It’s hard enough for Alastair Stone to keep his two lives—powerful mage and mundane Occult Studies professor—separate without an old friend asking him to take on a new apprentice. Especially after a university colleague wants him to investigate a massive old house for things that go bump in the night. Still, Stone figures it’s an easy job: just turn up, put on a little show, and announce that the house is clean.
Only it isn’t. A malevolent spirit is reawakening in the basement, imprisoned between dimensions and intent on escape. If it succeeds, countless people will die. Worse, a trio of dark mages want to help it break free so they can control it for their own sinister purposes. They’ll do whatever it takes—including seducing Stone’s young apprentice and using him against his master—to get what they’re after.
With time running out, Stone has to stay alive long enough to uncover the spirit’s secrets. But even if he does, he fears that his own power won’t be enough to send it back.
Bookish Things: 330 pages. The cover is striking and suits the story well. This is the first book in a series. There are currently two books in the series.
Professor Alistair Stone is a powerful mage, teaching occult studies to mundane (non magical folk) students. When he takes on Ethan, a young mage, as a favour to one of his mage colleagues and friends, Dr Stone embarks on a journey of self discovery as much as Ethan.
The character of Alistair Stone was reasonable; I liked his personality and methodical approach to teaching. He was suitably eccentric enough to keep things interesting, but stable enough to appear reliable.
Ethan is a completely different matter. Ethan is meant to be 18, but the way he conducts himself, especially in relation to women is more fitting for a 15 or 16 year old boy. Bordering on TSTL (Too Stupid To Live), his character was so flimsy he almost doubled as a tool the real characters used to advance the plot. All his internal debating with himself over what to tell Dr Stone and what not to was quite boring and rather immature and annoying.
The start of the story spent a lot time introducing the world and magic rules. It was done by way of educating Ethan, but it allowed for the reader to get a solid understanding. It felt a little longer and a little slower than I’d have liked, but I could see it served a purpose.
The ending of the story was a completely different matter all together. The story was like rolling a giant boulder up a slight incline, only to have it reach the apex of the hill and then have it leave you behind as it roared down the decline on the otherside. The ending scenes were fast, almost too fast, and considering the light style of writing, quite dark and sinister.
The ending left me feeling like it was more of an anti-climax than a climax. The unanswered plot threads left to dangle in the smoke and haze, intending to lure you onto reading the next book. While the main story plot was completed, these smaller threads were left unanswered, almost like a tiny little hook. Daring the reader to take a bite out of book #2.
The story was interesting and engaging, the writing style mostly light and extremely easy to read. R.L. has a solid grasp on good English and uses those skills to keep the reader interested in the story. If you’d like to try an urban fantasy story with some sinister dark elements, give this book a try. I will be reading book #2 at some point in the future for sure.
**Note: I was provided an electronic copy of the book in return for an honest review**
Check out Stone and a Hard Place and give it a read.
Guest review contributed by Coffee2Words. As an editor at heart, this blogger reads every story with care, even to mention proofreading type comments in her book reviews. Indie books are most commonly on the menu.