The Short Version: Jane Boyle is a young architect in Paris when she meets Malcolm Doran. Swept off her feet into a whirlwind romance, she finds herself engaged and moving into the Doran family manse on Park Avenue. Oh and she’s discovered that she’s a witch and that this is a dangerous piece of information. Not surprisingly, Malcolm’s family turns out to be full of witches too – and the fairy-tale romance just got a whole lot darker. There’s still a wedding but there’s definitely no happy ending.
The Review: Hmm. Not entirely what I was expecting… while at the same time being just about exactly what I predicted. If that makes any sense. The book called out to me from the paperback table at B&N earlier this spring and it looked like the right amount of frilly urban fantasy for a spring day. I mean, admittedly it’d probably be better during the fall but I have to work with the calendar so… anyway. The quotes surrounding the book referenced books like The Devil Wears Prada so I was expecting a healthy level of chick-lit and, hey, guess what? I got it.
Especially the beginning. I hesitate to call it ‘sloppy’ – because it isn’t – but perhaps ‘superficial’ works. Pierce wastes very little time in Paris, with Jane’s life pre-Malcolm, with any logic of any kind – the beginning is all about a girl who feels sparks when she touches her man’s fingers and there’s a fair amount of sex and suddenly he’s proposing after a month and she briefly considers that she’d have to give up all of her awesome Parisian things in order to marry him and “The choice was clear.” is actually a sentence that occurs and, well, you get the point. The worst clichés you can think of are all there and, well, I didn’t care. I knew they were coming so I just let them go.
What I couldn’t quite deal with was how stupid Jane apparently was. As if the clichés weren’t bad enough, the overwhelming obviousness that the Doran women are witches (and no, this is not just because it’s on the back of the book) seems to escape Jane until she’s in danger. Despite the fact that she notices how they’re different from everyone else rather early on – she can’t read their thoughts, there’s a palpable energy thing going on, etc. I just thought this was a little lazy – but, then, we don’t know what Jane’s like pre-Malcolm. Perhaps she’s actually kind of naive and not-all-that-smart. I just wished she was.
Anyway, I was just beginning to despair (despite the fact that the book zips by – always a plus) when suddenly the plot kicked in and I started to get interested. Once the characters have all been established (despite how bland and by-the-book some of them are…), Pierce apparently decides to let the plot kick in… and soon I was forgiving of the existence of the Wiccan goth best friend, the predictably handsome and charming second love interest, the creepy-crazy family member locked in the attic (ps – what did I say about that trope? can I get an amen?), and so forth. Jane’s discovery of her powers is nothing special but entertaining, the bit about the montage in the NYPL was pretty funny, and the stakes slowly start to raise. Then the genuine twists crop up and while I felt some of them were dealt with in an almost-too-offhand manner (see: Malcolm’s sister), I found some of them genuinely engaging (see: Jane’s gran’s death). The fact that Jane strikes an increasingly independent stance as the novel progresses was great – I just wish it wasn’t so at odds with the giggling girl of the beginning. It felt too easy.
The final showdown, although brief, was quite excellent. By the time Jane wakes up after the wedding, I was locked in and willing to follow the plot wherever it was going to take me. The book clearly sets up for a sequel and you know what? I’ll read it. I’d like to see what happens next.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5. Slightly better than your average, probably because of the unique take on magic-in-the-modern-age. The characters were all a little poorly drawn and I hope that the future books in the series will shade them in a bit better – and the pitfalls of chick lit (much as I hate that term) do prove a bit too much for Ms. Pierce to handle at times. Still, I got a sense (especially towards the end) of a women’s Harry Dresden type figure appearing in Jane. I’m interested in seeing what Jane does, how this “battle” goes on, and the mythology that is only fleetingly mentioned – the seven sisters, wars of magic, etc – basically screams out for more detail. The book was a fun diversion and, if nothing else, it is nice to imagine that even in this city defined by practicality and technology, there might be a bit of magic floating about.