Still cursed in ‘The Curse Breakers’

19154146The Curse Breakers by Denise Grover Swank

Amazon Publishing,  April 29, 2014 (Contemporary/Romantic Fantasy)*

My rating: The plane was delayed, the luggage lost, and the museums closed (1/5)

This second installment in the Curse Keepers series disappointed me. For much of the novel, I found myself uninterested and/or skimming. My main impression was one of slow plot lines, minimal action (except during those times when Ellie gets attacked – again – by vengeful spirits), and a rather painful love triangle.

This story continues the upturned life of Ellie Lancaster, who at the end of the first book watched her father die, was betrayed by her partner and lover, Collin Daley, and witnessed the Pandora’s box of Native American spirits opening up into the human world. She’s still struggling with her feelings (attraction, betrayal) for Collin, and still trying to avoid the dangerous spirits and stay alive. Still working partial shifts at the other restaurant while her former restaurant remains closed.

New developments include a couple of badger spirits and a very large snake spirit that won’t leave her alone, the god Ahone playing fast and loose with his protection symbol, which would help Ellie avoid/survive the badger spirits, and a young British professor who studies Lost Colony and Native American history, because, well, it’s interesting. And his mother was American.

For much of the novel, Ellie seems to be repeating the same actions over and over again. She investigates some angle, gets into trouble, asks Collin for help, gets tangled up with him, regrets it, and gets into trouble again. The lack of originality really dulled my interest. When McFit Professor shows up, she works with him in a sort of partnership to complete the investigative portions of the plot.

McFit Professor, better known as Dr. David Preston, is an expert on Native American mythology whom she asks for help. After brusquely turning her down (because he’s so hot that he’s been deluged with young female students desperate to get into his classes – and his pants – and he’s had about enough of this!), they meet again when he comes to her town with a bunch of like-minded scholars to investigate the newly (and mysteriously) reappeared Lost Colony of Roanoke. Throughout their whole partnership, she ignores her attraction to him, and he patiently waits her out… but she’s unbelievably blind to his body language and actions, and with her experience, it felt implausible and ridiculous. The romance is of the insta- flavor, with her deciding by the end of the book that David is The One for her, even though Collin just won’t. go. away. And there’s some heroic self-sacrifice on Collin’s part, and of course a line or three about how Collin and Ellie’s time “isn’t here yet.” In sum, the whole romantic triangle subplot felt contrived and unrealistic, and didn’t fit into the story.

The vengeful spirits bothered me, too. Why is Ahone all tricky and sly with his “help”? Throughout the whole book, the author tells readers again and again that Ahone and Okeus are really not very different, and that the shades are all gray (excuse the pun). No God and Devil, here. But I felt as though this was never really as thoroughly explored as it could have been. As much as I like romantic fantasy, I would have loved to have a deeper, more solid exploration of the mythology that underpins the whole series. Without that, the book sort of flounders around in a quagmire of unconvincing romance and betrayal between the three main characters.

While I might still recommend the first book because I did find it entertaining, I can’t recommend the full series – so far, there just hasn’t been enough development in the mythology and fantasy areas, which really interest me, and the personal relationships between the characters fell flat.

*Advance copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley

Better Reads

Dark Currents (Agent of Hel #1)

Dark Currents, by Jacqueline Carey has a much more complex and convincing mythology. Daisy Johanssen, a young woman living in a seaside town, is an earthly agent of Hel, an ancient Norse goddess that lives in the underworld. Her job is to make sure that supernatural events and beings remain under the humans’ radar. Of course, she’s not entirely human herself, and her responsibilities sometimes get her into trouble.

Darkfever (Fever #1)

I’m sure you’ve heard of the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning, but if you haven’t read it, you may enjoy the Pandora’s box element, as the Dark Fae are poised to invade the human world in this first novel. Pretty-in-pink Mac is a young Southern woman searching for her sister’s murderer in Dublin, when she encounters all manner of scary Dark and Light Fae, and other creatures. This series is dark, so be forewarned – but there are happy elements to it, great character development, and if you won’t read it without knowing there’s a HEA, well, there is.

I don’t have any similar reads that share the Native American element. Do you? Have you read any urban fantasy that relies on Native American mythology, spirituality, and/or magic? Share in the comments!

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