This is effectively one review for two books because really, it should be one book, not two. Let it be known I find these entertaining easy reads, but there are some structural and character problems that are really starting to annoy me. 3.5 stars combined.
The continuation of gradually revealing more about the world really develops in Revelations, along with what is pretty obviously the main conflict of the series: villainous wizard want to discover ‘wizarding’ gene and use this information to find and wake up Morgan LeFay (yes, that Morgan) and ensure that wizards will rule humanity. What bothers me a little is that I detect a structural pattern that could turn into monotony if it keeps up: Lily and Sebastian get into trouble and cliffhanger with Sebastian (part 1), Sebastian by himself getting into said cliffhanger (interlude), Lily and Sebastian get out of trouble but not without someone getting seriously injured (part 2). Book 1 Lily barely escapes the magical vortex thing alive, Book 2 Lily nearly dies escaping captivity, and Book 3 Madam Barrington has been lain low by a curse (but not yet dead). The problem with this kind of conclusion to each book is that now it’s expected, and you know no one important is likely to die, just be injured badly, but not so badly they probably won’t be mostly if not totally recovered by the start of the next book. The villain remains on the loose and undefeated mostly by the end of Allies, and it’s likely time for Lily to take him on without her advisor there to help, and the next generation will triumph (or something like that).
My other worry is the obvious hint of romantic feelings that neither character wants to admit. That kind of thing is a terribly cliche way of ruining a good adventure or mystery duo narrative. Romance between partners almost always ruins the team and story. I hate it, and Lily and Sebastian are really being set up to go there. Not mention, my earlier fears about structural monotony are being confirmed; I don’t like when mysteries get too predictable.
On the good side, we do get to meet Lily’s estranged family and the family she never knew. We meet her father and his side of the family in Revelations (they’re rich and stuffy) and then early in Allies we meet her mother and step-family (loud, messy-in the family sense- country folk). Technically we meet her mother at the very end of Revelations, but we see her with her family and get some more explanations in book 3.
This series does have some good qualities. Each book is a quick, easy read, and Lily, Sebastian, and Sir Kipling (Lily’s cat who takes on a sizeable part in Revelations that continues in Allies) are a fun combo. The structure stuff that bothers me disrupts the ensemble part, which is a big draw. I like Sebastian as a character, but it’s like trying too hard to integrate multiple storylines and not doing it terribly smoothly. The world is also entertaining if a little blah; I wish there more of the magical world. When Sebastian starts giving more detail (and Madam Barrington reveals some info as well) about how he does his magic with the help from the fey, it’s some of the more interesting parts. Lily and the Source aren’t because she doesn’t know much about how it works, and therefore I don’t either, and we both want to.
I think what’s bothering me the most is that this series keeps showing up in my social media feed as “If you like Gail Carriger and Terry Pratchett…” (and I do) and that sets certain expectations. Either this series is trying too hard and not succeeding at that, or someone needs to tone down the marketing since that’s not quite what these books are. They’re not that clever, neither in terms of character nor in terms of language. Narrative pet peeves aside, these novelettes are too cozy and familiar to be Carriger or Pratchett. I don’t see why they can’t just admit that.