Unnatural Magic by C.M. Waggoner
I would like to thank Netgalley and Berkeley Publishing for approving me for this early copy to review.
Unnatural Magic gets 3.5 stars from me. The premise of the story really intrigued me. It follows a couple storylines. Onna is a brilliant young woman who has studied to enter a prestigious wizarding school. She is clearly the best wizard of her age but is still denied from the school because she’s a woman. She eventually ends up going to another country to enter to their school and ends up being chosen as an apprentice for one of the greatest wizards alive, the Lord Mage Logos. This leads her to investigate a series of troll killings.
On the other hand, we have Tsira, who is a troll. Trolls are actually generally wealthy and successful, and humans like to emulate them. Clans are headed by reigs, which are usually considered female by human standard, but trolls are rather androgynous in actuality. Tsira meets Jeckran, a human who she teams up with to work jobs that are in need of a strong arm.
The things I loved about this book: the contrast between prejudices against women and empowerment of women in different cultures. In troll culture, the women lead, they are worshipped, they sleep with whomever they please and aren’t judged. They choose their mate(s), they are physically strong. In Onna’s homeland, women are expected to stay chaste until they marry, and do the housework. Even when she goes to Hexos, she notices the differences in culture. The people there are amorous and it is not uncommon to have many lovers before settling down, whether you’re a man or woman.
Another thing I loved: the fluidity of sexuality. The femininity that men exhibited. So refreshing compared to the toxic masculine traits men can often display. Jeckran is a tough human soldier willing to do what it takes to survive. When he meets Tsira, he becomes infatuated. He isn’t sure whether she is a male or a woman, but he starts loving her and lusting after her before he knows which she is. She takes the lead, she picks him up as easy as a sack of potatoes, she takes the lead in sex, she protects him. And he lets her without embarrassment or a thought to his masculinity. The role reversal is refreshing. Logos exhibits signs of flamboyance and tenderness. The men in this series don’t have to be tough constantly to protect their manhood.
At first the troll/human thing I thought was going to make me cringe but it was pretty well done. I was actually rooting for their relationship.
The bad thing about this book: while I was completely engaged when characters were speaking, when they weren’t, the book dragged. Sometimes there was too much focus on minute details. This could also be because I’ve been a bit overstimulated between the multiple books I’m reading, so don’t write this book off because of that.
One more thing that didn’t make it a perfect read for me: I get the building up of the four main characters before they meet… but it was a long build up. Most of the book was the two set of characters doing things on their own and then suddenly meeting towards the end of the book. It felt like a few chapters of them achieving something together and instantly turning into almost a family before the book ended. I would have loved to have them meeting earlier in the book. But that would be a personal preference and not a reflection on the author’s writing or decision making. This is her story and the way she wanted it to be.
The troll killer was obvious to me, but it might not be to some. I’m not gonna share my reasons why it is obvious or it will completely ruin it for those who haven’t read the book.
All in all, this was a great debut with some flaws, which is to be expected! I think many people will enjoy this book and it’s worth the read. It comes out tomorrow, November 5th. I inserted a copy of the absolutely gorgeous cover before, as I had the early reader’s copy on my kindle.