Members of the Authority help Allie quarantine her father's spirit so that he cannot keep taking control of her at will. Shame and Terric, "untested"Members of the Authority help Allie quarantine her father's spirit so that he cannot keep taking control of her at will. Shame and Terric, "untested" soul mates, prove to be a true pair in the fight scenes and their aftermath. Zay goes vigilante with Shame, Terric and Allie, breaking from his absolute, unquestioning obedience to the Authority in previous novels.
Allie decides to bring the Hounds into the search for Leander, is the biggest bad magic users have ever faced down. We begin to find out whether Allie and Zay could be as powerful together as Leander and Isabelle had been, five hundred years before. Like Shame and Terric, they seem to have enough strength of self identity to resist the temptation to merge completely, which led to the insanity of Leander and Isabelle, as well as the less powerful Chase and Greyson. (view spoiler)[
Zay's recent lover and former friend both die when Leander's spirit possesses Greyson, who drags Chase out of her cell, crushing her neck and pumping her full of bullets. Greyson was the one who killed Allie's dad, and he's too powerful to let Allie hold him back from killing Greyson. Zay is devastated by Chase's death and blames Allie for it, since the wounded lover could not survive Greyson's death. She realizes this isn't rational, since Leander and Greyson are the black hats in this scenario, but she gives him time to mourn without being jealous of the fact that he truly loved Chase. From a narrative perspective, it brings closure to the Zay-Chase-Greyson subplot (hide spoiler)] On the whole, the book does a great job of tidying up aspects that had been frustrating: Shame's childish sulking, Terric's martyred mooning, Allie's separate allegiances to the Hounds and the Authority, Zay's inflexibility. Excellent. Even Victor is being (temporarily?) shelved it seems to open the way for dynamic new plot developments.
As for the secondary cast, who make the urban fantasy so rich, Nola and Cody come to Portland where Stotts, Nola's boyfriend, is a high ranking detective in the magical enforcement division of the city's police force, known as MERC. The organization doesn't factor into plot developments other than the reassurance for a freaked out Allie that Nola and Cody are in good hands. The more convincing factor is that Stone finds Cody, who it turns out created him, and the protective gargoyle saves him from an attack by Leander. Allie and the reader by extension don't worry about Cody after that.
Mikhail becomes a crucial player in the novel's climax, when our four main characters, the former guardian of the gate, Mikhail and Daniel face down Leander at the Well of Life in a do or die (in some cases, again) situation. (view spoiler)[Mikhail is exonerated as a good guy not only for healing magic on a small scale, when he reunited dark and light magic during an experiment, but it turns out that he has been trying to free the remnant of his wife Sedra's soul from a body that Isabelle has been controlling for years. Shocker! Question Authority isn't just a 1970s slogan, it's a revelation for Zay, who Allie knows will struggle with knowing that he Closed and killed people on Isabelle's orders. Mikhail and Sadra's soul fragment return to Death. We don't get any mention of the simulacrum glimpsed briefly in Magic at the Gate, who receives the soul magic that Allie traded for Zay's life; the rationale behind Zay's imprisonment, when Mikhail bleeds off his magic with Hungers, isn't explained, nor is the scene when Daniel and Jingo Jingo talk about steps in what is probably a master plan to reunite light and dark magic. (hide spoiler)] For now, the spirits of Mikhail and Daniel appear to be a misunderstood force for the greater good. The exoneration of Sedra doesn't entirely work if one thinks back to what we see of her before Leaner and Isabelle are introduced to the plot.
I'm pretty much fine with suspending disbelief here. It feels as though Monk received a new contract and room to expand the series beyond its original limits. Good by me. I enjoy reading them.
That said, some narrative quibbles annoy me. Allie could *become* magic and on her own make it do things beyond the small consciousness of most magic practitioners. Her status as a savant and her small magic are not explicitly locked together as being one and the same. It's frustrating that we've regressed from Allie as special snowflake to Allie as rookie trailing behind Zay, Shame and Terric, and who only does something spectacular now if her father is in control, wielding his immense knowledge of magic, rather than some rule-defying off the map beauty that Allie and Cody managed to do.
Somewhat related: characters keep puzzling over the amount of activity in St John's; readers of the series know from book one that a huge hidden well of magic exists there. In book six, we're still listening to characters say "gosh, that's weird." Obviously we're not supposed to forget about Mama's hidden magic, (view spoiler)[and this is the unspoken reason why Cody's magical self attaches itself to Mama, (hide spoiler)] but it's frustrating to have a placeholder and nothing else. We have intimations of machinations by Daniel, Mikhail and Jingo Jingo; some counterpoint hints about Mama's game would do me for one a lot of good. It feels too chauvinist, the way Allie, Maeve, Mama and Sadira, heck, even Violette, aren't in the forefront of power dynamics.
But hey, my frustrations with Shame, Terric and Zay have been smoothed out with developments in this novel, so it is quite possible that my grumbling about other things will also be sorted out as the plot continues to develop.
More talk than action in this Allie Beckstrom mystery. It picks up where the cliffhanger ending of the previous novel left off, with Allie crossing thMore talk than action in this Allie Beckstrom mystery. It picks up where the cliffhanger ending of the previous novel left off, with Allie crossing through the gate to death, where her father materializes as her guide. He teaches her about the rift between light and dark magic five hundred years before, telling her that they were broken apart to separate all powerful Soul Complements, Leander and Isabelle, who were committing unspeakable atrocities. Daniel Beckstrom tells his daughter that his mission is to reunite light and dark magic, like a messiah to cure the twisted souls of magic users who are all suffering in a purgatory, desperate for light magic to balance the dark. Sounds heroic, right? (view spoiler)[
Very much wrong. Daniel is allied with Mikhail, who broke open the gate at the end of Magic on the Storm with devastating consequences, and Allie's father is the one directing Jingo Jingo's sabotage and betrayal of the Authority. Mikhail has imprisoned Zay's soul, siphoning off his magic -- presumably to fuel a simulacrum that resembles Sadira -- and he will only release the hostage if Allie gives up part of her soul, a deal brokered by her dad. We see him putting her small magic reverently into the simulacrum, the spark to give it life.
Could Mikhail actually be a white hat? He wants revenge on his ex-wife, Sadira, for killing him, and she was also the one who orchestrated Daniel's murder. But it's not too hard to see that she might have acted in what she felt was the best interest of the living, Closing Mikhail and Daniel to stop megalomaniacs from gaining the power that Leander and Isabelle used to wreak death and destruction. But stopping the reunion of dark and light magic is causing big harm in death, and killing people doesn't seem to be too effective as a means of stopping their agenda. Finally, she's a colossal failure as a mother since she was alive and in power while her son Cody was mentally and magically raped. That's enough to disgust me about her character.
Mikhail rips open the boundary between life and death, causing catastrophic harm at the end of Magic on the Storm. He takes Zay hostage, drains his soul to the point of permanent death, and demands a piece of Allie's soul -- as if her memory loss weren't enough, right? He promises that he won't use her small magic for evil ends, but his track record keeps him very much on the bad guy side of the ledger for me.
Daniel is on Mikhail's side on draining Zay, arguing with himself that while they haven't drained enough of his magic by the point Allie arrives, it's time to force Allie to give up the core of her identity. He holds her perpetually hostage, powerless to stop him from doing whatever he wants with her magic and her mind. He says that he cares about her, and when we meet his younger self, he does seem to have loved Allie at one point. But he's mentally and magically raping his own daughter, so that he will be all powerful, crossing freely between life and death. He's employing Jingo Jingo to achieve his ends, and he Closes her memory of a secret meeting in which we learn that he wants the wells of light magic shut down as the next step in their plan. Yeah. He disgusts me. I want a kick ass empowered heroine, and I'm beyond sick of the way Allie is helpless to do anything but whine and be surly toward him.
Jingo Jingo is a pedophile child murderer who enslaves their souls to hurt people. He's not just a bad guy but evil. His betrayal of the Authority is on orders from Allie's father.
Greyson and Chase betrayed Zay, shoving his soul into death and Mikhail's control. The Soul Complements are vegetables now, but they definitely aren't white hats.
Shame, who is far more good guy than bad, remains intensely bitter about Zay and Allie's relationship. He hurts her repeatedly by telling her, again, how Zay and Chase shared a really intense relationship, very close to each other -- while her own relationship with Zay remains rocky, despite crossing to death and giving up part of her soul for him. Shame has admitted that he's jealous, yet he does nothing but sabotage the relationship be could have with Terric, so my sympathy for him is pretty small. He can't handle that he might be bisexual, and as Terric points out, it's incredibly selfish.
Zay's in a coma for most of the book, and angry at Allie when he does wake up. He's also been a company man willing to do anything on orders from the Authority, and I'm back to feeling the distaste of that with the more we learn about the Authority being run by screwed up people with harmful agendas.
Terric is the only good main character besides Allie.
Maeve, Hayden, Nola and Paul (Stotts) are all good people, without the complicating baloney, but they're all distanced from Allie in this book. Hayden is working for the good guys but seems to be pretty clueless. Victor Closes Paul, and though we don't know a whole lot, her distrust of him makes his character feel somewhat like Zay, Sadira, Mikhail and Daniel who will do distasteful or downright ugly things with the power of the Authority, all believing they're doing what's right for magic, and all screwing up. Yes, including Zay the assassin. If Sadira's motives are questionable, and he has been acting on her commands to kill people, that's not good. (hide spoiler)]
No, Allie's the only untainted good guy, and she's compromised by her dad acting as a mastermind - literally and figuratively, turning the empowered central female character into a relatively powerless shell. I'm not just frustrated but increasingly disgusted with the ambivalent cast of characters. The page time spent on characters I don't respect translates into being somewhat disgusted with the situation as a whole. I don't like movies where the audience is embarrassed for the characters, and I don't like how Allie is becoming a bit player in her own story.