Today’s book is Spellcaster, by George Bachman.
Length: 262 pages
Publisher: Sublime Ltd.
Released: April 3, 2017
Christine Daniel suffers in ways no sixteen year-old should and that no doctor has been able to cure. That’s because the excruciating pains and high fevers slowly debilitating her aren’t triggered by a physical cause but by visions of a youth calling to her while fleeing a mysterious man who means him harm. This could hardly be happening at a worse time, when she and her beautiful older sister Allison are making their début in high society, like other wealthy socialites seeking matches with titled but impoverished gentlemen in Victorian England.
Because of his pleas, Christine is convinced that to stop the visions she must somehow save this youth. But first she has to find him, and since she’s seen him only in visions, she needs someone who’d know how to locate someone through means outside the known senses, the paranormal. Unfortunately the authorities have driven underground all but one of the country’s occultists, and the reason she isn’t hiding is the only reason she might help Christine, something she wants in return. Christine must convince Allison to marry the occultist’s lover, one of those impoverished gentlemen, so that the illicit pair can share her part of the family fortune while continuing their affair.
If Christine doesn’t stop the visions by saving the youth, the pains and fevers will eventually kill her. But if she does what the occultist wants, she will betray Allison to a lifetime of misery. Can she lead her sister into a marriage with a very bad man if doing so is the only way to save her own skin – literally?
Well-written, but unfortunately not quite so well-plotted.
I got the feeling that this book just didn’t know where it was going. It was ostensibly set in Victorian England… with magic… and occasional mentions of ultrasound showers and hoverships? Look, I like Cassandra Clare as much as the next person. I was on board for petticoats and tarot cards. But the futuristic tech came entirely out of left field and wasn’t woven into the plot at all. In fact, it didn’t even seem that important to the story, since the rest of the narrative was staunchly Victorian. But, you know. Ultrasound showers, I guess.
And then came the realization that I was 30% through the book and the main conflict hadn’t even shown up yet. After nearly a hundred pages of descriptions, supporting characters, body image issues, and ‘mystery’ that felt more like confusion, Spellcaster was still just barely on the cusp of living up to its Amazon blurb – and by that point, I was just done.
I don’t think it would take much to turn Spellcaster into a Clare-esque historical/paranormal romp. Aside from figuring out its time period, it just needs to have a bit lighter hand with the exposition and get to the point within the first thirty pages. I’m afraid I’m just going to pass on its current iteration.