The problem with being a Starving Reviewer is that you don’t get to choose what you eat at each meal. Whatever literary cuisine is next on my ever-expanding menu list is what you get. After my last review, well, I had certainly wanted a palette cleanser so all I could do is cross my fingers. Like the song says, you might not get what you want but, if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need. As this next meal was plated for me, I could tell by the menu that it had potential at least. Promising to mix a mystery in a world with a sudden appearance of magic and the fantastic, Seeking Dr. Magic looked to have the potential for a fine fusion piece of literary cuisine. Would it fill me up happily or would I feel the need to starve myself once more?
Before we find out the answer, let’s review 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.
Let’s take it from the top, then. Seeking Dr. Magic has a solid premise and it approaches that premise in a logical manner. No spoilers to say that, if something truly magical and inexplicable appeared in our modern world, it would be a disrupting experience. Though mostly a character-driven piece, Mr. Spotson covers all his societal bases as well and approaches the angles of such a supernatural incident with a solid outlook on events. Nothing seems contrived and the plot flows in a logical fashion. I especially appreciate that once the ground rules for the supernatural events are laid out, they are adhered to, both in regards to earlier events in the book and all subsequent events. One of the quickest things that can sour a fusion dish like this is when the author starts to break the rules he himself has laid out.
Now, as I mentioned, I consider this to be a dish flavored the most by its characters. The main protagonist and antagonist are very well characterized and it is their interactions that drive the plot and are the best parts of the dish. Properly seasoned and well-baked, they both are real treats. Seeking is at its best when it focuses on these characters, either singularly or together. Some of the secondary characters are touched up nicely, especially two sets of parents in the middle act, but, with so much focus on the main pair, there is a bit of a lack of attention on other secondary characters. They tend to be considerably flatter and the scenes with them tend to be a bit more of a generic mush. However, these scenes aren’t poorly written and, with so much focus on the main characters, they are serviceable enough and don’t collapse the story.
Stylistically, Mr. Spotson’s literary cooking is solid and in some parts, especially his dialogue, it really shines. However, to be fair, some parts suffer from an uneven pacing, generally any stretch where there isn’t significant dialogue. It’s a minor issue though, as the author seems to recognize his strengths and keeps his characters interacting as much as is logically possible. At the end, there are no truly badly written parts, just sections that are fairly vanilla, spiced up considerably by any dialogue scene.
Though I can speak little of it (spoilers and such), I would have to say that, unlike some literary dishes that have a great initial bite but sours by the end, the best parts of Seeking is the entire third act. Writing a proper ending, especially to a stand-alone piece, is as hard as writing that initial hook and Spotson delivers here in spades. It was emotional, logical, and set a proper note of finality to close the book’s story with no dangling threads. Definite bravo there.
Where does that leave us at the end of the meal? To be completely honest, while Seeking Dr. Magic is not perfect, it is still a very enjoyable urban fantasy/mystery fusion dish that delighted me with its fleshed-out characters and flavor-popping finale. If you love either of those genres (or simply enjoy a good piece of popcorn literature), I would suggest you check this book out. You won’t be disappointed!
FINAL VERDICT: **** (Some light, fluffy popcorn with a flavor that sings because of great characterization!)