Josh Reviews: Hallowed Circle by Linda Robertson


Posted September 1, 2012 by Joshua Burns in Miscellaneous / 0 Comments


Title: Hallowed Circle
Series: Persephone Alcmedi #2
Author: Linda Robertson
Publisher: Pocket Books
Format: Paperback, 384 pages
Published: December 29 2009
ISBN #: 9781439156786/ 1439156786
Genre: Urban Fantasy
My Copy: borrowed
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And you think beauty pageants are scary?

Persephone Alcmedi has been persuaded to compete for the position of High Priestess of the Cleveland, Ohio, coven — now that the former priestess, Vivian Diamond, has strangely gone missing. Unfortunately, there are a few small problems with the idea. Not only does Seph know rather more about Vivian’s disappearance than the other witches realize, but the epic struggle she’s just survived has left her with some highly unusual powers — ones that could be dangerous to reveal. Despite her reluctance, she agrees to participate, if only to prevent snooty Hunter Hopewell, an obnoxious but talented witch, from ending up in the winner’s circle. Can Seph hide her secrets — including her connection to the master vampire-wizard Menessos — from the terrifyingly wise judges? Plus, there’s her rock ‘n’ roll werewolf boyfriend, Johnny, and some angry fairies to deal with….

Once the competition begins, a finalist turns up dead. It looks as if one of the contestants is willing to do anything — including murder — to win. Suddenly Seph has even more on her plate than she thought: from solving a murder to working out what her new powers really are…and exactly why they’re creating so much havoc in her love life.

The fact that this book and its predecessor were published in the same year stuns me. But let’s assume that for a moment that I should be the one checking myself. Perhaps it was my attitude that was out of wack. For some reason I believed Linda Robertson published Vicious Circle as a one-off then returned to her idea a year or two later. I can’t quite explain why I had this echoing in my head as I cracked the first book’s spine or even its successor. How are we to know what projects come to fruition and what projects do not? I’ve been the proud parent of several stunted, unpublished, unverifiable, unredeemable manuscripts that even now I think of fixing, developing, and putting spines in but that my roommate has wisely advised I dump in favor of new, more honest, more near-to-life stories. We all know how successful that transition has been. Hint: what one cannot see, one cannot judge.

So what disturbed the truth of the Robertson’s oeuvre? How could I not know that Vicious Circle was, in fact, not as its name would suggest an insular enterprise but one that was waiting to go out and about and, since there is no better word for it, spiral? Was it the author’s bio, mother of four kid’s and plays in a band, that made it sound like a hesitant excursion? Was it my belief that Vicious Circle was an under-appreciated urban fantasy novel? By all means, I should have seen that the ending did not twine itself round like cherry stems. I might have been the fool coming in, but Linda Robertson looks a little foolish coming out.

She provides exposition like Vicious Circle were an ancient stele unearthed with great difficulty, museumed for hundreds of years, that finally up and poofed due to the curse that was latent in it, a perfectly well recorded curse that the museum attendants knew about and even prepared for and weren’t the least bit surprised when the stele was gone and wasn’t seen for another hundred years. The book makes very clear to us in its first few pages that it occurs days after its predecessor. Why would any of these characters require refreshment of their backstories? She just got done seeing them. If they are reappearing, at least, make their relevance to your life a more present activity. What do they look like now versus what they looked like before? How has Persephone changed? If this sounds silly for a plot that picks up days after the last, then we know what to blame.

Nothing ruins rather good scenes and imagery more than exposition. Having jumped in out and of several series, I find exposition, more or less unneeded. The characters will develop as much as we need them in for whatever space of time we are reading them. This is not to say that the preceding books should be ignored rather they should be all the more treasured for holding the dim secrets of the past that the characters are now going on about. Exposition, like so many nice things, is unequivocally nice. It is only good manners to fill us in on the proceedings. Unfortunately as one knows so well about things that are filled in, the filling can never quite satisfy the anticipation. One cannot appreciate filling at all if it is filled in before you appreciate what has been left empty. If anything these expository flourishes should be left towards the end of the book where they will explain away the mystery that is building upon us. Wasn’t that the vampire…didn’t they do this…I relish that fact that by the time one reaches book six in a series one begins to receive what little should be ex-posited.

Let us assume we want to be caught up. We read to be caught, no? We read to be choked up. We read to be throttled. Do I not want to be caught up in the present scene? Imagine then how difficult it is to do when the scene you are trying to watch in a soap opera is blasting you with flashback after flashback so that the kiss which should be coming to us is delayed. This isn’t the best example since one wants a kiss to be delayed. Let us say our soap opera hunk is crossing the street when he is bombarded by a long series of flashbacks that explains his relation to the crosswalk…This again falls short of proving my point. Let us say our soap opera harlette is consulting the mirror when a fairie appears. Instead of spending time developing the appearance of this beauteous creature to another beauteous but achingly mortal creature, we are entertained by all the harlette’s previous consultations of the mirror. At this point, I give up. Somehow all these flashbacks work.

I sat down to read Hallowed Circle. I began reading meanwhile wondering how soon this was published after the last. I finished. My inner thoughts read something like: “I appreciate that the author caught me up over those first sixty pages, to prime me for what will follow, but even so little in a three hundred page book is too much and what is unforgivable is that some of the primer does not even get painted over. She ruined that colorful scene out in the cornfield. For this I cannot forgive her.”

Of course one could argue, since I have brought it up, that since the events of this book take place two weeks after the first that many of the events in the first book should be fresh in Persephone’s memory. All the more reason I would fire back that she should be turning these thoughts over and developing them beyond the fact that the vampire was here, the werewolf was there.

To sidetrack (finally) and to talk about the glitches in the system in a glitchy manner, Persephone is a name that I cannot understand even fictional people being unable to pronounce. As the previous book made clear she is an immensely likable character whether it be taking care of her Nana, taking care of a fallen comrade’s child, or taking care of the waeres when they shape-shift. People should be getting her name right. Persephone has got to be in the upper echelons of mythological names that are easy to pronounce. She remains honest under the most distressing situations. Her honesty, in fact, under the gavel in one scene comes across as nigh unbelievable.

What I liked about the previous book was how it defused otherwise predictable proceedings. This book kind of makes me want to put my foot in my mouth because every defusal feels forced and campy. Some of the best scenes are what I complained about in the previous book, scenes where nothing supernatural occurs and three people just sit at a coffee table and relate their beliefs.

So the strengths reside in its treatment of mundane scenes like pumpkin carving or kung-fu fighting. These events are taken slow, even a terrific sex scene. But following that the gears start to shift, speeding through a concert setting where a rather forced catalyst occurs. Seriously girl if you just hung around a little longer…not to mention the explanation for it comes across as laughable (in a good way). All in all, a lot of the witchcraft testing reminded me of Harry Potter and the Goblet. The ending then rushes you out and the action gets confusing and other characters have to explain it to each other over and over and all of the minor characters lose development and become hollow.

I think the cover is a good summary of the proceedings: very colorful but only in that upper right hand corner where Persephone (or some other character because !SPOILER! Persephone does not rock out in this book) holds her hand out.

Books in this series:

My Review










 

Recommendation: Read it but be prepared to white noise the opening ketchup. Also have the sequel ready at hand because it ends on a bit of a cliff
Like this, like that: Kara Gillian series by Diana Rowland and the On the Edge series by Ilona Andrews

Josh

Reviews UF/PR novels with an eye for weres of all kinds.

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