Book Review: Realms of Ghosts & Magic by J S Malcom

This is a well-written, entertaining book about magic in our present day world, with a well thought out, logical magic system and a recognition that being a witch doesn’t pay the bills. The pacing was great, with some variation, the descriptions had depth and supplemented the story and the characters were well thought through.

It is written in the first person present tense, which can be an acquired taste, particularly with the use of the present tense. That means that you get quotes like:

A few moments pass as Dean considers his options. Which are basically zero, so I’m not bothered. The fact that my skin has gone from tingling to crawling tells me he’s got a serious problem on his hands. A problem that I seriously doubt a psychic could deal with. Add to that, I can’t imagine one being dumb enough to try. Any true psychic would steer clear. So Dean has me or no-one…

I love the details included, the way that everyday, mundane life is used as a touchstone and counterpoint to the magical world and I love the reality of the language. It is an interesting, detailed, well imagined world with great plotting and lots of hints that don’t give the game away until the end. I can say that it is a good book to settle down with.

I have two issues. The first is that it ends on a cliffhanger, but not an irrational cliffhanger, so that is down to personal preference. It isn’t my preference, but it isn’t a bad end to the book. It is a logical, sensible, rational and consistent end to the book that leads well into the next of the series. If you don’t mind this sort of cliffhanger, then you will be fine.

The second issue is my completely irrational prejudice against first person present tense. It has it’s value as a method of story telling as it makes all the action very immediate and, if well written (and this is), it can make it very relatable. I think it is utterly awesome for short stories. My completely irrational dislike is that I feel that it can affect the flow of information so that you get more ‘tell’ than ‘show’ and that it can affect pacing. JS Malcom has done a wonderful job conveying the information necessary for the plot and the pacing works great. In fact, the way that the background is gently introduced during the story is wonderfully handled. I still have this completely ridiculous aversion to first person present tense.

If you are okay with a cliffhanger ending and a story in the first person present tense then I would be happy to recommend this book and to perhaps check out the sequel.

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