My rating: I’ll go there again! (4/5)
Not your typical romantic urban fantasy, Deadly Curiosities focuses on the supernatural powers, the fighting of demons, and the magic of paranormal fantasy. The story is set in modern-day Charleston (and having had a chance to visit the city while I finished the book, it seems the author portrays the city pretty accurately. And the houses she mentions? With the porches and gardens and side doors? Absolutely gorgeous. But I digress).
Cassidy Kincaide owns and runs her family’s antiques shop, but her assistant manager is a Weaver who can weave magic in threads and in data (he’s a magical hacker!), and her business partner is a centuries-old vampire who has worked alongside her family for generations. Cassidy herself has the ability to read objects’ histories and moods when she touches them. Together, Teag (the Weaver), Sorren (the vampire), and Cassidy defend the city and its inhabitants against ghosts and objects that have negative and harmful resonances, buying these objects from people, sometimes neutralizing their energies, and hiding them away.
Recently, a spate of gruesome murders have been plaguing the old Navy yard, and spooky objects have become even more powerful and dangerous than usual. Cassidy and her team get involved, investigating the murders and trying to find a connection. It turns out that the trouble facing Charleston is even bigger than they’d anticipated, and the events leading up to this crisis have been in motion for centuries.
With that, the investigation delves into Charleston’s history, as Cassidy learns more about the objects, their powers, their origins, and the people who owned them. The story is not just about present-day ghost-ridden Charleston, but is also about historical ghost-ridden Charleston, as well, which should please readers who have a taste for historical fiction. In addition to murder mystery, suspenseful, and paranormal elements, there’s a good deal of horror. A true ghost story, there are plenty of moments that gave me the shivers as I read. Shadowy hunters, monsters, and creepy stalkers all play roles in this haunting of Charleston.
This novel provides paranormal/urban fantasy readers a fresh change from typical heavy-on-the-romance stories. Though Cassidy works with an attractive vampire and an attractive assistant manager, there is no romantic triangle, no romantic involvement – Teag has a serious partner, and Sorren and Cassidy have a caring but definitely working relationship. One of the things I particularly liked about this vampire-human relationship is that Sorren retains his ancient perspective. Of course he cares for Cassidy, but he has cared for her ancestors and relatives, too, and the age difference is definitely apparent. Sorren lives every day with the knowledge of his human partners’ mortality, which I find more believable than ancient vampires falling in love with young and short-lived humans.
Lots of different kinds of magic mix in this novel, with cultural roots for some of them. The Gullah community of the Lowcountry region contribute their own magic and spirits in this fight against evil. The diversity of magics and peoples, which reflects the non-magical, non-paranormal, “real” city, adds depth to both the world-building and the sense of place.
A fast-paced, suspenseful and sometimes creepy story, this book brings paranormal closer to horror and further from fantasy, and was a welcome change from the tropes that pervade the sub-genre. The characters are fully realized, well-drawn, and a joy to follow as they hurtle around the city, disturbing ghosts and demonic creatures. The world-building, the setting, the characters, the relationships have depths to them that make this a complex and very interesting urban fantasy novel.
*eReview copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley
If you like your urban fantasy with a hefty dose of horror, you’ll probably like the dark and creepy Nightlife by Matthew Quinn Martin.