Spiral Hunt (Evie Scelan) is a brand new 2009 entry into the urban fantasy field. Even the cover is different from the usual leather clad, weapon-totin’, tattooed monster fighting chick on just about every other cover I see on the book shelves. Score one.
Boston, as you can see from the cityscape seen across the Charles River, is a presence in Spiral Hunt. Evie, the protagonist, is a bicycle messenger, and spins her cycle to destinations all over the city. Boston, for those who don’t know it, is not that large and is very bikable. It’s big enough for several distinct neighborhoods, and those are mentioned by Evie as she finds herself going through them, or to them. It’s a lot of fun for me, because I’m originally from the Boston area and am familiar with many of the areas Evie couriers through. Unfortunately, there isn’t much flavor to the environs. If it weren’t for the names and the knowledge of the locations, Evie Scelan could be anywhere along the East Coast.
Genevieve “Evie” Scelan earns extra income by Finding things. She is even listed in the phone book as a “Finder”. She finds misplaced cookbooks, lost dogs, lost children (tragically, sometimes), anything the owners want, she can literally sniff it out and track it—similar to a dog but not. It’s unique in the UF field for the power of super-smell to be used, and Ronald makes inventive use of Irish myth and legend in the rationale for Evie’s talent–which even she doesn’t know exactly how it works, or what it’s capable of.
Evie is a very assertive woman, very much in-your-face (in a way I can only say came across as totally Southie to me…it’s hard to explain), and very likable. She knows her place in her world, knows how to handle men of all kinds and has realistic flaws having to do with her mother. She’s very real.
There are plenty of other women in Ronald’s book, too. There’s Rena Santestaban, a police detective and Evie’s friend. There’s Sarah, a Wiccan who owns a magic shop with some genuine magic objects in it. And then there’s Katie, a little girl whose much older brother, Nathan, is interested in Evie, but not overpoweringly so. There are lots of conversations that pass the Bechdel test.
Evie’s adventure starts off with a strange phone call from an old boyfriend who also had magical talent. But she hasn’t seen him in fifteen years, and has no idea what’s going on. Shortly after, we begin to find out about the undercurrent, Boston’s local magic presence and culture. So far, no elves, no fairies, no little people or leprechauns (yay!). Instead, bodies start showing up, from the past and the present, with odd lines carved or drawn into their skin and flesh. And now, Evie’s friends and acquaintances are slowly being eliminated.
Worth the read–at least, it was for me, it was like a trip home. Margaret Ronald’s characters ring out with authenticity, but they didn’t seem to pop. Spiral Hunt is dry with the absence of sensory inputs other than Evie’s sense of smell—both magical and ordinary. It took me a long time to figure out what seemed missing, and I think that’s what it is. The plotting is okay, and the story is fine, and the characters have a lot of promise. There was a lack of emotional connection in there for me, and I love Boston and I liked these characters. I don’t ask for purple prose, and I don’t ask for an abundance of description; but I do enjoy being able to feel like I’m right there in the book with the characters.
It’s the first in a projected series based on Evie Scelan, and I’m looking forward to them. I just hope Ronald is able to ‘warm’ the story up a bit and make me feel I’m back in Beantown.