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Vicious Circle Cover Picture

Vicious Circle

Linda Robertson

Published 2009        375 pages

Summary (from the book jacket)

Being a witch doesn't pay the bills, but Persephone Alcmedi gets by between reading Tarot cards, writing her syndicated newspaper column, and kennelling werewolves in the basement when the moon is full - even if witches aren't supposed to mingle with wolves. She really reaches the end of her leash, though, when her grandmother gets kicked out of the nursing home and Seph finds herself in the doghouse about some things she's written. Then her werewolf friend Lorrie is murdered… and the high priestess of an important coven offers Seph big money to destroy the killer, a powerful vampire named Goliath Kline.

Seph is a tough girl, but this time she bites off more than she can chew. She needs a little help from her friends - werewolf friends. One of those friends, Johnny, the motorcycle-riding lead singer for the techno-metal-Goth band Lycanthropia, has a crush on her. And while Seph has always been on edge around this 6'2" leather-clad hunk, she's starting to realize that although their attraction may be dangerous, nothing could be as lethal as the showdown that awaits them.

The Review

Vicious Circle is the first book in a new urban fantasy series from first-time author Linda Robertson. It introduces readers to the world of Persephone (Seph) Alcmedi, a world where witches, werewolves and vampires rub uneasy shoulders with a mostly human population. Seph keeps her magical credentials fairly low-key, even some of her oldest friends don’t know that she’s a witch, while the werewolves try to keep their affliction hidden because as weres they lose most of their human rights. The vampires have crawled out of their coffins and admitted their existence to the world but generally they have faired better than the werewolves due to a better PR campaign and the fact that they seem to have some serious supernatural powers.

The paranormal world imagined by Robertson for Vicious Circle has some major differences to the majority of urban fantasy novels about today. The magic is quite low-key, invoked with witchy rituals and used when strictly necessary - which makes a change from all the stories where showy, crowd-pleasing magic is thrown around at the drop of a hat. Guidance from the higher-powers comes in the form of meditation and a totem guide, again a more real world way of communing with the divine.

If the witches are low-key, the werewolves have definitely drawn the short straw in Vicious Circle. The werewolf condition is passed on through a contagious virus, meaning that most uninfected humans won’t go anywhere near them for fear of catching the virus themselves and to protect themselves they have passed all sorts of laws to make werewolves second-class citizens. When the moon is full the werewolves retain no human sensibilities, they are just hungry predators – so unlike the books by authors such as Kelley Armstrong, Patricia Briggs or Carrie Vaughn there are no opportunities for the werewolves to have great adventures and use their werewolf skills and strengths to their advantage. 

These differences help to make Vicious Circle stand out from other books in this genre and above all stop Seph from becoming just another self-righteous, monster hunting, gun-toting gung-ho female urban fantasy protagonist in leather pants… And let’s face it there are already more than enough of those manly heroines to go around.

While there is lots to like about Vicious Circle, it isn’t without it detractions either. In the most general of terms parts of Vicious Circle seem derivative of other popular fantasy novels. For example we have a heroine who doesn’t know that she is actually the Lustrata, a key figure of power in the supernatural world. We have a long lost magical book that suddenly turns up and everybody wants it - not to forget that Menessos, the master vampire is amazingly attractive and suddenly interested in Seph. But you could just as easily say that Vicious Circle bows to urban fantasy genre conventions since these are some of the established corner stones of the genre.

The leading men in the story, namely Johnny, the werewolf Goth-metal band singer and Menessos, the powerful vampire-wizard both leave something to be desired in the romantic prospect stakes. Johnny, with his tattoos and face piercings is the more attractive of the two but his determination that he knows better than Seph at a crucial part of the story also makes him irritating. While on the other hand, Menessos is just too untrustworthy and ready to kill people at the slightest notice to be anything other than creepy… Both characters will need a little more work to make them more attractive to readers, although Seph seems to like them just fine. Personally I’m rooting for Johnny. A good-looking man who cooks and cleans up after himself? Definitely keeper material!

Vicious Circle is a good start to the Persephone Alcmedi series and although fantasy-wise there is little new here, the writer’s light touch keeps the story well grounded. Her characters add a feeling of real life to the story, in particular “Nana”, Seph’s loveably irritating grandmother is an inspired addition to the story. I’m looking forward to seeing how the characters and storyline develops in Hallowed Circle the next book in this series, scheduled for publication in January 2010.

LoveVampires Review Rating:

Review Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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