Reviewed by Morgan Hua
Mass Market Paperback (ISBN 978-0451240149)
Signet, April 1, 2014 — 336 pages
also available as an e-book (ASIN B00F9F0VK0)
Circle of Blood is the third book in a series. The book is self-contained, but fans of the first two books will enjoy this book as a continuation of Samantha Ryan’s journey of self-discovery as a witch. Samantha visits famous landmarks in present-day New Orleans as she chases a powerful enemy. This book is a fast-paced thriller with each chapter ending in a cliffhanger that compels the reader to keep reading.
We follow Samantha, now Desdemona Caster, a heartless witch who controls people like puppets, burns bodies to ash, and heals herself by taking in the life force around her. As the story progresses, she re-integrates with her old self, the Samantha Ryan from the previous books, and becomes powerful enough to defeat her enemy—with the help of some old and new friends.
What I liked was that the magic was consistent in that Samantha learns from what magic she encounters, and learns to use it herself. She doesn’t use magic the reader hasn’t seen before to solve a crisis—the author did not paint the protagonist into a corner, then solve it with deus ex machina magic. And because Desdemona Caster has overblown confidence, she winds up in some very bad situations.
The flaws of this novel have more to do with its format as a thriller. The landmarks of New Orleans are painted with broad brushstrokes and lack details that would have made the story drip with more atmosphere. The side characters are as thin as cardboard. Various magical traditions such as Wiccan, Hoodoo, Druidic, and Christian faith healing are glossed over, and the powers behind them are all made similar. Samantha kills people with not much thought and not much regret. The recovery of her memories and integration of her split personality is accomplished with more broad strokes that serve the story instead of any realism that would have given deeper insight into the protagonist’s psyche.
Overall, a quick, fun read, but nothing deep. For fans of the series, I’d bump my rating up a notch, as this book completes her story arc and gives closure to questions raised in the previous novels.
MORGAN HUA graduated from both Clarion West and Odyssey Writers Workshops. He has written non-fiction articles and reviews for genre magazines and spends his leisure time designing and GMing tabletop RPGs for fun. When not creating the future at startup tech companies in Silicon Valley, he writes about book dragons, dystopian societies, and uncomfortable things that go bump in the night.