and left to die by the other magic users of the city, Jessie defeats the demon that came through the tear that took Cooper, taking severe damage herself.
When she wakes in the home of Mother Karen, her friend and a healer things only get worse, for the magical ruler of the city wants Jessie silenced and Cooper to remain gone, permanently. With Mr. Jordan trying to crush her will and her desire to see Cooper back safely in her arms Jessie must risk losing it all, suffer the guilt of her past that she didn't even know about and try to save Cooper from his.
Spellbent is a fast paced, hard to put down novel. Somewhere between Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden and Terry Pratchett's magical sections of Discworld, Snyder takes readers on a ride through strange creatures, powerful magic, true evil and personalized hell dimensions.
Accompanied by her familiar, a sometimes ferret, sometimes something else altogether, and motivated by family and love Jessie is a lead that gets things done. Many urban fantasy novels have begun to display themes of friendship or defying the odds. Snyder gives her characters a familiar dark past, save that the focus is far more on their modern life and current survival than on a constantly circling cycle of dealing with the trauma of their pasts.
A strong, enticing debut for Snyder in urban fantasy, this one is definitely on my list of must reads for the year.