Pros: Inventive fight scenes; strong female characters
Cons: A bit formulaic
Rating: 4 out of 5
Linsey Hall’s Undercover Magic (Dragon’s Gift: The Valkyrie Book 1) starts off the fourth sub-series of her Dragon’s Gift universe. (See my review of Ancient Magic for the start of the whole series.) We come back to the characters of Ana and Bree–this tale is narrated by Bree–who cropped up a few times in earlier sub-series. They’re sisters who live near Death Valley, and sell their services to take people across the supernatural (and deadly) part of Death Valley to reach a haven for outlaws. They’ve been paying a Blood Sorcerer named Ricketts for concealment charms to hide them from the people who were chasing them as children. But now Ricketts has jacked up his prices, and they can’t keep up with payments. He sends his bone-crackers to make an example out of them, leaving Ana and Bree poisoned and in the custody of the Undercover Protectorate, who came to save them. Note that it’s been five years since the events of the earlier books.
I have a couple of small negatives. For one, the tenor of the early battle between the sisters and Ricketts’s men doesn’t mesh with the idea that he wanted them poisoned and forced to come to him for an antidote. He sent an overwhelming force after them, hurling exceedingly deadly and massive magics, and would have had them captured or dead if the (entirely unexpected) cavalry hadn’t shown up. I’m also a bit disappointed–although not surprised–that the love interest aspect of these books is so predictable that the moment Bree notes that Cade is hot, you know he’s not an enemy, even though the circumstances are otherwise drawn to make you uncertain of that. It would be nice to have a little variety in the love interests, who are across-the-board smokin’ hot, powerful (physically and magically), male (yeah, I’m sayin’ it, a same-sex romance would at least inject some variety), and flush with cash. That said, I can go with the trend of them all being respectful of their women.
I love the fact that the main characters in these books aren’t the only women allowed to be strong and powerful in a positive way. There are dangerous, powerful women who in nearly any other series would be labeled as aggressive, nasty, or bitches, but instead our characters approve of them. That’s such a refreshing change.
I love a moment when a (mortal) god of war, Cade, uses Google Maps instead of magic to figure out where he is. I still wonder, though, why guns never make an appearance. Given the amount of ranged magical abilities involved, I can’t help thinking Hall could still do fantastic fight scenes if guns were involved, and it just doesn’t make sense that they wouldn’t even be kept for back-up when the magic runs low. Sixteen books and not one person uses a gun? I’m not buying it.
The Pugs of Destruction–a trio of ghostly dogs–shows up in this installment, and I really hope they play more of a role in later books, because they’re delightful!
Much like Cass, Nix, and Del, Bree is growing into some unusual and very powerful abilities. I’m looking forward to seeing where the books take this. My favorite part of these books is still the fight scenes. Hall excels at delivering high-octane, long-lasting fight scenes using a variety of magics, weapons, and creatures.
So killing a demon was pretty much guilt-free all around. Like low-fat yogurt. Except more murdery. And tastier, because that yogurt sucked. All the smiling women on the commercials could not fool me.