I know I start many of my thoughts on literary consumptions with a question, so bear with me as I do it again.
Have you ever sat down to a grand literary banquet ready to really stuff your face only to have every course crammed at you before you’ve even had a bite of the last one? New flavors, new foods, soups, salads, puddings, meats, cheeses, each one is thrown down in front of your, begging you to consume. Try as you might to enjoy the whole thing, to savor each tempting bit of flavor, in the end you just wind up tired. You know there’s a lot of good bits on that table, things that you are sure you ate, but as you sit back at the end of that bewildering experience, you’re just …. tired. Welcome to my experience with Kill It With Magic!
Before we dive in further, everyone put your hand over your heart as we recite the Starving Review creed:
- I attempt to rate every book from the perspective of a fan of the genre.
- I attempt to make every review as spoiler-free as possible.
I’ve sampled many literary meals that moved slowly, like the wobble of a dense pile of Jell-O. That is infuriating certainly but Mr. Cipriano’s book is the first time I have literally felt tired at the end of. If previous books have been paced too slowly, this book was paced in overdrive. New events, new conflicts, and new characters are fired at the reader constantly, with old ones coming back in and out of the plot constantly. Explanations of events or the clues to figure them out are few and far between with some minor points getting deep explanations and some major points being brushed over casually. The whole thing almost explodes apart with plot overload. This is one book I would understand a reader wanting a cheat sheet of all the characters so they could keep track of it.
Now to give credit to the chef, much of the time, the constant action serves as a sort of self-sustaining chemical reaction, fueling the reader to keep going and keep their head up. It helps that the action scenes themselves are well-done, if amazingly over the top. That’s another thing: this meal is so rich, so dripping with creme and chocolate and other things to satisfy, it will give you diabetes at twenty paces. To put it in practical terms, this book is so over the top, the only words I can use to describe it is ‘Mary Sue Jumping The Shark With Michael Bay Explosions Going Off EVERYWHERE!’. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as I personally love authors with the guts to go over the top. However, it does contribute to that feeling of exhaustion at the end: You’re overstuffed and nauseous, filled up with rich food and wondering why, oh why did you do that.
All of this extreme action and rapid fire plot detracts mostly from the world-building. There is either a very complex and imaginative alternate Earth hidden somewhere under the explosions and sword fights or the intriguing ravings of a madman. Either one I want to know more about, but there just isn’t room. Major organizations get brief mentions. Heck, MAJOR GODS from mythology show up for a page or two and that’s that. You start off thinking this is a pretty normal ‘supernaturals hiding in the shadows’ sort of modern Earth and then find out (very minor spoilers as this really doesn’t effect the plot) that two major religious cities were nuked into radioactive rubble and that’s just the tip of the open changes to this Earth. You literally find yourself stopping and going …. what? Too many moments force you to stop and wonder what just happened and how does that fit into the bigger picture because, if you don’t stop reading to figure it out, it will be overwhelmed by the next big action sequence that’s about to start.
This insane pacing and the myriad problems it causes aside, there is quite a bit of good here. As I mentioned, Mr. Cipriano does whip up delightful action sequences, fluid and fast-paced. There is a lot of imagination put into the world itself and its own variations on classic supernatural creatures without deviating so far that it makes them unrecognizable. The main character herself is actually quite charming and surprisingly deep. Despite causing your average Mary Sue Litmus Test to be engulfed in burning flames just be being put near this character, her role in the plot defies the tests and she has a good character arc, coming to a final epiphany and seeming to make a decision she dances back and forth across over the entire book. The over the over the over the top elements (that repetition is on purpose) have enough ‘that is so cooooool’ moments that it decently counterbalances the parts where you just shake your head. The core plot itself is wrapped up nicely. In fact, the ending was the best paced part of the entire book. It was as if Mr. Cipriano realized I was about to throw up all over his nice linens from being over-stuffed and so made sure dessert was only a small cup of coffee and a thin slice of cake.
Right, so where does that leave us in the end? Kill It With Magic is an extremely over-the-top, insanely fast-paced, urban fantasy tale with EXTREME ACTION and there are quite a few things it does right. I certainly appreciate the author’s courage to have a main character that should by every right be a Sue yet isn’t one, just because he wrote the story right. However, the pacing goes way too far and the literally non-stop action crowds out too much of the world-building that is necessary for a world SO alternate from modern Earth. There is a lot of potential here though and it’s certainly possible that Mr. Cipriano will manage to slow down the pace and add that vital world-building to the next book in the series. In the end, there was a tremendous variety of strong flavors, but the fact the servers kept shoving it in my mouth like a Three Stooges movie soured what could have been a great literary meal.
FINAL VERDICT: *** (Intriguing, rich flavors but hard to taste when they are all shoved in your mouth at once)