Review: Practical Boots by C.E. Murphy

Review: Practical Boots by C.E. MurphyPractical Boots (The Torn #1) by C.E. Murphy
Format: ebook
Source: purchased from Amazon
Formats available: ebook
Genres: portal fantasy, urban fantasy
Series: Torn #1
Pages: 101
Published by Miz Kit Productions on June 4, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo
Goodreads

These boots are made for walking...

The disappointing daughter of a Lord of the Torn, Cat Sharp was dumped in the shapeless Waste to prove herself or die. Seven years later, she's honed the Artificer magic that saved her in the Waste, and her courier business is booming: after all, no one else can step from one location to another almost instantaneously, as Cat can with her seven league boots.

Each passage through the Waste takes her one step closer to the only thing she's ever wanted to find...but even the Torn-born become careless at times. When Cat's father catches up with her again, Cat must make a choice between her own dreams and an innocent's future...or try once more to forge her own way through two worlds, neither of which she quite belongs in....

My Review:

The practical boots that Cat Sharp fashioned for herself out of the stuff of the Waste have existed in folklore and fiction for centuries, but in real life, not so much. They’re the “seven-league boots” that have cropped up – or strode across – stories ranging from Jack the Giant Killer to The Innocents Abroad to Howl’s Moving Castle to even trip The Light Fantastic of the Discworld.

But Cat made her own when her aelfen father (they don’t call themselves “elves” thankyouverymuch) tossed her out of the Torn – the fae lands where she was born – into the Waste. The Waste is what lies between the truly magical lands of the Torn and the World – the world that we humans live in.

Cat is neither and both. Her mother was human, her father was Torn, and Cat’s half-and-half nature allows her to be a bit of both but fully a part of neither. When her sperm donor – or whatever it is the aelfen actually have – tossed her aside into the Waste – she made her boots and walked her way into our world.

Where she became a high-priced, highly sought after, highly exclusive courier. Being able to go from New York to LA in one step and the blink of an eye is a lucrative talent in a world where time is all too often literally money.

When the story begins, the courier job that Cat has taken turns out to be a trap that leads directly to her manipulative father. She’s barely finished – even on a temporary basis – dealing with that asshole, when she’s jerked into another trap. Which pushes her right into – you guessed it – a third trap.

Getting out of THAT leads her right back to where this journey began – chasing her sperm donor into yet one more…trap.

But as Cat jumps out of the frying pan and into the fire, we learn what makes her tick, how her walks between the worlds work and even a little bit of just what it is that makes Cat so special that so many people are trying to use her for their own ends.

Or to create the means that they can use for those ends.

All Cat wants to do is stay out of everyone’s clutches – especially her father’s. So she can keep on hunting – for her mom.

Escape Rating B: When I saw Practical Boots on this month’s Must Haves over at The Book Pushers I grabbed it immediately. Because I have fond memories of reading the author’s urban fantasy series, the Walker Papers (start with Urban Shaman) a long time and several cities ago. I still have them.

But when I read Practical Boots I kept having the feeling that I’d read it before – and not in the Walker Papers, as the setups are completely different. Practical Boots just came out, so I can’t have read this before but I have read things that have bits of this plenty of times. The father/daughter relationship is very like the one in House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas – and every bit as manipulative and abusive. The mechanism, the travel between the World, the Torn, and the Waste has echoes of the travel between the worlds in Charlie Stross’ Merchant Princes series.

Practical Boots also feels like it has echoes of other urban fantasy series, like Lindsay Buroker’s Death Before Dragons (start with Sinister Magic), and Ilona Andrews’ Innkeeper Chronicles – particularly Sweep of the Blade as well as Andrews’ Edge series that begins with On the Edge.

And it could just be that this is a portal fantasy, where people move between our world and semi-attached magical realms, and that’s been done many times because it has so much potential for terrific stories.

Practical Boots certainly lives up to that potential, even in the relatively small bite we get of it here. It works – and admittedly for some readers it won’t – because we experience the whole story through Cat Sharp’s very sharp and snarky perspective. We know what she’s thinking, we know what she’s feeling. We also know that she’s an unreliable narrator who lies to herself most of all.

She is stuck in a situation that she’s trying to make herself believe is temporary – but probably isn’t. She’s trying to make sure that her talent serves herself first, her friends and loved ones best, and her enemies as little as possible. But she might not succeed.

Through her eyes and her mind we get enough of a flavor of all of her worlds to understand who she is and what she wants – even if her explanations of how her magic works seem either arbitrary, deceptive, self-serving or all of the above.

Cat is on a quest to find her mother. A quest I suspect is going to take a long time and is not going to end happily. But I do expect her to have plenty of fascinating adventures along the way!

2 thoughts on “Review: Practical Boots by C.E. Murphy

  1. The Walker Papers was a very up and down series for me. My reactions to the books ranged from “that was so good, I can’t wait for the next book!” to “jeez, just get on with it already.” Ultimately, tho, I really liked the series as a whole and would still recommend it. Sadly, I don’t think I’ve enjoyed anything else of Murphy’s I’ve read since. I think our divorce might be final.

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