Ah, QuarantineBrain™. I’m going to miss you. That casual, passive acceptance of the way the days blended into each other, and the passive way I could let books flow over me without engaging. Despite finding a number of interesting elements in the first Ella Grey book, Stone Cold Magic, Dark Harvest Magic took everything that was redeemable in the first and threw it out the window.
How badly? Well, once again, serious consequences miss the Scooby Gang, except that this time we’ve roped in Red Shirts to show there are high stakes, although they presumably matter to someone. Ella’s low-level magic and low-level job become powered up here, giving her Super knowledge and Super capabilities. The easy, clear cut lines between evil demons and non-evil magic workers is blurred by Ella and a friend using small demons to send a message to each other (so much for her work as a demon-catcher!), without any serious introspection. But most serious and damaging to my enjoyment was a scene where Ella is magically forced into doing something she doesn’t want to do, with serious consequences.
Digression. What’s the point when you cut your losses on a book or series? I’ve figured for awhile that I generally want happy endings, with protagonists who aren’t generally stupid or thoughtless, but I can live with it if I’m given decent writing, an interesting world and interesting side characters. Start playing too much with that and I get more than a little kvetchy. Then commit an authorial trespass and I’m done. In this case, it was a character binding Ella into a coven in such a way that it had physical, financial, emotional and social consequences. Sounds like rape to me (there are no secrets in the group; there’s tithing; there’s mandatory practice). To make it worse, though Ella sort-of struggles with it, she ends up ‘going along’ with it. Her bestie Deb has a hard time seeing how it is a bad thing, because now they are ‘together.’ It’s funny, because for some readers, this won’t be a big thing; they’ll see it as Ella adapting, or another challenge, or whatever. But for me, it was the choice that broke my enjoyment. I was done.
I should also note, for those who have been following and who have noted that this book is described as a ‘paranormal romance,’ that in this installment, Ella makes steps forward in one of her relationships… but there’s heavy black-out curtains drawn over the scene. Nothing to see here, kids!
She continues to be super-selfish, particularly in taking her partner Damien for granted. When he shares his fears about his family with her (after hearing about her family all the time), here’s her reaction: “I shrugged a shoulder. “Eh, let’s not worry about it unless they find a way to press the issue. You’re an adult. You have your own life. We’ll figure it out, right?”
The power-ups in abilities, the TSTL moments, the super-selfish moments, the authorial condoning of an unacceptable behavior all add up to a series I’m comfortable abandoning.
Oh, and as an aside, I don’t recommend reading the Goodreads blurb, unless you also plan on forgetting it, because it spoils some of the events in the book.