2014’s The Red Ring is the second volume in Jen Frankel’s Blood & Magic series. My review of book one, The Last Rite, is here.
In the previous volume, in order defeat a vicious warlock, almost-sixteen year old Maggie Stuart gave up her magic and now must live as a muggle. None of her former friends remember that she saved them from the warlock (or even that they had been her friends). Her loathsome mentor is pressuring her for sex. If she had any friends, she might cry on their shoulders … but the last three years has sent her decidedly into social reject territory.
Magic is about to come back into her life in a big way.
Aaron Scribner, Scott Saunders, and Jason Lawson have no memory of what happened three years ago. That’s too bad. If they could remember, they’d know better than to start playing with the spells in a grimoire that appeared seemingly out of nowhere. Still, they understand enough to inscribe a protective circle before beginning their invocations.
Well, most of a protective circle. A for Effort, F for actual results.
The late warlock Char was in the habit of imprisoning his enemies, many of whom were much nastier beings than the naive thirteen-year-old Maggie who defeated him. Now thanks to Aaron, Scott and Jason, a handful of those ancient beings have slipped out of their prison. Still bound by Char’s magic, the escapees are desperate to find some way to remain free.
Possessing the vulnerable and hiding within them seems a likely tactic. The trail of dead bodies across Toronto suggests that this method has profound limitations. No worries! At least one of the escapees has a bold gambit in mind. Who in Toronto can possibly stop them?
One sixteen year old, and her incredibly creepy mentor Hunt.
It’s perhaps not fair to assess novels by their production errors, but I have to say that the ebook I read was riddled with errors. Letters were missing here and there without any pattern that I could divine. Getting past the issues with the book as an artifact to enjoy the story was trying, to say the least.
But, to the story.
Creepy mentor Hunt? Perhaps not much of a mentor. Hunt isn’t as interested in teaching Maggie as he is in turning her into a useful tool. And maybe I don’t want “creepy.” “Abusive” may be closer to the mark. Well, he’s creepy and abusive! In this world, one of the limitations of magic is that magic always demands its price. Hunter believes that there’s no reason for him to pay it.
I am astounded that three teenaged boys who believed magic was real would make the mistake of trying to cast spells from a book whose origin was unclear, not to mention settling on a summoning for their first effort. Summonings so often turn out badly. It’s almost as though puberty strips away common sense.
Readers might find Maggie a bit gloomy and more than a little abrasive but that’s plausible enough for a socially isolated teenager. Not to mention one whose reward for defeating the Big Bad was to lose her friends and magic. Or one who has so little faith in the powers-that-be that her reaction to being sexually harassed at work is to simply transfer to another branch of the company.