Bittersweet Magic: an entertaining urban fantasy

bittersweetmagicBittersweet Magic by Nina Croft
Entangled, November 11th, 2013 (Paranormal Romance / Urban Fantasy)*

This book definitely falls into the category of guilty pleasure. I’m not sure that it is truly an amazing book, but I had such fun reading it.

Roz, our main character, is some kind of immortal, but she doesn’t know what. In fact, she doesn’t know much about her past at all. She has been indebted to a demon, Asmodai (great demon name, by the way), for 500 years. Five hundred years ago, she agreed to perform 13 unspecified tasks whenever he asks her, in return for her life, and the deaths of the villagers who burned her mother at the stake as a witch and who were all set to burn her, too.

The story opens with Asmodai calling in his 13th and final favor – that Roz find a specific key hidden in a monastery. So Roz goes under cover as a very unlikely nun, in order to find it. Only she gets there too late, witnessing the murders of most of the nuns, and the stealing of the key by a shadowy figure followed by demon dogs. This leads her on a chase for the key, and to Piers’ door. Piers, though Roz doesn’t know it, is a vampire. And Head of the Order of the Shadow Accords (established to keep demons, humans, and elves in line), whom Roz has been taught by Asmodai to fear.

Roz is naive, even though she’s been around for 500 years. She’s also brave, clever, determined, and isolationist. She avoids getting close to others because Asmodai has warned her not to trust anyone, and because she regularly has to change lives (she never grows older). I enjoyed her discovery of her past. Asmodai is enigmatic, kind of mysterious, but what I really liked about his character is that even though he’s a demon, he is motivated in part by concerns familiar to humans. That is to say, he is not pure evil. He is a manipulative, cunning liar, and not much concerned for the welfare of others, but he’s more of an unscrupulous good guy than an unalloyed bad guy. This makes him more complex, and his contributions to the story at times amusing. Piers is ever so amusing, and I really enjoyed his pursuit of Roz, and Roz’s resistance to him.

As the second book in a series, I had surprisingly little trouble entering into the world. The worldbuilding was solid enough that it was easy to pick up some of the back story, and to understand what was going on.

While there’s nothing really remarkable about the world, the characters, or the plot, I found this to be a highly entertaining and enjoyable novel. I couldn’t put it down, finishing it in two days. I’ll definitely be back for more. Recommended for anyone who wants to enjoy a light, fun, paranormal romance/urban fantasy.

Read-alikes

If you’re into modern-day paranormal romances/urban fantasies with supernatural heroines and vampires heroes (and villains) you’ll probably enjoy the Dorina Basarab series by one of my favorite urban fantasy novelists, Karen Chance. Dorina is a dhampir, or half-vampire, half-human. Her biological imperative is to kill vampires. Except she can’t help but be attracted to a particularly “good” one…

Midnight's Daughter (Dorina Basarab, #1)

If you like the love-hate relationship (at the beginning, anyway) between Roz and Piers, and again, vampires as shadowy, dangerous, and enigmatic love interests, you might also like the Anita Blake, vampire hunter/zombie raiser series by Laurell K. Hamilton:

Guilty Pleasures (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #1)

For a touch of heaven and hell in your paranormal romantic urban fantasy, try Archon, by Sabrina Benulis:

Archon (The Books of Raziel #1)

For a modern urban fantasy (one of my all-time favorites) starring shapeshifters and werewolves in addition to faeries and vampires, definitely check out the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs. Mercy is a Volkswagon mechanic who is also the only coyote shapeshifter she knows. Luckily (or unluckily, as it becomes), she is not the only supernatural in her hometown in Washington state. Her neighbor is the local alpha werewolf, a representative of the local vampire group has his bus fixed at her shop, and her landlord is a member of the local fae community.

Moon Called (Mercy Thompson #1)

Lastly, Darkfever, by Karen Marie Moning, is a dark paranormal romance/urban fantasy that takes place in Ireland, with a human heroine who gets involved with all sorts of fae, demons, and mythical creatures in the fight for humankind after hell breaks loose on earth.

Darkfever

*e-ARC provided by NetGalley

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