After reading (and not particularly enjoying) the first three books in Juliet Blackwell’s ongoing Witchcraft Mystery series, I had decided to give them up. By the third one, I was mostly hate-reading anyway, curious to see how crummy these stories would get. But…well, I’d already put the fourth volume, In a Witch’s Wardrobe, on hold at the library, and when it was automatically delivered to my Kindle, I read it anyway.
And then something surprising happened–it was actually pretty good. Some of the more annoying tendencies (referring to one of the characters as “Aidan Rhodes, male witch” every single time he was mentioned, for example) had been toned down, and the story was leaner and better paced. Did Blackwell hit her stride after three books? Was a new editor brought in? Whatever the reason, it was a noticeable improvement.
In a Witch’s Wardrobe finally brings Lily Ivory (I still hate the name) to the Art Deco Ball that’s been hinted at for the entire series. Since she’s a vintage clothing dealer in addition to being a powerful witch, Lily has access to some gorgeous dresses, and I admit that the dress-up scenes are starting to grow on me. Aidan Rhodes, the magical godfather of San Francisco, is her escort to the ball. He’s been pushing for a romantic connection with Lily, but she’s wary of his motives–not to mention increasingly interested in a certain grumpy psychic named Sailor (someone please tell Blackwell that she’s rubbish at naming characters). When a woman collapses at the ball and her spirit seemingly becomes trapped in a mirror, Lily is on the case.
Tarnished and Torn begins at a jewelry convention, where a German woman is murdered using a method once employed by witch hunters. Several long-simmering plot points, including the identity of Lily’s father, finally rise to the surface in this book. Not sure that the resolution of said plot points is wholly satisfying, but it’s a decent read nonetheless. I’m still not convinced that Blackwell has ever met a person from the South, given the cartoonish way that Lily sometimes speaks, and the aww shucks homilies are out in full force here.
A Vision in Velvet deepens the mythology of the series and firmly place Lily at odds with her erstwhile mentor. When her beloved gargoyle familiar disappears, Lily will do anything to get him back. His disappearance seems to be tangled up with a velvet cloak, a long-dead witch who was executed in Salem, and a cursed old man who’s just looking for someone to love.
There are only two more books in the series to date, and I will probably go ahead and read them. I’ve invested enough time and brain electricity to see this through.