Showing posts with label Misha McKenzie. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Misha McKenzie. Show all posts

Monday, August 17, 2015

RavenStorm Witches by Misha McKenzie

Rating: WARTY!

This is a very short novella/novelette/short-story/collection of short stories (I don't know the word count, but it's only about 100 pages), which I read as an advance review copy. Technically the writing was not bad. I discuss some issues below, but there were no major grammatical or spelling gaffs, which I appreciated; however, overall it was very dissatisfying and I cannot recommend it. It was subtitled "A Coven of Bitches " and they really were, which was not at all endearing to me. Note that it's going to be difficult to describe the problems I had with this without giving away spoilers, so beware!

Since my blog is about writing, I'd be remiss if I failed to raise some writing issues. There were some oddball aspects of the writing here, like when we read of two of the witches at home, making "homemade pasta". What else would they be making at home?! There was a similar redundancy issue where the words "woman's vagina" were used.

At one point I read: " Rounding the front of the 1970 Mustang Shelby GT500, she slid behind the wheel. Turning the key, it roared to life. Backing out, she steered in the direction of Grayson's place." This was really awkward phrasing, having three sentences, one after another, with the very same sentence format. It sounded like a children's playground chant an brought me right out of the story.

Here's an interesting writer's issue. One of the characters says "...was never good enough for the crowned prince." The phrase is "crown prince" meaning the heir to the throne. A crowned prince would actually be the king! However, this was not in the narration, but in the character's speech, so she might well have said something like that - people misspeak or speak in ignorance all the time. The important thing here is that the author knows the difference when writing these things!

The story started out great - I loved that Maeve came stamping into the story pissed off and almost spitting nails, but the problem as that she quickly became lost amongst a gaggle of witches, not one of whom had any real identifying characteristics to differentiate her from any of the others. They had nothing about them to truly individualize them, and so they pretty much all blended into vague facets of the same person. It became impossible to separate Delilah, Hildie, Maeve, Malise, Sheeva, Tatiana, Vanya, and Viana

That wasn't even the worst problem. The biggest issue for me was that while there were half-a-dozen stories, all of them were pretty much exactly the same, with only a detail or two changed here and there. Once you've read the first one, there's really nothing new to follow!

The template is this: it begins with one of the witches being pissed-off because she has been badly done to, or more rarely, that someone or something she cares about has been badly done to. Nearly all of the cases were of personal betrayal in one way or another. For example, Maeve is upset that Kimmi has treated their friend Grayson shabbily, and wants revenge on his behalf even though Grayson has requested no such thing. In another case, a guy is breeding dogs for fighting. In another case, one of the older witches is pissed off with their stepmother. In another case, one of the witches loses her job because another employee cruelly set her up as being a corporate spy.

In each of these cases, the witches' response is exactly the same. They chant a very simplistic rhyme, and the deed is done, the deed being a problem visited upon the offender which is supposed to give them empathy and thereby teach them the error of their ways. Also in each case Sheva, one of the older witches, takes matters into her own hands and carries out another spell simultaneously. Her spell is paradoxically always juvenile. For example, Kimmi, the betrayer of Grayson is given diarrhea. In another case a woman is given a bad case of gas. I can see this in a middle grade boys story, but here it just came off as mean, vindictive, petty, and sad.

Inevitably, the bad person sees the error of their ways and reforms in just a few days, and the spell breaks. Nothing ever goes wrong and no one who has a spell put on them ever fails to reform! The spells are always one hundred percent successful, and even though it's known throughout the town that these girls are witches who can bring about real magic, no one ever thinks twice before crossing them, and worse, despite slinging these spells bringing discomfort and real harm to people, if only temporarily, none of the witches ever falls afoul of the authorities. In one case, a cop actually helps the witch. None of this made any sense or provided any kind of balance to the story.

It made as little sense that the witches never considered the authorities as a resolution. Admittedly it would do no good in the case of a girl dumping Grayson, but in two of the cases at least - the corporate spying, and the dog-fighting - the authorities should have been the way to go, yet the witches took the law into their own hands and paid no price for it. The casting of spells doesn't even cost them anything and none of their spells ever goes wrong. It's like Hermione Granger grew up, and started her own coven. It was far too unrealistic - even given the supernatural element - for my taste. All of the witches were really Mary Sues.

The least thing which bothered me about this is that the witches are completely passive and retro-active. They seem blind to problems as they are emerging and ongoing, and only react when things reach crisis proportions - or at least when it seems like a crisis to them. This doesn't imbue me with much respect for them or inspire any feeling that these girls are very smart or perceptive.

One of them, for example, kept going back to the same guy time after time even though he was a complete jerk, but joy of joys, after a spell in someone else's shoes, he magically changes and becomes the perfect guy? The woman who dumped on Grayson completely, and almost instantly reforms and leaves town? The stepmom who wrecked their home life when they were kids reforms and changes her ways and all is fixed?

I don't even get that last one. These girls have been witches all their lives. Why did they let this woman ruin their lives when they were younger, and then wait until she's an old woman before they picked on her? None of it made any sense, and the more I read, the more I felt like these witches were really the bad guys here. They're really nothing but evil megalomaniacs deep down. There's nothing to curb them, and they never learn the error of their own ways. I didn't like them at all and began rooting for their victims.

This is why I can't recommend this. I think the overall idea was a great start, but the execution of it was unworthy of the idea itself. This makes me sad because it could have been a really great story.