More Than Magic, by Kathleen Nance

>> Tuesday, October 03, 2006

I still can't get over the covers of More Than Magic (a second review here), by Kathleen Nance. It's fortunate that I bought this one online and never saw the covers before the book got here, because as much as I loved Day of Fire and Jigsaw, I would have hesitated before picking this up.

As if the front cover wasn't cheesy enough, just take a look at the back! You can click here to experiment the full splendour of the front cover, and here for the back cover (and please excuse the quality of the image, my scanner isn't very good). The earring! The mullet! The robe! The fairy dust shooting out of his hands!

Darius. He was as beautiful, as mesmerizing, as dangerous as a man could be. His dark, star- kissed eyes promised exquisite joys, yet it was common knowledge he had no intention of taking a wife. Ever.

Sex and sensuality would never ensnare Darius, for he was their master. But magic could. Knowledge of his true name would give a mortal woman power over the arrogant djinni, and an age-old enemy had carefully baited the trap. Alluring yet innocent, Isis Montgomery would snare his attention, and the spell she'd been given would bind him to her. But who can plot the path of a whirlwind, or control a force that is even more than magic.
As horrible as the covers are, they do convey the tone of the book quite well. MTM was totally cheesy. But it was very, very good cheese, and I enjoyed it. A B.

When perfumer Isis Montgomery finds the perfume of her dreams in a mysterious store in a New Orleans alley, she immediately knows it's just what she needs to make her aromatherapy business really successful. She tries to buy the formula, but the obviously nutty owner tells her the only way to duplicate it is to command a djinni to do so.

Isis doesn't really believe her (she got burnt a few years before, when her ex-fiancé publicly humiliated her by revealing to the general public that she was dabbling in magic rituals, so she's become allergic to even a mention of magic stuff), but the store owner refuses to sell her the small amount of perfume that's left unless she performs a ritual to summon a djinni. If the ritual is successful, and a djinni appears, Isis will owe the woman a favour.

Even though Isis doesn't believe the ritual will do anything, so she sees no harm in promising to perform it. So she's stunned when the complicated ceremony produces an absolutely beautiful (and enraged) man who says he's a djinni.

The djinni in question is Darius, from the world of Kaf. Darius is Kaf's Protector, a man with such powerful ma-at (magic), that he's the person responsible for keeping his people safe. Lately, though, Darius has been feeling that his ma-at has become erratic. Looking for a possible cause, he stumbles upon a prophecy that states he needs to take a zaniya (wife) in order to bring it back under control. And even more research shows him the woman needs to be Isis Montgomery, from Terra, the planet Earth, and that she needs to come to him of her own free will.

Darius isn't keen on the idea of taking a zaniya, but he sees no other way out, and he decides to go and meet her. So he transports to Earth, and imagine his surprise when he arrives at Isis' house just in time to stop a ritual meant to bind him and make him practically a slave (the equivalent to one of those djinn who live in lamps and are forced to grant wishes to whoever summons them, basically).

Fortunately, these are two intelligent people and they talk to each other, so pretty soon a) Isis is convinced that Darius is, in fact, a djinni, and b) Darius believes Isis when she tells him the real story of why and how she was performing this ritual. No misunderstandings at all! And since Darius is a smart guy, he realizes that given her past, Isis isn't going to be too receptive to his intentions to take her as his zaniya. Instead, as a way to stay near her, he offers her three bargains. And as the weeks pass (one of the bargains has Darius asking Isis to spend her evenings with him for two weeks),

This book is, in a word, fun. Isis and Darius are really engaging characters, and Nance succeeds in showing the connection between them perfectly.

I love this author's sense of humour. It's not slapstick or obvious, but relies on small moments that make you smile. I especially liked what she did with Darius' stay on Earth, his fish-out-of-water moments. I repeat: nothing obvious or too silly, but there are little scenes, like that volleyball game he plays with Isis' coworkers, that left me smiling.

But as fun and charming as it is, MTM has also got depths to it. There's the external plot about Madame Pari wanting to do harm to Darius and Kaf, but the real struggle takes place inside each of our protagonists. The dyslexic Isis is reluctant to put herself in a situation where she'll be feeling like an idiot because she can't do what everyone else can do effortlessly, and being in Kaf, where everyone uses magic so easily, makes her feel like she did in school, when everyone else could read so easily and she was unable to. And Darius must choose again which path to take, if absolute power and control over his ma-at or his love for Isis. It was all nicely done.

As a negative, I would just mention that the book felt a little bit bloated. It was a long one, compared to what's coming out today (390 pages), and there were some subplots that went nowhere and served only to annoy. For instance, that whole thing about that Jimmy Ray guy, the journalist who's such a threat because he can destroy Isis' reputation (and indeed, did just that a few years earlier) with accusations of dabbling with magic, was idiotic and completely unbelievable. Much too unrealistic that such a thing would be so disastrous to her reputation. And yes, I am critizising an aspect of a book about a djinni for being unrealistic. Even in the midst of the most fantastic plot, I need people's reactions to feel true, and they didn't in this particular instance. Fortunately, this aspect of the plot pretty much dissolved into nothing soon enough. It definitely should have been cut.

I realized not too long after I started MTM that it was actually the second book in a series, and it just so happens that I do have Wishes Come True, the one that comes first. Should have started there and not just grabbed the first book I saw!


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