The Twenty-Sided Sorceress Review
This is, as I said, a fast and fun series about a sorceress who is also a gamer. She plays Dungeons and Dragons, video games, and likes pop culture, especially nerdy pop culture. This means there are a lot of quips and quotes from a multitude of fantasy and scifi works. Fans, like myself, will enjoy the references and the apparent in jokes that she regularly works into the stories.
These books are available on Amazon for reasonable prices (around $3-4), but they are shorter than mainstream published books, so they read really fast. This isn’t a bad thing, but don’t expect an American Gods length book for any of the individual books. Put together all seven books are about 1,400 pages, so in the end you really do get your money’s worth.
I Loved the First Three Books
The first three books in the series were everything I could ask for from a novel. These books are fast-paced, have an interesting main character, and the fun plot lines had me guessing and wanting more at the end of each of them.
The main character, Jade Crow, is very interesting and has a lot of unusual powers. She is friends with the typical (for an urban fantasy book) were-animals, witches, and other supernatural types. And they love doing the types of things I like to do like re-watching The Princess Bride or playing a quick game of Catan.
But the Later Books are Stretching the Series
I gave the fourth book four stars and the fifth book only got two. The series started boring me in book four. Instead of building up to an epic boss battle, the author wants to just jump right in, and I need more information to stay hooked.
Several of the critical scenes in these books left me thinking “what just happened?” Not because I didn’t understand the plot points, I did. But often the action happened so quickly that it ended before I realized something important had just happened.
For example, in book five, Jade and her friends head out to get supplies. As they are driving they see smoke, Jade realizes it’s her shop on fire, goes in, kills the beast causing the fire, and leaves. Now, the chapter describing that scene had a bit more detail than that, but it was sparse. How did she force her way past the fire fighters? How did she know what to do to fight the fire beast? How did she know it was her shop just from seeing the smoke?
Too Much Action?
The book also jumps from action scene to action scene with little or no rest for the characters or the reader. This, arguably, could make a more exciting book, but for me it again brings on the feeling of “what just happened?” Just a little more exposition would have helped a lot.
This type of sparse writing wouldn’t bother me except that it kept happening more and more. The author clearly has a very powerful sense of what the story is about and what happens. And that keeps me engaged. But she forgets that I, the reader, can’t see into her head. I can’t see how scary the fire beast is, I can’t see the magic that tells Jade it’s her house or it’s a fire beast or whatever. I guessed based on the sparse book text.
If you want to be surprised by book five, avoid the final sections of this review.
In a nutshell: The author uses some writing hacks to enhance her sales that are transparent and annoying and resulted in a two-star rating for book five.
Flat Villains are Just Boring
I know that authors need to sell books to make a living. I have no problem with that. I am an author myself, after all. But using hacks and tricks to try and emotionally blackmail readers into reading the next book is really annoying.
In book five, the “big bad” or boss bad guy finally shows up: Samir. He’s been a ghost in the first four books, sending in lackeys to annoy and hurt Jade, but not doing any damage himself. I’m prepared to hate him.
Instead, he has almost no depth at all. He’s just an evil villain, twirling his mustache while he monologs over the heroine tied to the railroad tracks. I really expected her to write him saying “Mwuhahahahahha!” or some other type of evil laugh. (He does laugh evilly at one point, but Bellet doesn’t actually write it out.)
Samir shows up and kills Jade’s friends. First he kills a red-shirt, Steve, a guy I didn’t recognize at all. If he’d been in previous books, he made zero impression on me. But his death was a huge deal to Jade and all her friends. Then Samir kidnaps another friend, and it turns out he’s kidnapped Max as well. Max dies. This fuels more anger, but it happened so quickly (see above comments) that part of me is thinking as I wrote this “wait, did Max really die?” but they buried him, so yes, it happened.
But Cliff-Hangers Across Books are the Worst
In the final scene, the boss battle if you will, Jade plans to get all her friends away by tricking them. But that backfires (of course) and first one friend flies away in owl form and is probably killed, then her boyfriend Alek is killed by these magical rock grenades sent by Samir, and finally everyone dies.
But luckily for all of us, Jade has learned to travel in time. She does and turns back to just after the owl flies off. Since she’s used her magic to turn back time, she uses her fists to knock the rock grenades away and her boyfriend lives.
But Jade’s best friend, Harper, has left the portal zone and so when it opens up it swallows all of them except her. Harper watches as Jade and the rest “run away.” And yes, the point of view changes to Harper’s point of view for the first and only time in all the books. That was annoying too. Harper is captured by Samir, who proceeds to beat her up. Then he monologs for a bit. Harper stands up to him and says “go to hell” and Samir responds “you first” and that’s all Harper knows.
Fade to black. Book is over except for the “don’t forget to write a review and buy my next book in the series” end pages.
There’s a little more to it, but essentially that’s how the story ends. So not only does our main character not take on the evil, big bad Samir, she leaves her BFF behind to be (ostensibly) killed. Now, I’m betting that Harper is just knocked out, but I’m so annoyed by the deliberate and calculated cliff-hangerness of the whole thing I won’t be reading book six for a while. Because yes, I bought the entire series.