Book Review: The Line by J.D. Horn

3 Jan

18010355The Line (Witching Savannah, Book 1) by J.D. Horn

Published by 47North (February 1st, 2014)

296 pages

2 out of 5 stars

Synopsis:

As the only magic-less member of a long line of witches sworn to protect the Line, the mystical barrier protecting our world, 20-year-old Mercy Taylor has never felt fully accepted by her family or “regular” Savannah society. When her great aunt, the matriarch of the Taylor clan, is murdered, it sets off a series of events that will change Mercy’s life forever.

Review:

After finishing a book, I often wonder why the author felt called to write it. What was it about these particular characters that clamored to have their story told? To me, The Line had a curious emptiness at its heart. It felt as if Horn had made a list of the elements most likely to appeal to readers of paranormal romance–plucky heroine, supernatural world, love triangles, Deep South quirkiness, melodramatic plot twists–and checked them off one by one. I read a few blog posts and interviews with the author, trying to glean why he’d written Mercy’s story, and saw that he has a fondness for Dark Shadows. His book embraces the melodrama of the campy supernatural soap, but misses the mark in so many other ways.

The only character that seemed to truly interest Horn was Oliver, Mercy’s gay, rakish uncle. Everyone else was flat, especially the wide-eyed Mercy, whom I found insufferably mealymouthed. Then again, the Sookie Stackhouse books, to which the Witching Savannah series claims to be the heir, gets similar criticism and still manages to be a bestselling behemoth.

The plot puts Mercy through the ringer, but all the events happen to her without requiring her to do anything. By the end, she’d been betrayed, double-crossed, deceived, and placed in peril so many times that it was almost funny. The revelations in the last quarter of the book–no doubt meant to be shocking–piled up one after the other like cars on the Interstate. And like a traffic accident, I found it difficult to look away. To Horn’s credit, I did keep reading to find out what happened next.

Despite a few genuinely charming Southern colloquialisms, most of the dialogue is stilted and heavy. Below is a quote from the police officer investigating Great Aunt Ginny’s death:

He bent back in and looked me squarely in the eye. “Really,” he repeated. “But I am sure you are aware that in most cases someone is murdered by someone they know. And more often not, buy someone in their own family.” He paused.

The proofreading was also a bit slapdash; I counted for or five instances where it looked as if the author had started to type a phrase, changed his mind, and moved on without deleting what he’d already written. For example, “You’re the one who looks likes more like your mama, you know” (1815/3785 on the Kindle). The sloppy writing and ludicrously one-dimensional characters (many of whom were villains of the mustache twirling persuasion) lent the book an amateurish feel, and the world’s shortest seduction scene was a disappointment as a fan of paranormal romance.

If you’ve already read everything by Ilona Andrews, Seanan McGuire, Patricia Briggs, Charlaine Harris, and Kim Harrison and find yourself desperate for a quick paranormal romance/urban fantasy fix, you could do worse than spending an afternoon with The Line–but, like all low-calorie substitutes, it’ll leave you feeling unsatisfied.

(Book Source: Free download from Amazon’s Kindle First program)

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