Uncertain Allies by Mark Del Franco
Flashes of blue light lead to people vanishing in the Weird, the Wild Hunt rides, tension is high between the Celtic and Teutonic Courts, and of course magically crippled Connor Grey is right in the middle of it all, attracting the attention of far too many people with far too much power.
My first thought on finishing this book was that the series could end here and I would be happy. All the little changes Connor has gone through as the series progressed came to a head in this book. This was the crisis point, and I was satisfied at its resolution.
This does not mean I would scoff at picking up and reading another Connor Grey novel. I enjoy the world build and the writing too much to turn them down. But I was content with the way things were. Not every end was tied off- but to me that makes for a much more believable resolution. Life is never so clean or polite as to settle everything neatly for us. There needs to be a bit of mess, and rarely have I had the pleasure of mucking around in a life as messy as that of Connor Grey. It is delightful that much of the mess is of his own making, and it was interesting to watch him actually start to own up to a lot of it in this book.
Uncertain Allies has a lot more meat, and less actual action than previous installments in the series, but for those who have been invested in the series it is the necessary fallout of previous events and works to pull things together and make sense of it all. It allows Connor to grow as a character and for the series to actually move forward as a result.
I think what I have liked most throughout reading this series is Connor’s distinct lack of Power. He has a bit of a wild card that is unreliable and usually devastating, but nothing like the usual genre tropes. He relies heavily on his companions and contacts, and considering Connor used to be a rather hot shot Druid, it is an interesting POV character to wander through an urban fantasy setting with.
Spellcast by Barbara Ashford
It is obviously a sign from above that Maggie needs a change of scene when she is not only fired, but the ceiling of her bathroom collapses on top of her while she tries to take a consolatory bath. She packs a bag and leaves New York City for Vermont, intent on finding a Bed and Breakfast. What she finds instead is the Crossroads Theater and its enigmatic director Rowan.
Spellcast is a fairy tale, and like all the best fairy tales it is dark and dangerous, and examines all of the things about ourselves we would rather not look at. It also glimmers with wide eyed wonder and rustles with restless energy. It is impossible to put down.
Ashford’s love of theater is apparent and will touch everyone who has had the luck to walk across the stage, and everyone who has ever wanted to. She captures the camaraderie of the theater perfectly, with all of its dysfunctions and drama. Her descriptions of things I enjoyed so much when I was younger, my time spent engaged in summer theater, tickled a smile onto my face and marched goosebumps down my arms. It was perfect. And I didn’t realize I had enjoyed theater as much as I had, or that I missed it. It is an amazing author that can appeal to memories that are almost 20 years old and get me to recall them so vividly.
And it isn’t just theater. It is family, and friends, relationships and work and all those little and not so little things that fill our lives and make us who we are.
Spellcast can be a very personal read, if you let it. And I encourage you greatly to do so.