by Kelly Meding
Series: Strays #1
Published on July 19, 2018 by Harper Voyager
Genres: Adult, Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy
Shiloh Harrison was hoping for a few days off to recover from a particularly nasty assignment, preferably with the help of the talented hands (and, well, the rest of his body too) of her sexy boyfriend, Vincent. But when a group of vampires takes an entire trailer park hostage, there’s nothing to do but make her apologies and get to the scene.
Such is the life of a Federal Marshal in the Paranormal Investigators Unit.
Yet this isn’t like her typical track-and-nab case: something is going on that has vampires scared, and it takes all her strength not to imagine what could frighten such powerful creatures. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have that option. Her boss is MIA, someone is snatching vampires, and there’s a ticking clock that can only end one way: a bloodbath.
Unless she can stop it.
The first book in a new series, Stray Magic is a dark and sexy mystery, with enough twists and curves to keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end.
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I’ve had little luck with finding urban fantasies that stand out, and Stray Magic did that, though not necessarily all for the best reasons.
Shiloh is a half-human, half-djinn federal marshal with all sorts of trouble in her future when everything goes south and she’s drawn into more than a hostage case. And I enjoyed Shiloh’s character. She’s what I expected of a heroine in an urban fantasy — spunky, stubborn, brash. It seems to be a trademark, not that I’m complaining. I never quite connected with her; she came off as a tad distant for the reader-character relationship but not terrible to read about.
And the story was a mystery. Again, expected, but not bad. This one is filled with necromancy and all sorts of paranormal creatures and a seriously messed-up villain wreaking havoc on the world. You’re immediately thrown in and rather than get too much detail from the start. . . you don’t really get anything. I actually was lost for the first several chapters until the author established the world and plot. It wasn’t a good shock, but I moved past it to the most memorable part of the book.
Stray Magic stuck with me because there’s a dead talking head in the story. Yes, you read that right. In fact it — they — play a pretty important role. the black magic is all sorts of creepy and thriller-esque and I was all there for that. But the lead-up to each twist and turn wasn’t fully executed.
The story felt rushed and lacked a build up to let the reader learn about the characters as well as the villain and why they’re a villain. The best kind of antagonist is one you can understand and I didn’t understand this one. Their sole purpose came off as “I can be bad so I’m going to be bad.” And the creep factor seemed to be the main driving hook to keep the reader interested, rather than letting the characters do that on their own.
Likely because if the characters were left to their own devices I would have thrown this book across the room. I love romances, whether they’re the main plot or a subplot. Shiloh had a love interest. Well, more like 2 or 3 if I’m being honest. She was in this weird circle of guys: the almost-boyfriend hook-up, the vampire she wants to hate but can’t quite, and her ex who she also works with so you can bet how well that works out. I think I would have been fine with one of those, the vampire because their relationship is actually built up throughout the story rather than just thrown in.
I’m at odds with Stray Magic. I think it’s a solid start to a new urban fantasy series and has something to offer fans of the genre that makes it unique. At the same time, there are elements that might be a turn-off so approach with caution but I can see myself reading the sequel.