Not content with making Pokemon: Roman edition Jim Butcher has gone off to try his hand at steam punk leaving us without Harry Dresden for another year. Looks like we’re gonna have to get indie for our magical detective fix, this is….…………
The story is simple enough to follow and one you’ve probably all heard a million times told a million different ways. Magical teenage p.i Lillim Callina is just going about her every day life, feeding her pet hedgehog and watering her ghost when she is drugged by candy from her demonic ex and tasked with getting a box from the local werewolf clan. A not so easy task made all the worse once she finds out that that’s where the head Shaman was keeping his baby son and due to this kind of being her boo boo she must now work with said Shaman to get him back; once she almost instantly misplaces said box, travelling from castles made of flesh to post apocalypse Rome. All the while she must carry the burden of her past life, avoid the dragon knights tethering said beasts to our realm, figure out who has cast the Armageddon spell and oh yes try and avoid her mother.
If this all sounds a bit much, well that’s because it is.
Most fantasy is accused of gazing into its own navel to often, this book doesn’t even realise it has a navel and if it ever did I’m fairly certain a demon would burst out of it carrying a rocket launcher. To compare it to the Dresden Files, it’s like they took the first six books and squashed them into one. This means that you struggle to care about and at times follow any of it. See the first Dresden files introduced our wizard dic, his spirit computer Bob, his friend on the force and Morgan who represented the white council a mysterious group of wizards who weren’t huge fans of Dresden or his modus operandi.
In Kill it with Magic we get Lillim, the fact that she is a wizard and the reincarnation of some famous historical tart, her mentor, Dragon Knights and said Dragons, Werewolves and Vampires, the fact that someone nuked Rome when we weren’t looking, Lillim’s two ex boyfriends, the Dioscuri who are the equivalent of the white council and Lillims slightly deranged mother with training methods that would make the Bloodstone clan choke.
There are some good plots in here, there really are, but there are just too many of them to follow. Each gets a chapter at best before we have to move on. Now Dresden introduced all its elements separately before bringing them together in the later books, Marvel style and so I hope that means Lillim is gonna go DC and the later books are going to pick off one or two of these threads at a time and give them the space they deserve.
As for the characters, well they suffer worse than the plots do. Lillim is useless, they keep talking her up but we’re so keen to impart what a huge threat she is facing and we have so many of them to get through that the whole book can be summed up as, improbable bad ass comes and beats her up, she is saved at the last minute (or past the last minute) by someone who whisks her away to the next part of the story where it happens again. A good example would be the wards on her apartment. Standard magical fare right? Few symbols and what not to keep the nasties out.
The problem is that it feels like twenty or so people manage to break through them in the course of this one book alone and so I don’t get the feeling that these are all omega level badasses, just that she’s not very good at magic. Seriously I half expected some mid credits scene where a few weeks later the postman comes to drop off a few letters and because she has amped them up due to the events of the story he gets a mild static shock off her letterbox.
You know how In Bond movies we always get a tray of gadgets near the start and then eagerly look forward to seeing them used creatively in action. Like, we know they will come in handy somehow and most likely come in handy only once, Q never gave him anything he wouldn’t definitely need like say a pair of Jam trousers. Now I’m not saying Lillim does have a pair of Jam trousers, more’s the pity as it may have made the book a tad more enjoyable. No what she does have is a lot of stuff that seems to do the same kind of job. We get two magical get out of jail free cards to whisk her out of trouble, both terrible, neither requiring the creation of the other by the author. Three or four magical swords that sound cool but are all fairly indistinguishable by the end and two weapons capable of beating anything with a power level over 9000 both within arms reach for fear that the reader would get bored if Lillim so much as had to nip round to her mates to ask to borrow them.
Everyone seems a bit thick in order to make the story work such as an Egyptian God who scoffs at the notion that someone could have summoned several asteroids to hit the Earth at once while stating that anyone capable of putting their pants on in the morning could conjure one. Making him not all that impressive then and missing the obvious trick then of getting several people to summon one each making him a bit of a stupid God as well, but then he’s not the only one.
I won’t go into spoilers but my main complaint about this book involves the end. The end reveals a complex web of intrigue, deceit and plot. None of which you could have guessed by reading this book. ‘Kill it with Magic’ feels like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead for a modern day fantasy epic trilogy that we never got. It was a powerful tale of using those around you for your own end, factions fighting an unseen war across the world, twisting reality and staring into the abyss. Unfortunately all we got was an idiot with more swords than hands and a pet hedgehog, who I think I’m right in saying; doesn’t manage to win a single fight in her own book.