>> Tuesday, March 09, 2010
TITLE: The Oldest Kind of Magic
AUTHOR: Ann Macela
PUBLISHER: Medallion Press
SETTING: Contemporary Texas
TYPE: Paranormal romance
SERIES: I'm not sure, I think it might be related to this one?
REASON FOR READING: Random choice, it looked intriguing
Daria Morgan is a magic practitioner, one of a group of people who uses magic and spells to do their everyday jobs. Her job: A management consultant. John "Bent" Benthausen is a CEO who, despite every improvement in product and production, can’t get his bottom line out of the Red Sea. He needs a management consultant. With her special gifts, Daria gets right to the heart of her employer’s problem—crooked employees. Crooked, vicious, employees who are now out to get Daria. Those are just Problems One and Two. Problem Three: There is an ancient force, an irresistible compulsion, called the soulmate imperative. It’s known throughout the practitioner ranks for bringing together magic-users and their mates in a lifelong bond. And it won’t be happy until the participants surrender to the inevitable... the Oldest Kind of Magic...I'm being lazy today and not providing a summary. The one quoted above is pretty accurate, so I'll leave it at that. The only problem is that, accurate or not, a simple description of the plot kind of makes you think this is a silly, wacky book. It is not. Absolutely not. It's quite thoughtful, actually, and I liked it quite a bit.
This is a soulmates book, but it's a good soulmates book. It doesn't just use the concept unquestioned and as an excuse to get out of showing us two people falling in love. Here, soulmates means simply that two people are perfectly compatible, and Daria and Bent truly are that. We see that and can't help but see that of course they'd be in love and perfect for each other.
And even with this, Daria truly has trouble with the concept of soulmates. As most sane people would, she hates the idea of a compulsion pushing her anywhere, and of something artificial making her fall for a random guy. It's only when she realises this is not quite how this operates in her world that she does accept her feelings for Bent.
It's an interesting idea, the way Macela develops her magic. Very matter-of-fact, really. It kind of reminded me of some of JAK's books, the latest, especially, where people's talents for something are presented as sometimes being a psychic talent that they just don't know they have (e.g. excellent business leaders being strat talents, I think). That's pretty much the case with Daria. Her use of her abilities is pretty overt, but to the outsider she's simply very perceptive and a person people easily open up to. Anyway, it's an intriguing world. I only wish that this particular paranormal framework (or however you want to call it) didn't require all the women to be virgins, while letting the male practitioners do what they damn well please. Tedious, useless, old double-standards.
I loved that Daria and Bent are two characters who truly are grown-ups. They talk and actually *discuss* things. I thought I saw a conflict with the soulmates thingie coming from a mile away. Of course, I thought, when Bent finds out about the soulmate imperative, he'll feel betrayed and reject Daria. Well, it didn't work out quite like that. This is good, since I hate it when the whole conflict is based on a miscommunication that doesn't really fit with the characters' personalities, as it wouldn't have in this case.
However, the fact is that the romance is a bit too conflict-free. Even Bent's commitment issues disappear just like that -poof! It doesn't mean I was bored with the book. I never was, but it was always very low-drama and understated. Even the small suspense subplot is pretty undramatic.
Among the other things I liked was that this is a book with a very strong sense of place. It's set in Texas, and it feels very distinctive. And not just that, the company Bent is running feels like a real company, with issues I recognise. It's all very well done.
Based on this and my previous experience with Macela, I'd recommend her as an author to try.
MY GRADE: A B.