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    REVIEW: Woods of the Raven by Mary Calmes

    Woods of the Raven – Mary Calmes

    Something wicked this way comes…and it might be too late to stop it. Xander Corey lives simply, sustainably, on the outskirts of Osprey, a small, quaint town in Upstate New York. He’s a librarian when the town’s budget can afford him, a good friend, kind neighbor, and also, a witch. And while that’s of no concern to anyone around him, there are others, non-humans, who have a vested interest in Xander’s family land. Xander knows something dark and dangerous is brewing. He’s just not quite sure what.

    And that’s not the only mystery he’s dealing with. The new chief of police is, by turns, giving him heart palpitations and homicidal thoughts. Xander can’t decide if the gorgeous yet infuriating Lorne MacBain is on his side, or trying to drive him insane. Added to that, the man doesn’t believe in magic, and since that’s who Xander is, their future looks anything but bright.

    But Lorne is not the unimaginative, stick-in-the-mud Xander thinks he is. And a rock to anchor him as his life is turning upside down is just the thing Xander needs. Now if only the two of them can stay alive…

    The cover is gorgeously atmospheric!

    I’m familiar with Mary Calmes as I’ve seen many of her works. Woods of the Raven is my first read from her, and needless to say, I have high expectations from a veteran author.

    The premise (and the cover) immediately caught my attention. A small town in New York with its very own guardian witch watching over the land. It is something I would call a witch procedural. It is very rich in witchcraft with an emphasis on the “craft” part.

    MC Xander Corey goes around town offering advice, explaining arcane stuff, helping people cleanse their homes, making potions, wreaths, and something called witch ladder, which he also sells at the fair. He donates the proceeds to animal charities because his magic is a gift. Therefore he cannot accept payments. The book goes into detail in the makings of the items as well steps in doing the rituals.

    The story reads very much like a cozy slice of life that stumbled upon a murder mystery. Romance comes in the form of the hunky new sheriff, Lorne Macbain, who brought the crime to Xander’s notice because it happened near his property.

    Having antagonistic run-ins with the sheriff before, Xander was surprised to learn that those were rather confusing attempts by the sheriff to get his attention. Apparently, the poor man has been crushing on the town witch for a while but Xander was oblivious.

    Unfortunately, I wasn’t a fan of the storytelling. Whatever plot the novel had was buried under piles of explanations and info-dumps. While I enjoy being educated in witchcraft, the story also felt the need to cram all the possible lore and magical creatures known, in addition to the Corey family background and town history. And so, sadly, the magic is lost in all that telling. Also, a bit confusing to those not very familiar with western folklore.

    I love standalone novels, but this one could use a sequel or two so there would be room to show the other events rather than sacrifice plot, character, and romantic development for explanations. Because heck, even the romance was lackluster in its failure to build palpable chemistry.

    I also felt we only skimmed the surface of Xander’s and Lorne’s characters. Also, Xander’s best friend Amanda was a strong woman in theory but in action was an overbearing caricature. I wished her character was executed better.

    However, the story did exceptionally well in the boss fight scene because it was thrilling and action-packed with awesome displays of wild magic. This is what Xander was born to do, and boy, was he bad ass!

    Woods of the Raven had a great premise but suffered in its delivery. Goes to show a little telling goes a long way.

    2.5 Stars – far from hate but not quite a like

    Soundtrack: When The Raven Calls
    Artist: Spirit of the Woods

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