by Margaret Ronald
Review by Harriet Klausner
Eos Mass Market Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780061662416
Date: 01 February 2009 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
The magical undercurrent that runs through Boston is very strong; so powerful that a group of magicians came from Ireland during the Famine to form the Fiana. They are feared by other practitioners because they control the magic and direct other users in how much they can apply and insuring they never cross into their jurisdiction. Those that are there can't leave. Too much time in the undercurrent of magic makes a person an addict, which is why most sane mages try not to get too deep into the swirl.
Evie Scanlon is one of those who try to avoid the undercurrent as much as possible, but events will soon cause her to drown in its flow. Her ordeal begins with a midnight call from her ex-lover Frank McDermott who insists he needs her. He is getting out from under the thumb of the Fiana. Evie is known as a Hound whose sense of smell and scent is so powerful that she can find lost items like jewelry or missing people. She searches for Frank when her police detective friend Rena asks her to look at a corpse with the body of a young stud and the face of an old man. The victim was assassinated with a bullet through his head and his body is covered with ink drawings that look like Celtic patterns. Three bodies like that of Frank's have been found over the decades, but in spite of police investigations, the cases remain unsolved. The undercurrent magicians believe the Fiana killed the mages.
The Fiona apparently has targeted Evie and are murdering those whom she is close to. When Katie, the sister of her friend Nate is kidnapped, Evie deliberately walks into a trap to liberate the girl. Using her wits, Evie avoids the traps set to prevent her from escaping with the child. Her ordeal has just begun as the Fiana want her and will continue to go after her loved ones.
The key to this superb first novel is Margaret Ronald's vivid description of a magical Boston in which normal people (non-practitioners) are unaware of the undercurrent, the laws of magical physics and the Fiana's brutal enforcement of the their rules. Ms. Ronald shows her talent by interweaving the magical background into the exciting story line; no time outs or explanatory asides.
Evie is a likable, ethical and courageous heroine caught between two worlds. As her tale progresses, she begins to realize just who she descends from and that some of her powers remain dormant but are starting to surface. She learns not to trust a magician because any one can be undercover secretly working for the Fiana and trying to get close to her to learn her need which in turn leaves her vulnerable for her enemies to use what they learn about her to get Evie to join them. Evie knows what she is facing when she goes to rescue Katie and fans will admire her bravery.
There are a few secondary characters who are developed enough so that the audience knows they are either at risk or conceal a secret agenda. These include Sarah the hedge-witch, Nate the mundane who is attracted to Evie, and Brendan the powerful magician who saves Evie's life several times, and Rena the policewoman who believes in Evie. Although the Fiana seems somewhat interchangeable, fans will appreciate their enforcement of the laws of magic that in many instances benefits them as the ruling sect.
There is plenty of action in Spiral Hunt, but the plot is character driven as Ms. Ronald provides a fascinating Bostonian urban fantasy. If this is any indication of what readers will receive in the Evie Scanlon saga, the sub-genre audience is in for quite an entertaining treat as fans of Lilith Saintcrow and Jenna Black will relish reading Ms. Ronald's vision of Boston. This is a powerful and engaging work by a brilliant new talent in the urban fantasy genre.