Sunday, April 5, 2015

Boundary Crossed: Book Review

Here goes with my first book review, Boundary Crossed. Author Melissa F. Olson, Publisher 47North, Seattle, Washington.

There are two challenges inherent for an author working in the Urban Fantasy subgenre, which is a narrowing of the vast fantasy category and a refreshing change from the medieval world and errant knights that dominate the class of fantasy offerings. Lovers of the urban-type story don’t miss the dragons, thank you very much.

Without the normal props, the urban fantasy author must create a gritty world of realism that causes the reader to wonder whether such a world actually exists around them and provide a fresh presentation of the stock types that populate these stories: vampires, werewolves, witches.

Melissa Olson hits those marks for the most part in this awakening or coming-of-age story of a young witch not aware of her power until one night she catches a couple shoplifting diapers from the all-night store she works at and by the way, they are also kidnapping her niece.

Lex, our young heroine, launches into action and a series of events unfolds as she fiercely acts to save her niece at all costs from all threats, which the author is only beginning to unfold in the first chapters. Told from a first person perspective, the author skillfully holds us in the dark and speculating about the story as we only learn about the plot surrounding the niece as Lex does.

This could have been a superficial comic book story told in a few pages with drawings, but Olson is a better writer. She takes us deep into Lex’s psyche so we can see the impulses that motivate her to make the decisions that she does. Ultimately, we are left wondering if we would be the same: protective to a fault, willing to put our life on hold for the sake of our family.

We see her past relationships, and are given but a hint of her complicated and devoted relationship with her twin sister that lays the groundwork for future stories in the series. We learn that Lex is not only a witch, but one with a specialized power (and not good at anything else): SPOILERS, close your eyes and scoll … Lex can suck the life out of anything she chooses. She gets high on it.

A+ for the fresh presentation. In fact, we should be revolted, but by the time we learn the extent of that special power, we are in sympathy with the character who has already stated her objections many times to the harming of living creatures, then is appalled by what she can do.

The vampires are also given a unique governing structure by the loyalty they pledge that they cannot break.

B for the world. Olson uses the “must stay hidden” rule, but as readers, we do wonder why. It makes sense for the vampires, whose feeding stock (us) will remain complacent in our ignorance that they are around us, but the witches? What could ordinary mortals do against their powers? Why should they bother?

To be fair, I thought this was also a weakness of the Statute of Secrecy J.K. Rowling used. She gave the lame explanation that if the Muggles knew witches existed, they would pester them unendlessly for solutions to their trivial problems. Really? A good banishing charm would take care of that. Maybe Voldemort had the right idea after all. Let them taste the magical power and they will obey for fear of their lives.

I digress. But those who work in the fantasy genre and want their magical people to be hidden from the rest of humanity need to devise a better explanation.

Aside from that quibble, the world works. It is our world, the world of city life, coffee shops, convenience stores, and suburban housing. Olson keeps it true to that and we have no problem believing that the story is taking place just down the street.

Overall, the story is great. In a few places, the plot is obvious where it is going, but give credit to Olson, she doesn’t create unrealistic twists to keep us guessing. Yes, I figured out early on who the ultimate villain was, but she doesn’t try to evade her clever readers by bringing in some 11th hour figure to take the rap for the sake of surprise. The result is a consistent story and a good read. For fans of the genre, I recommend it.

--Boundary Crossed is available on Amazon Kindle May 1, 2015.