Stars: 3 out of 5.
As far as first books in a series go, this one wasn’t particularly impressive. In fact, it was almost a DNF until about 30% into the book.
It is a very slow start, but it also starts with a story that doesn’t seemingly have anything to do with magic and the rest, so I kept wondering why we are following these two undercover cops who are trying to nick this drug lord. Yes, it is relevant to the case in the end, but it could have been summarized in a lot less chapters and gotten out of the way quickly before we get to the meat of the story. As it stands, it dragged way to long and almost made me DNF the book. It gets more interesting once the team gets the “Sight” and the story actually picks up, but getting there was a slog.
The biggest issue for me were the characters. At least two of them are really unlikeable from the moment we are introduced to them, even if they grow on you afterwards. But that’s not so much of an issue in itself. I read books with unlikeable characters before and loved them. My issue is that we don’t get to know them enough to get to care about them. Yes, we get Ross’s backstory, because it’s essential to the larger story. Yes, we get mentions of one of the UCs being mercilessly bullied when he was a child. Of Quill and the other UC, we know even less. Which means that to me they don’t exist as individuals, but just as coppers tied to this story that’s unfolding. Heck, a few times I didn’t even understand why they reacted the way they did. Maybe I am missing some important cultural background here and didn’t get some of the subtitle hints of social status in different descriptions, but some of their actions and reactions made me scratch my head.
Another problem is that the magic described has no apparent logic at the beginning, and makes only slightly more sense by the end of the book. So is this localized to London only or does each city have something similar? Does it mean that magic is linked to the past and human memory? That nothing new can be magical? Why does it require sacrifice? What are the rules of all of this?
I mean, I am more than willing to believe in a magical system the author invented, but I want to understand it. And I expect the author to follow the rules of that system as well. Here, we have a lot of random magical occurrences in London that are unrelated to the case. And the main villain seems so overpowered… yet four mundane coppers (with the Sight, but no magic powers of their own), continuously thwart her efforts and manage to overpower her in the end. How? What is the logic behind this?
Coming back to the requirement of a sacrifice. Ross sacrificed the witch in order to beat her. So whom was that sacrifice dedicated to? The smiling man? Does she have a bargain with him now? What will the consequences be for the team? It’s unclear.
All in all, it’s a very muddled book that lacks structure and drive, especially in the beginning. Though the glimpse of London it gives is interesting enough that I will probably check out the next book in the series, but I expect a few more answers, especially as to how this whole magical system works.