I knew Helen Harper could write original, compelling, dark, angst-ridden Urban Fantasy, her Bo Blackman series proved that.
I didn't know that she could also write light, witty, laugh-out-loud, ever-so-slightly-RomCom Urban Fantasy.
I know it now.
"Slouch Witch" is a delightful piece of comedy that twists and tickles Urban Fantasy, odd-couple buddy movies and RomCom tropes until they collapse in a fit of giggles, while still managing to build a credible magical universe and deliver a satisfying whodunnit plot.
This is clever stuff that Helen Harper makes look completely effortless.
Ivy Wilde drives a taxi in Oxford, but it would be a mistake to think of her as a taxi driver. She's a witch. True, she's not in the Order like other witches, at least not anymore and her favourite occupation is watching "Enchantment" from the comfort of her sofa while eating food that has been delivered to her door, but she's still a witch who knows a thing or two.
A misunderstanding compels her to work with a senior witch in the investigative arm of the Order. He is everything Ivy is not. Although he is many things Ivy finds attractive.
As the two of them track down wrong-doers within the order, sparks fly, spells are cast, karaoke is performed and a great time is had by all (well, not the bad guys of course, but everybody else).
This is escapist fun at its best. I listened to the audiobook version, narrated by Tanya Eby. She's a talented narrator and does a great job but I'm puzzled as to why Ivy seems to have an American accent when the story is set in Oxford, is laced with English vernacular and where the other characters are given some form of English accent. I forgave this after a while because Tanya Eby's comic timing is perfect. I'm happy to listen to her perform the next two books in the series.
I first read this anthology of Christmas stories back in 2011 when it was released as an e-book. While I'm not a big fan of anthologies this one is a collection of Christmas stories by some of my favorite M/M authors so resistance was futile and when I came across the audio book on audible.com again resistance was futile and this was the perfect accompaniment to wrapping Christmas presents and I loved the audio book every bit as much as I enjoyed reading the e-book.
It's been 7 years since I first read these stories and I really enjoyed the stories contained within it. While I enjoyed some stories more than others for me listening to the audiobook was overall a 5 star experience and I really enjoyed this visit with the ghost of Christmas Reads past...so much so that I'm thinking this might be the beginnings of a tradition... listening to Christmas stories on audiobook as I wrap Christmas presents...It's a fun way to spend a winter's afternoon.
After her brush with Necromancy in Scotland Ivy has been suffering some side effects - she’s not sure of the full implications, but it seems she can see ghosts
Ghosts are noisy and annoying and don’t respect a woman’s wish to bond with her duvet on her sofa all day
Some of these ghosts are not exactly thrilled to have the less-than-motivated Ivy as the one woman who can see them, but you work with what you can since she may be the key to freeing them from their purgatory - and with a serial killer on the loose targetting witches, their ghostly insight can certainly help the Order investigation.
This book ended and apparently this amazing series is a trilogy which means thi is the last book. No-one consulted me on this. I did not agree to this. I do not approve. This is my disapproving face.
But as it has ended, one thing I really liked is that Ivy is still very recognisable as the character who started this series. She’s still the Slouch Witch. She’s still lazy. She still avoids effort.
I’m not saying I’m against character growth or that Ivy hasn’t grown or changed. She has changed and she has grown, she has got involved. She will whine but she will get out there and help when she has to. She would just rather not do it first thing in the morning. Her talent and skill are clear as well as well as her moral compass and even willingness to sacrifice. But so many books would have taken Ivy, had her had a revelation, maybe a training montage and then have her spending late nights reading books or getting up at dawn to go to the gym. Her heroics haven’t turned her into a new person. Even her new powers haven’t driven her to embrace her new purpose in life. She’s still Ivy, laziest witch and I like that because everything that made her so unique is still there and it wasn’t treated as something to remove from the character. Again, I’m not against that kind of character growth, but I like that we kept the very essence of what makes Ivy Ivy
And I do love Ivy. I love that Ivy is such a perfect, ordinary person even if she does have extraordinary powers. Yes she’s fighting evil, yes she’s involved in a dangerous investigation but that core of such normality, that foundation of duvet loving, laziness makes her so relatable and real. And I just love how her talking cat fits into that - I can’t even begin to spoil it even if it isn’t especially plot relevant, it’s just too awesome.
I also like how Raphael has grown over the series - I think he still needs a little more than being the hyper-competent guy who loves Ivy. but in some ways him being this picture-perfect awesome guy he emphasises Ivy’s realness - while not overshadowing her because she can go toe-to-toe with her. I think it’s even intentional because a number of the more side characters have elements which I appreciate: from the simple dedication of the Ipissimus to even designated-rival-bad-guy actually being useful and helpful even while Ivy seethes over it. I like that, I like that even the caricature of awful is still not all bad - and that Ivy isn’t the bigger person to let this go
I’m also loving a depiction of ghosts as annoying pushing nuisances - as well as the whole extremely original concept of how ghosts are created.