The Curse Keepers by Denise Grover Swank
47north, November 14th, 2013 (Urban Fantasy)
My rating: I’d go there again
The Curse Keepers is about Ellie, a townie in a coastal town near the site of the Lost Colony of Roanoke. She’s been told all her life that she’s a Keeper, an inherited position meant to keep the world safe from the vengeful spirits of the lost colony. There will come a time when two Keepers will have to perform a specific ritual, in order to prevent the Curse and keep the door to the Otherworld closed, thereby preventing the spirits from entering the human world. It’s very Pandora-esque, except the culprit was a man. Ellie doesn’t believe in the Curse, believing that nothing exciting in her life will ever happen – and not wanting excitement, either. Except one day, Collin walks into the restaurant where she waitresses, and she discovers that a current of electricity sparks between them. As the pieces of the prophecy fall into place, Ellie tries to ignore (and then adjust to) the fact that the Curse is real, to take the steps necessary to complete the ritual and prevent the Curse from taking place, and to deal with her fellow Keeper, who is tricky, secretive, and possibly untrustworthy.
This book is not without flaws. The first sentence was cliche’; the setting was a little too shades-of-Sookie-Stackhouse. Both Sookie and Ellie are waitresses, their waitress friends are named Arlene and Marlene, and they feel a strange connection to a handsome stranger who walks into their restaurant/bar. Initially, the banter falls a little flat. I was disappointed – Ellie’s character and circumstances suggested snappy dialogue and sarcastic wit. However, over the course of the novel the dialogue improves, and the circumstantial details recede to white noise.
The worldbuilding is slightly sketchy – in particular, the author creates a weird juxtaposition of science and spiritualism. The Curse was put in place by gods, and the world was created by a god in a short period of time – I forget if it’s seven days or not. I could have used a better explanation of what theology supported the events. I did enjoy the mythical underpinnings.
For all its awkwardnesses, I couldn’t put this one down.
The plot moves along very quickly, with lots of twists, danger, and suspenseful moments. Ellie’s partner, Collin, is a bit of a cipher – is he a bad guy, or a good guy? Is he trying to maintain the status quo, or is he in league with the (evil) god trying to bring back the spirits of the Lost Colony? I’m a fan of mysterious heroes, and Collin is a fun example. I loved trying to guess by his actions whether Collin meant well, or had a different agenda.
I really enjoyed the attraction between Ellie and Collin, and also their resistance to that attraction. The romantic arc (quite steamy, incidentally) was one of my favorite parts. As they rolled on toward the Keeper ritual, I was able to predict the general resolution of the plot, since it’s hinted at in a dramatically ironic way. But I love dramatic irony. And, some aspects of the ending surprised me. It ended on a cliffhanger, so I’ll be reading the next in the series. Hopefully the world is returned to rights, Ellie finds even more strength and courage, and she and Collin find what they end up losing as a consequence of the Keeper ritual.
If you enjoyed the mystery of the Lost Colony, and the magic involved, you may like this story about the mystery of a real witch persecuted during the Salem Witch trials, and about her descendant’s search for her grimoire in a modern Salem (NB: the tone and writing are very different):
If you gravitate toward contemporary urban fantasies with a seaside town and a heroine with unique abilities, you may also enjoy this novel about a half-succubus, half-human investigator:
Were you drawn to Ellie, and her struggle to recognize and deal with the unexpected reality of the Curse? Try this novel about a carousel mechanic (also in a seaside town) who has renounced her unique powers, but must take them back up to prevent disaster:
For a young adult urban fantasy with a similar feel, check out City of Bones, about a young woman with a strange, fantastical destiny:
Do you know of other similar books? Share in the comments!