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November 15, 2018

The Last Oracle by Melissa McShane ~ a Series Review

by MK French

This is a fun series. I hope for many more books based in this great universe McShane has created.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. Free books were provided for an honest review.

Book of Secrets by Melissa McShane

Book of Secrets
February 2018; Curiosity Quills Press
978-1948099639; ebook, print (196 pages)
fantasy
Helena Davies was looking for a job that paid well and thought Abernathy's Bookstore would at least be interesting. By the end of the first day, her boss is dead and she is now part of a war against creatures from another reality.

The story dives right into the action, and Helena is given the quick and dirty explanation right away. This drops us into the reality of this world and the fact that magic exists as a life force (but don't call it the Force, that would make Lucia angry!) that other creatures want to harvest in order to use themselves. Helena has a zany friend Viv, who soon enough gets drawn into her orbit as well. The story is engaging and sucks you in quickly because there's still the question of why exactly Helena was hired. No one really knows that, just as no one knew who killed her boss or where some of the important instructions for the store are. Unfortunately, no one who does know anything is really willing to tell her about the store or magic or the way things work. This leaves her (and us by extension) stumbling around until the conclusion.

Some of the characters are little more than caricatures, though some of this is likely because the book is told from Helena's point of view and she isn't very invested in finding out more about some of them. She goes from one event to the next, trying to figure out what's going on when few in the magical community are willing to help her. By the end, we have a solid footing for the rest of the series, and I was definitely interested in finding out more. Helena is a fun character to get to know, and Viv definitely has a lot of comedic beats and bright moments.

Buy Book of Secrets at Amazon

Book of Peril by Melissa McShane

Book of Peril
July 2018; Curiosity Quills Press
ebook (231 pages); fantasy
Helena Davies doesn't know how Abernathy's Bookstore determines the auguries or the prices that it charges, but now the store is giving out false ones. She has a best friend, a reluctant assistant, the ability to see through even the most powerful of illusions, and a handful of magic users willing to help her. She's determined to save the oracle however she can, and now just has to figure out how.

The series takes place in Portland, so calling Judy's sweater a "jumper" throws me out of the story a bit. Helena never gave any indication that she had lived in England or Canada, where such a thing would be more common. Malcolm's family is explicitly stated as from Canada, so I think a lot of the language might have transferred over to Helena as the narrator. That occurs early on, and the rest of the book doesn't have anything like that which really jumped out at me, so it might have been an editing mistake.

The errors that Abernathy's makes are interesting and varied, and does make me wonder how the oracle works the way that it does. This novel expands Helena's (and our) view of the magical world by introducing other magical libraries and other forms of magic. We see the prejudices of the two magical factions in action, as well as how the magic can affect others because Viv is involved. There are plot threads that initially felt odd and tacked on, yet gradually picked up more and more significance as the novel went on. Again, Helena isn't always given information and yelled at for not knowing it, which vastly gets annoying. The mystery of the false auguries is solved, perhaps a little too neatly, which makes me feel like there are going to be a lot more books in this series. I really hope there are because they're fun to read and it's a great world to get lost in.

Buy Book of Peril at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever.


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