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The Bitter Seed Of Magic by Suzanne McLeod

01/06/2011. Contributed by Pauline Morgan

Buy The Bitter Seed Of Magic: book 3 in the USA - or Buy The Bitter Seed Of Magic: book 3 in the UK

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The Bitter Seed Of Magic: book 3 by Suzanne McLeod. pub: Gollancz. 403 page small enlarged paperback. Price: GBP 12.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-575-08432-2).

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The term ‘urban fantasy’ is a relatively new label for a sub-section of dark fantasy yet it has been around for almost as long as bards have been telling tales. It is inevitable that fairy and folk tales will be reworked to fulfil a purpose. With the recognition that girls can be educated without driving them mad, the need for the secret warnings about the nature of men was less imperative. As the population moved from the countryside into the cities, folktales and the creatures in them moved too and evolved. As the brownies and pixies began to roam the streets in updated tales, so the nastier things forsook the villages for urban centres. Dracula came down from his Transylvanian castle and took up residence in London. For the last century and a half, more and more themes from myth and folktale have colonised our malls and nightclubs; they lurk in alleyways, parks and schoolyards.

There are two kinds of urban fantasy. Those tales where the majority of people go about their business not knowing what is stalking the unwary. Secrecy is an important factor in the stories. Charles de Lint is the master of this kind of writing. Then there are the tales where supernatural beings walk amongst us as ethnic minorities as in Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse novels. These latter books tend to either be written for young adults and have a good dose of teenage angst or are very adult with a sprinkling of explicit sex. Both varieties are currently very popular and the vast majority are set in the USA. It is therefore refreshing to find, for once, the mayhem set in London.

‘The Bitter Seed Of Magic’ is Suzanne McLeod’s third novel featuring Genny Taylor. She is the only full-blooded sidhe living in London even though her father was a vampire. Although Genny cannot cast spells, she can absorb or crack them. Her job with is to remove spells from places they shouldn’t be and round up mischievous sprites, like the pixies that rampage through Trafalgar Square.

This London is not one that we are familiar with since very few humans play a part in the action. The police force seems to be staffed by trolls and witches. It is they that call in Genny when a dead faeling (half human/half fae) is found in the Thames. She is asked to remove the spells that the body is wrapped in, a glamour and a stasis spell that stop the body fading. This seems easy enough but she is then arrested for stealing the stun spell which she used on a dryad who would not take no for an answer. Even before this moment, Genny had problems. All the other supernatural beings want to break the curse which prevents the birth of new, full-blooded fae. They think that if she had a child the curse will be broken, thus she is pursued by suitors trying their luck. As Genny gets drawn into the power play between vampires, witches and goddesses, she begins to uncover more about her own background than she really wished to know.

In many respects this is a light-hearted romp amongst the supernatural beings of London but not entirely as the vampires here can be very dangerous creatures. Although this is a clever, action-packed novel, the series has reached a point that to fully appreciate the nuances it is better to start with volume one, ‘The Sweet Scent Of Blood.’

Pauline Morgan

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