From the author’s website:
“Seven Stones of Power.
No one knows when they were created or by whom, each said to represent one of the Seven Deadly Sins.
For centuries, treasure hunters have been eager to possess the Stones, undeterred by their corrupting nature. The list is long – Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, Napoleon, to name a few. Now the Stones have found their way to Salem, Massachusetts, and so has Gerwulf Grimoire, adding himself to this rogues’ gallery of power seekers. He’s an uncommonly dangerous man with a hunger for the forbidden and a set of abilities that are way beyond ordinary. Abilities that he feels entitle him to possess anything he might desire.
That might include Elizabeth Tucker, the woman he needs to find the Stones. She’s freshly transplanted from New York City to Boston’s North Shore. With a new job as pastry chef at Dazzle’s Bakery and an old house inherited from her Aunt Ophelia, her life is pretty much on track… until it’s suddenly derailed by a guy named Diesel, a rude monkey, and a ninja cat.
Lizzy can handle the monkey and the cat. She’s not sure about Diesel. He’s offering up his own set of unusual talents and promising to protect her from Grimoire, the kind of protection that Lizzy suspects might involve guarding her body day and night.
The Seven Deadly Sins are pride, greed, lust, envy, wrath, sloth, and gluttony. That pretty much covers everything that is wicked. Diesel thinks it also pretty much covers everything that’s fun. And Lizzy thinks Diesel and the Seven Deadly Sins cover everything her mother warned her about.
The Hoot Worthy
Quick and Candid
Evanovitch’s story hits the ground running, introducing us to Lizzy, her friends, and her love interests in the first short chapters. From there, the action moves along at a fairly quick clip. Diesel wants the Stones and Lizzy (in all senses of the word) to find them and Gerwulf pretty much wants the same but with some world domination thrown in for good measure. A race for the first stone ensues and Lizzy finds herself coming terms with her unanticipated destiny and attraction to two diametrically opposite cousins. In addition to dishy guys, none of Lizzy’s friends are completely shocked by the existence of magic. Given Salem’s witchy history, the town’s a magnet for ghost hunters and occult types. The group’s acceptance of magic goes from zero-to-sixty in 5.9 seconds and it’s fairly believable. After some half-hearted sputtering, Lizzy & Co. are on board with Glo’s askew spells, her love interests’ supernatural powers and our heroine’s mystical destiny. Their easy belief saves the reader lots of repeated explanations about the existence of magic, enchanted shenanigans, and Lizzy’s abilities.
The Scooby Gang
The interplay between Diesel and Lizzy is lively and constant, but the entire show is stolen by a quirky cast of supporting characters. Gloria Blinkly is the bakery’s counter girl and her new penchant for witchcraft produces less than stellar results. Despite her wonky spell casting, Glo remains determined and optimistic to make her magic work. She happily joins a grumpy Lizzy in her quest for stones, inadvertently hexing suspects and animating petulant brooms. To balance out our human cast, we’re introduced to a bad-mannered monkey named Carl and a guardian feline dubbed Cat 7143. Carl not only wields a fondness for junk food and rude hand gestures, but he’s also acquainted with Diesel and his past magical exploits. This is no ordinary orangutan and his feline frenemy is no everyday tabby either. After being inexplicably adopted by Glo, Lizzy discovers Cat belonged to her secretive Aunt Ophelia. The cat is a great judge character and danger, using its stealth and claws to help Lizzy escape a number of scrapes. There’s more to these crafty critters then meets the eye and hopefully we’ll find out more about their exploits in the next series installments.
Readers apprehensive about the series’ fantasy element should know one thing: magic brings about serious and hilarious consequences. While questioning a cagey suspect, Glo decides a truth spell would spur matters along. Immediately the spell takes effect.
“Diesel had his eyebrows slightly raised. “Have you ever cast this spell?”
“No,” Glo said. “But I’m pretty sure I did it right.”
“Glamma bamma,” Shirley said.
We all turned to her.
“I wiggum big dick do flammy stick,” she said. “Eep! Lick stick rubba dubba.” Her eyes got wide, and she clapped her hands over her mouth. She shook her head. That wasn’t what she meant to say.”
Lizzy, Diesel and Glo try to reassure Shirley the flawed spell may be temporary but Shirley is less than relieved.
“A moment later, Shilrey marched out of her bedroom with the tent dress billowing around her. She raised her arm and pointed a gun at us.
“Eat poop and clock,” Shirley said.
I spun around and ran for the door, shoving Glo in front of me. Bang, bang, bang.”
With this type of condition, verbal tone can be everything and Evanovitch does a spectacular job of hitting the comedy nail on the head. This first major event wonderfully sets the tone for the rest of the book. A fun romance-mystery with some magic and adventure added to create fabulous madness.
Both hero and villain are archetypically attractive. Diesel’s sandy hair, muscular physique, perpetual 5 o’clock shadow, and beach bum tan contrast nicely with Gerwulf’s lanky height, porcelain pale skin, glossy black hair and perpetual suits of sables. Diesel’s confidence and classic good looks sorely tempt Lizzy while she’s also drawn to Gerwulf’s dark, hypnotizing allure. So whether you like your men white- or black-hatted, there are some nice-looking guys in this series who won’t be going away anytime soon.
Owl Pellets (or what I had trouble digesting)
Lack of World-Building & Magic Mechanics
As a long-time reader of fantasy, I am used to some level of world-building in my genre selections. About 50 pages in, I realized this series was going to make zero attempt to explain magic or its mechanics. Governing bodies and rules are vaguely alluded to but the story provides no details that give the magic any shape or structure beyond comic and plot-moving events. I expected more richness to the mystical and this lack of comprehensiveness left me unfulfilled and underwhelmed.
My biggest problem was that I didn’t really buy the romance between Diesel and Lizzy. This disbelief is problematic as couple’s romantic attraction is a giant part of the story. Diesel appears quite literally out of nowhere and intrudes on Lizzy’s life: breaking into her house, eating her food and sleeping in her bed without her invitation or permission. To me, his behavior wasn’t roguishly charming as it was rude and egotistic. And his pushiness knows no limit. He’s revealed as more of a highly self-assured wise-ass instead of a plain ’ole jackass but this conversion takes roughly the entire novel. I would have preferred Lizzy hook up with bad boy Gerwulf; his want-take-have mentality gives him an edge over his fairer cousin. But perhaps I just like ’em tall, dark and evil. That being said, neither love interest possesses enough of a fully fleshed character to warrant full-hearted backing.
Overall rating: 3 out of 5 owls
Birds of a Feather
Fans of light fantasy, cozy mysteries and opposites-attract romance will find something to love in the first book of this swift-reading series.