SPELLBENT by Lucy Snyder
Lucy Snyder’s first urban fantasy novel, Spellbent, is a hoot because it takes a heroine from the wrong side of the tracks and turns her into a force to be reckoned with. Jessie Shimmer (she doesn’t even find out her real name and some of her true father’s background until this novel, so how blue collar is that?) is a rednecked heroine for the masses (And yes, I know she’s in Columbus, but that’s not where she’s from). As I read the book, I couldn’t help hearing Gretchen Wilson’s songs playing in the background.
Not to say that Jessie isn’t a real person and not just a walking, talking caricature, but Gretchen Wilson came along and rewrote a lot of today’s country & western music for the female singers when she hit the stage. I think Jessie Shimmer might just do the same thing for the urban fantasy – pull it right out of the big metro areas and slam it into a screaming faceplant in small western towns.
The first part of the book is a mix of raucous language and situations that somehow meanders for too long, then takes off like the proverbial jet. Once I got through some of the setup involving the history of Jessie and her main squeeze, Cooper, who also happens to be her teacher, the action rolled steadily. And I had to settle in for the long haul to find a comfortable resting place even though I’d stayed up way past what I had planned.
Jessie goes through a lot of upheaval in this novel. Even though she’s a heroine and the book has some serious magical powers floating around, I couldn’t help but be flummoxed by how much damage she takes without some kind of emotional breakdown. SPOILER: I mean, she gets an arm eaten off, loses and eye, and ends up looking like a Halloween freak show. Personally, I don’t know any women that could go through something like that and walk through it without flinching.
Further on that score, this book isn’t for readers with weak stomachs. There’s a lot of description of violence done to flesh, pus, oozing wounds, etc. But what really caught my attention was the way Jessie had to go looking through trash for used women’s products to magically throw a false scene trail. I enjoyed the inventiveness, understood what Synder was doing and even logically embraced it, but the actions were a definite step over some lines other writers have keep intact. The whole “babies” origin story was way more than I personally wanted to know.
Jessie’s friends are great. I loved the witch Karen who takes in so many children she doesn’t know what to do. I also enjoyed the relationship Jessie has with her ferret familiar, Pal. Those two are obviously gonna get into some whacked out adventures.
I have to admit to some confusion about her boyfriend, Cooper. I just don’t like the guy. He’s a layabout, a guy who takes advantage of others. Jessie can do better, or she’s going to need to grow him up a little to get him on track.
So far this is supposed to be a trilogy, but I can easily see Jessie having more adventures.