A Little Night Magic - Lucy March This book is different from the previous novels by the same author, [a:Lani Diane Rich|250172|Lani Diane Rich|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1311619593p2/250172.jpg]. I picked it up because I love most of her other novels. They all have a light, fluffy feel to them, with frequent infusions of humor, and I wanted an easy, frivolous read, but this book didn’t conform to my expectations. It felt darker and deeper. Perhaps, that’s why Rich wrote it under a nom de plume. Personally, I like her lighthearted stuff better but I’ll try to be objective and not make a comparison with the author’s other works.
The heroine of this novel Olivia is a waitress in a small American town. She led an ordinary life until she turned 30, when she discovered she had magic. Now someone is trying to kill her and steal her magic, and she doesn’t know who or which way to dodge. She would’ve given up her magic gladly, she doesn’t want it, but it seems she is the pivot of the power struggle for her town and her friends’ souls. She doesn’t have a choice but to master her magic quickly if she wants to defeat the hidden enemy and save her friends.
Her magical predicament is exacerbated by a personal one: the guy she is in love with, Tobias, wouldn’t return her affections, which makes her angry. Actually, there are several angry women in this story. Unrequited love appears to be a recurring theme running through the plot.
One thing bugged me in this tale: everybody keeps secrets, not only from Olivia but from the reader as well. Too many secrets. The author is stingy with information, and as a result, the reader is as confused as the heroine for most of the story. Who is the good guy? Who is the bad guy? Is Olivia’s trust misplaced? Nobody is exactly what he or she seems.
Even when Olivia’s ignorance causes a string of disasters, her friends (or self-professed friends) keep mum or talk elliptically, with a profusion of mysterious hints but no hard data and no magical lessons she desperately needs. The irritating trend continues well past the middle of the book: nobody explains the rules of the game until it is almost too late.
As a reader, I wonder: why? If it’s a literary device, it’s unsuccessful. It doesn’t up the tension. Instead, it lowers the readers’ involvement quotient. Poor Olivia bumps into metaphorical walls time and again, trying to figure out everything by herself, and it’s neither funny nor cute to watch a 30-year-old woman fumble like an awkward apprentice. It would’ve been different, if she were 15.
The abundance of secrets also precipitates the banality of dialog. The characters produce line after line of inconsequential jabber just to keep from blurting out the important facts.
On the positive side, the writer came up with the original and amusing magic system. Before this book, I’ve never read about magicians being able to make animated bunnies out of ceramic mugs or flying birds out of linoleum squares.
The action is quick, and the narrative clean and unaffected, flowing effortlessly from start to end. I sympathized with Olivia. I turned the pages avidly because I wanted her to win through this wringer of secrets and lies. I wanted her to be happy.
Despite this novel’s flaws, I quite enjoyed reading it. My pleasure was tempered with exasperation, true, but I will definitely read the sequel, when it comes out.