Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Series: Twenty-Sided Sorceress #1
Published by Createspace on July 23rd 2014
Purchasing Info: Author's Website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository
Gamer. Nerd. Sorceress. Jade Crow lives a quiet life running her comic book and game store in Wylde, Idaho. After twenty-five years fleeing from a powerful sorcerer who wants to eat her heart and take her powers, quiet suits her just fine. Surrounded by friends who are even less human than she is, Jade figures she's finally safe. As long as she doesn't use her magic. When dark powers threaten her friends' lives, a sexy shape-shifter enforcer shows up. He's the shifter world's judge, jury, and executioner rolled into one, and he thinks Jade is to blame. To clear her name, save her friends, and stop the villain, she'll have to use her wits... and her sorceress powers. Except Jade knows that as soon as she does, a far deadlier nemesis awaits. Justice Calling is the first book in The Twenty-Sided Sorceress urban fantasy series.
This first book in the Twenty-Sided Sorceress series reads like classic urban fantasy. And since urban fantasy is one of my go-to genres when I’m in a reading slump, that made Justice Calling a perfect read this week.
By classic urban fantasy, I mean really, really classic. The sorceress of the title learned to focus her magic by using Dungeons & Dragons manuals. It doesn’t get much more basic than that.
It isn’t that DnD works per se, just that those manuals provide a lot of order and focus for someone just learning to use powers that aren’t supposed to work in this world, but somehow do. Jade Crow started out as a nerd, and at first the manuals must have seemed like just good fun, until the magic started working.
Now there isn’t a whole lot of fun involved, but there certainly is a challenge.
The story is also classic in another sense – Jade is on the run from a crazy-stalker ex-boyfriend. But unlike the usual versions of that trope, where the stalker wants to either possess or kill his victim, Jade’s ex Samir is a sorcerer who definitely does want to kill her, but then he plans to eat her heart and steal all her power. And I don’t mean figuratively, I mean literally.
Jade has spent the past several years hiding in plain sight. She owns a comic book/game shop in Wylde, Idaho. Wylde is a remote little town on the junction of a whole bunch of ley lines. About half the town’s population is made up of shifters, and lots of other interesting and magical species have made a home there. Jade’s next door neighbor is a leprechaun, and her best friends are all shapechangers of one kind or another.
There are original-recipe humans in town, especially among the student population of the local community college. And when one of Jane’s friends turns up as a taxidermy exhibit, Jane finds herself hunting the college for a wannabe sorcerer who seems to have found a nasty route to power.
But Jane stands at a crossroads, not just literally in Wylde but figuratively in her own life. At the crossroads between running away again, or finally deciding to stand and fight. Into her dilemma rides Justice, in the person of a sexy enforcer who has come to Wylde to either save her friends, save Jade, or all of the above.
Or watch her run away from her friends and her responsibilities, and watch her let her friends die to save herself. Again.
Escape Rating A-: Justice Calling is the introduction to the Twenty-Sided Sorceress series. The case that Jane has to solve is not all that hard to figure out. I almost said it was relatively minor, but that’s not strictly true. It’s easy, but what it represents is important. So not minor.
As an introduction, a lot of this story is taken up with setting the stage and getting all the characters on it. Not just Jane herself, but also her friends who start out a bit like a Scooby-gang, and Justice. Justice in this case is a person named Alek. Justice is his job. He represents the shifter council and is judge, jury and executioner whenever a shifter is harmed.
Alek and Jade find each other almost irresistible, which sets up what will be the long-running romance arc of the series. But his part in Justice Calling is to bear witness to Jade’s decision, and to help her save her shifter friends if she decides “correctly”.
As a big bad, Jade’s ex Samir sounds really, really bad. And evil. And dangerous. Jade hides because that’s what she’s always done. She’s afraid for herself, but she’s more afraid for her friends. Samir has used her family-of-choice against her before, and he’ll have no qualms about doing so again if he finds her.
By the end of the story, the reader is invested in the characters and feels the emotional heft of Jade’s decision to stay and fight. The battle looks to be a long and bloody one.
This is a relatively short book, as are the other stories in the series. Which may explain why the author recently re-released the whole thing in two omnibus volumes, Level Grind and Boss Fight. I seem to have both bought Justice Calling and picked up the omnibuses (omnibi?) from Edelweiss, so I’ll be working my way through the series. And glad to do so.