Dave Higgins's Reviews > The Book of Peril

The Book of Peril by Melissa McShane
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it was amazing
bookshelves: reviewed

Expanding on the metaphysics and politics of the previous book without sacrificing pace or characterisation, McShane provides a second instalment of urban fantasy that will appeal to readers across the gamut of the genre and beyond.

This book is the second in The Last Oracle series. Appositely enough, readers who proceed beyond this point before completing the previous volume might receive insights into the future.

Fulfilling a major prediction for the Ambrosites has proved to most of the magical community that Helena is the correct custodian of Abernathy’s Bookstore and the oracle that it contains. Then the oracle begins to act oddly, giving out prophecies for the wrong people or offering multiple answers to the same question. Afraid that revealing the problem will give those who don’t believe in her the means of removing her, or that it will spark a war in the magical community, Helena strives to find answer herself; but how can she fix the oracle if she doesn’t understand how it works?

McShane continues the tale of an outsider striving to understand a world with rules different from the usual. As with the previous book, this use of a smart but unknowledgable narrator both avoids the need for every challenge to be objectively significant and provides a point-of-view that matches the reader’s.

After the revelation that someone she trusted was behind the previous attacks on Abernathy’s, Helena is plausibly even more loathe to trust any but the closest of friends; as such, readers are unlikely to question her decision to go it alone.

McShane builds on this sense of paranoia by both having Julie—Helena’s former rival for the custodianship—continue to be prickly even while she ostensibly works as Helena’s assistant, and by having Helena’s former boyfriend Chet reappear set on wooing her back—with no regard for either her wishes or appropriate behaviour.

Although the story advances at a swift pace, efficiently conveying a real sense of significant threats, it is not stripped back or over focused. As with the previous volume, there are plenty of snippets and glimpses of the world to spark the imaginations of readers interested in the deeper nuances of worlds.

Helena has developed plausibly since her initial introduction to the secret metaphysical society. Having a job that she likes and is challenged by have brought both greater maturity and greater stress; this combination of changes makes her more driven to solve issues rather than retreat, but also brings the doubts, obsessions, and exhaustions of the business owner. In contrast, her understanding and opinion of the magical world remains plausibly youthful, both saving her from fear and exposing her to risk.

This division between work and youth is echoed in her private life: she still needs the emotional support of a social life, but can neither simply leave Abernathy’s to sort its own problems nor explain to her family and friends why she treats her job as so important.

The supporting cast, both new and returning, continue to be a skilled balance of urban fantasy tropes and personal nuances, with major secondary characters continuing to reveal complexities that—realistically–seem to partially conflict.

Overall, I enjoyed this book immensely. I recommend it to readers seeking a fresh and complex urban fantasy world.

I received a copy from the publisher with a request for a fair review.
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Reading Progress

July 31, 2018 – Shelved
September 9, 2018 – Started Reading
September 10, 2018 – Finished Reading

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