Serafina and the Twisted Staff is the second book in the Serafina trilogy. Serafina is the guardian of Biltmore Estate, but something is not right within Biltmore, and she must find out what. This book is set a couple weeks after the first book.
I loved this book as much as Serafina and the Black Cloak. You can read my review of the first book here: https://feeroberts64.blogspot.com/2018/10/review-serafina-and-black-cloak.html
Favorite characters: Searafina, Braeden, Gidean, and Waysa.
I had a brief conversation a couple of weeks ago with J.C. Jackson and she described the book as "Science Fantasy" and told us a little about the series. Something about fantasy characters but with modern technology, but phrased better. Not really getting what she said, I asked why not just call it Urban Fantasy, and she gave a decent answer -- basically that she didn't have enough vampires or werewolves in the books so readers told her she couldn't. I was a chapter or two in to the book when I figured out what she was saying.
In your mainstream Urban Fantasy, you have fantasy creatures -- wizards, druids, werewolves, fae -- popping up in our world. On the other end of the spectrum (or an other end, anyway) you have things like the Eddie LaCrosse novels or the Dragon Precinct books that have modern ideas (police squads, private investigators) used in a fantasy series. Jackson takes a different tack -- it's a typical fantasy novel in that there's a lot of magic, elves, halflings, Dark Elves, living next to humans -- very standard kind of thing, but their technology matches ours (actually, it's slightly more advanced). I loved this approach and there's a good chance that I'd have had nice things to say about the book just because of this idea.
I do have more reasons to say nice things, though.
Ketayl is an Elven mage who works as a a CSI-like lab tech for the Terran Intelligence Organization (a FBI-like organization). Her strength is in finding ways to use devices to do forensic investigation of magical elements of particular crimes. She's not the most socially adept of people, clearly more secure in her lab and with clearly drawn rules governing her interaction with others.
Then there's an explosion in the Elven Territories, seemingly magical in origin -- definitely devastating. The TIO director sends Ketayl, along with the rural tracker, Retanei; and Artemis, Retanei's wolf companion to investigate. Along with the local TIO team -- which does their best to bring these agents into their community -- they dive into finding those responsible. It's a kind of magic that doesn't play by the rules that Ketayl is used to, and powerful enough to make her nervous.
While they look for what could have caused this destruction, we learn more about the world, the magic system and Ketayl. I still have a few questions about all of those and I think some of them should've been addressed in the first book -- but I never felt lost in this world as I waited for the details to be given. This is a pretty decent thriller when you strip away the fantastic elements, or a pretty decent fantasy tale if you take out the criminal investigation elements. Keep them combined and the whole thing is stronger.
Eventually, the TIO hires a consultant from the Paladins -- their kind of music is very different from Ketayl's. The Paladins are also very prejudiced toward other magic users, and other species. Thankfully, the Paladin sent to help the team (Silver) is pretty open-minded and doesn't get driven right into a religious conflict (which doesn't preclude other kinds of conflict). Silver joining the team -- primarily partnering with Ketayl -- brings her out of her shell a bit.
Ketayl frequently reminded me of Tilly Bradshaw, the analyst from M. W. Craven's The Puppet Show (one of those books that I somehow haven't had time to blog about, but you should read, if only for the Ketayl-like character). She's a complex character that I look forward to learning more about. The rest of the characters -- with Silver pretty much being the exception -- aren't as developed as you might like, but you get enough of to satisfy just about every itch you might have.
There were a few too many typos for me, and the misspellings/unfortunate slips like homonym confusion. It wasn't horrible, but it was bad enough to stick with me.
The novel does a good job of introducing us to the characters and world while telling a compelling story. Jackson's particular spin on merging fantasy and a 10-minutes-into-the-future world is refreshingly original. I liked the characters, the world and everything -- I've already gone out and purchased the sequel and am trying to find time on the schedule to get it read.
the fourth and final 'Marshal's book' on audio. That I was more than happy to listen to the series again from start to finish on audio is definitely an understatement. Neither Mary Calmes nor Tristan James has disappointed me on this series. While I love all things Mary Calmes...'The Marshals' are bar none my favorite and this book was simply the icing on the cake. I would happily take more Ian and Miro any day and in any way that I could get it...whether it's a full length novel, a novella...a short story or if all else fails revisiting the series again and again on audio...these guys just do it for me.
Psst...in case you didn't read my original review which contained a few more thoughts on this story here's a link...Original Review: Twisted and Tied