Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Review: Hired Luck, by Mel Todd

I've reviewed the main story arc of the Kaylid Chronicles.  And I reviewed book one of this series, My Luck.

My Luck was about Cori Catastrophe as she received her triple Associates degree.

Hired Luck.

New city, new job, new threat?

With my best friend going to college to learn how to use her magic, I'm job hunting in Atlanta. We're sharing an apartment and I've never been happier. The last thing I needed was to be involved in a murder investigation. Now the police are sure I had something to do with it. News alert: I don't. I've got a job, Jo's going school. I finally am on the track to have my own life.

Working as an EMT is great, but something weird happened at work. Something I can't explain. What if I'm wrong and I am a mage? The last thing I want is to be a mage, it would mean I'd lose everything I've been working for. Even if I am a mage, I'd be a low ranking one, a hedgemage, something that means I can keep my current life.

But I can't get the dead girl out of my mind. Who was she and why did she die? What good are my skills if all I do is keep finding dead people? With a serial killer out there, the police and FBI stepping in, I might lose more than the life I had planned. I might lose my life. Once again my luck holds true and I'm in the middle of something I don't know how to deal with.

This one opens with a nice omage to the opening of book one, and this time, it's the inciting incident of the plot ... however, Mel takes her time before springing that on you. From there, we get a less-than-stellar view of Atlanta. If this is what it's like to live there, cross Georgia of my list of states to move to. And, this being SFF in Atlanta, we have DragonWorldCon ... I wonder how many puppy kickers will object.

Mel has finally gotten around to the serial killer plot she hinted about back at least one series ago. And of course, Cori is going to be sucked into it.

The damn thing of it is that I can't tell you most of the plot because at the one third mark, we can throw out this entire above description of the plot right out the window, and the plot takes a breakneck one-eighty. 

Many of the revelations will be nothing surprising to the careful reader of book one.

However, once we explain all of those conclusions to Cori, that's where things go off the rails for her, and the real plot begins.

This one will be a 4/5. I had hoped this would be my Dragon Award nomination for fantasy for next year. But something about this held it back for me. I can't put my finger on why. Perhaps Mel tried to do too much with this novel? Perhaps she should have pushed this plot to book three after doing a book on the job Cori has been trained for? Again, I'm not entirely certain. Book 1 was carried entirely on character and world building. This has more of an emphasis on plot-- but like every murder mystery, it helps build the world on the order of How Things Work.

Not to mention that we spent a good chunk of the middle novel introducing us to new characters ... after spending the first third of the novel introducing us to new characters. We don't get many calls for Cori as an EMT, which made me a little sad. And I think that might be what held this one back--the tonal whiplash at the 30% mark. As I read through my notes, there are tonal shifts all over the place.

There are, as usual, a bunch of nice little touches. The magical crime family Rasputin, for example. Or the Merlin Arthur Conan-Doyle. Or that the FBI never changes... nor does public school. Or academic politics.

And unlike a certain magical universe, Cori contributes to the plot BECAUSE she has no assumptions, and all of her basic knowledge is fresh in her mind. There's a nice bit about biases, against her and for her, and how certain changes in her life change her--in ways she doesn't like. Then we take basic knowledge of the world, and throw it right out the window, heh heh heh.

Also, frigging magical tree cats. Also, unicorns can be scary.

A major plot issue to be addressed (not a problem to be fixed) is the conclusion. It's very much like Black Sunday meets an Indiana Jones movie, but not quite as satisfying. Yes, that is particularly vague. But I suspect you'll figure it out when you finish it. But it left me feeling vaguely dissatisfied. It was also heavy into sequel baiting, where the resolution to this was the creation of a whole new set of problems.

My biggest quibble? The casual, arbitrary and capricious dismissal of all religion... well, all Christians. And Jews. Apparently, no priest who has magic abilities wanted to be a healer? No Rabbinic scholars went into the field of doing a deep dive into magic? Somehow, all of the meditations, focusing exercises and mental disciplines of Christianity are instantly useless in this world of magic. Why? Because magic... That's it... Seriously? It's not even magic, it's matter to energy conversion, like the transporter or replicator on Star Trek

But Druid and Wicca are on the rise! Yeah. Sure. How many other human-sacrifice cults would you like to bring back? Because human-sacrifice is literally a massive plot point of this novel. So that strikes me as six kinds of Really Bad Idea. 

And it's infuriating because it's two throwaway lines in chapter openings that usually contribute to world building. And it was mentioned twice, without having a single ramification in this storyline.

But "Oh yeah, that guy in Rome is just a figurehead of an empty church." Right. It knocked me right out of the narrative and just plain irked me.

As I said, 4/5. 3/5 if I'm feeling pissy.

Anyway, buy a copy here.


  1. Hmmmm the problem is these instances of dissing religion/supporting New Age or other garbage, like the gripes I had with the later books in the "No Choice" series, are making me think Mel Todd is in the category of people I should not give money to because they hate me/what I stand for. (Hat tip to Brian Niemeier and his book.)

    I don't want to support more propaganda even if it's not hardcore.

    1. Nah. I don't think she's one of those who hate us. I've interacted with her personally. I even talked to her about this, and let's say she's taking some of my thoughts to heart.

      Frankly, I've gotten less hate from Mel than from Brian.


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