Witchling by Yasmine Galenorn – Book Review.

Witchling (Sisters of the Moon, Book 1)
Written by: Yasmine Galenorn
Published by: Berkley
ISBN: 978-0425212547

 

Witchling by Yasmine Galenorn book review

Witchling
by Yasmine Galenorn

On walking through my local bookstore recently, I rounded the corner to my favorite aisle, and was filled with no small amount of pride to see the works of Jim Butcher and Patricia Briggs displayed prominently on the bookshelves, the shiny hardcover editions of their latest novels a testament to their ever-growing popularity.

Both Jim and Patricia deserve the success and I’m happy for them and so very glad to be one of their many fans able to spread the word to more and more like-minded readers so that they, too, can discover what we already know. Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden and Mercedes “Mercy” Thompson are here to stay and for good reason. The readers come away caring about these characters and their stories. When the last word is read and the story ends, fans are left wanting more.

With the success of The Dresden Files and the Mercy Thompson novels, others have joined in the fun. Some are simply riding in on the coattails of success, while others have mustered up the courage to take pen in hand and supply us with brand new heroes and new adventures full of magic and intrigue and all manner of things that go bump in the night.

Walking through row upon row, it was with no little satisfaction that I saw proof that urban fantasy is on the rise in a big way. Of course, we have the talent of the veteran authors such as Kim Harrison, Laurell K. Hamilton, and Simon R Greene. They’re workin’ it, still going strong, but new authors to the genre are popping up all the time.

Unfortunately not all of them are winners. In preparing for this review I had to be careful in how I set the tone. I didn’t want to come off as harsh or too critical, but as a reviewer, I must be honest. Otherwise, why take my opinion even remotely serious at all?

On that bright, shiny note, we come to Witchling, by Yasmine Galenorn. I read the publisher’s summary, and while not completely won over, I have an addiction for urban fantasy and decided to give it a try.

Meet the D’Artigo girls: Three magical, half Faerie sisters that have come from a dimension known as Otherworld, a place where faeries, elves, vampires, demons and every other fantastical creature under the sun, the moon, and even under the ground, call home.

These sisters three are Camille, Menolly, and Delilah. Each of them have their own unique supernatural identity that defines them. Camille is the witch, the middle sister, Menolly the vampire, and the baby of the family is Delilah, a werecat.

Because these sisters were born from a union between human and Faerie, their powers tend to fail them at the most inopportune times. Camille can’t do magic to save her life… well, technically she can, but most of her spells backfire on her; Menolly’s powers got her undead, and Delilah turns into a cute little tabby cat at the least little sign of stress.

I will say that I believe the author did the characters a service by having the narrator, Camille, tell us right off the bat that these ladies were incompetent. This is actually a huge plus and works to their advantage. It takes the pressure off the characters to be seen as these badass chicks from the great beyond or to appear even halfway intelligent.

The ladies are a part of an organization called the OIA – Otherworld Intelligence Agency – sort of an equivalent to the FBI or CIA. And when a friend and fellow agent turns up dead, the sisters kick it into overdrive to find the killer, or killers, at large and to stop the end of the world as we know it.

Personally, I’d lay my bets on Harry Dresden. At least he wouldn’t drop everything, and leave us all in the lurch in order to shop for lingerie. And if he did, I’m certain he’d have something truly memorable and entertaining to say as to his reasoning, but I digress.

Where I think this series runs into problems is pretty much everywhere. The dialogue just isn’t natural. I’ve noticed that’s it a staple in urban fantasy for the characters to quip…a lot. In an effort to sound tough or diffuse a potentially deadly situation, they come up with all these witticisms and snappy comebacks that readers, like me, eat up with a spoon. Only, I don’t believe the author quite pulled it off here. Granted, I had to guesstimate, but Camille is roughly, and I’m being exceedingly generous in my estimations, around forty years old, and yet her and her sisters all talk and behave as though they were rebellious, awkward teenagers from a bad 80’s flick. In fact, everyone seems to be this way, including ancient dragons.

I’ll admit, the author set herself up for a HUGE undertaking. Many characters in this genre have grown up in the mundane world or at least a variation of it, whereas Camille and her sisters did not. Their area of expertise lies in Otherworld. They know everything about that world and how it works. So instead of leading the reader into the story gently, and little by little feeding us information, the narrator has to stop the action and turn around and explain everything. Sometimes this is accomplished through a human plot device, er – member of the OIA, and sometimes it’s done with an excessively large info dump. The reader is left always having to digest new information while still being stuffed to the gills from the last course laid before them. Also, while the girls have been over on Earthside for sometime, there is nothing new for them to learn. I think perhaps the dialogue could’ve been cleaned up considerably if the author chose to have the girls still on a learning curve when it came to slang and pulp culture references. While admittedly that concept tends to be overdone, especially in television, here I think it would’ve been beneficial. The breakdown in language, and the lackluster communication skills of the sisters could’ve been better understood that way. It might have been a “cutesy” way out, but at least the reader would understand the characters’ difficulty, sympathize and would most likely be more forgiving for it.

Another problem I found was that the author attempted to make the characters cute while still having them completely badass. Instead of the two combinations gelling and binding together for that perfect mix of quirky outsider and tough girl attitude, the characters came away with multiple personality disorder. This also applies to almost everyone within the story. Camille is at once a blithering idiot, and a total witch. When she’s normally working her magic, she is incredibly inept. However, get her angry and she is suddenly hell on wheels. She can even summon powerful god-like beings at a whim without screwing up. She goes from one extreme to another. Delilah, it is implied, is a female variation of Harry Dresden. She is both detective and magically inclined. However, she can’t handle conflict at all. As previously stated, when the going gets tough, the tough turns into a pussy cat…quite literally. So how she manages to be successful in her chosen profession or even stay alive is anyone’s guess. The only complete human of the bunch, Chase, is introduced as the worst kind of player. He treats all women, even his own mother like garbage. Only, get the boy laid and he magically transforms into a devoted boyfriend. Huh? What? Wait a minute. The ancient dragon is ready to eat anyone and everyone one minute, but then turns right around and becomes a total softy. Out of nowhere, we are blindsided when he becomes protective of a crazy old man in chainmail that shows up to slay him out of the blue. Did I miss something important here? Could it possibly have been character development?

And let’s not forget another problem that I find hard to ignore. Despite Camille’s problems with magic, she is flawless. She is a broomstick with two cantaloupes taped haphazardly to her chest. She is perfection. And everyone wants to have their wicked way with her – humans, demons, dragons, and faerie guardsmen alike. You name it, and they want a piece of her. And the action will literally stop for a good roll in the sack with practically every one of them. Well, except humans. Apparently, we humans are too vanilla for her tastes. Go figure. Too much information, thanks for playing, so let’s move right along, shall we?

If there is a sister to watch in the bunch it would be Menolly. Her story and her character shines for me. Though she does have her own particular flaws. For instance, her supernatural ability before she became a vampire isn’t explained. The closest we get to any kind of “power” she might have had before she was born to darkness was that of an acrobat. However, the last time I checked, acrobats weren’t what I’d call supernatural. Highly skilled, yes. Preternatural? No. However, despite this major faux pas, she is the one to sit up and take notice of. When her powers at…*cough* acrobatics failed her, she was caught by the bad guys and assaulted. She was tortured and raped into the fold. In fact, the vampires responsible for this attack drove her to the very brink of madness in their vengeance. Only, we are told that her will was strong and she fought her way back. To me, that speaks of true power. It is inner strength at its finest. Her story I could get behind in a heartbeat. There is a whole lot of rage in her, and there should be. She is also the one with the least flaws in her character development throughout the novel. She comes into the story cranky, and she pretty much stays that way. She’s tough. And whenever her sisters are in trouble, which is frequently, she will wander in from her daylight slumber with bed head and a bad attitude and get the job done. She kicks some serious ass. And she does it with dangerous grace and a dark beauty.

This seems to be the author’s first foray into urban fantasy, but it certainly isn’t her last. At this time there are currently five books revolving around these sisters, with a sixth scheduled for release in June of this year. I do so hope to be able to acknowledge that the old saying “practice makes perfect” will ring true for this series of books. We all learn and grow from each new experience. This work was obviously painstakingly researched, and the series does have its potential. Despite its flaws, the D’Artigo girls very obviously care about one another, and I think the author did a great job of illustrating that. It is my wish that Yasmine Galenorn has found her rhythm, and that her series is shaping up for something truly spectacular. However, for this particular book, I find that I can’t in good conscious recommend it.

Review by Trish Day
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