Reviewed by Tori
Agent Shiloh Harrison, a federal marshal in the supernatural world, is half-djinn and half human. Part of a five-man unit that keeps the different species on the straight and narrow, The story starts out on a high note though it levels quickly with Shiloh being called from her boyfriend’s bed to a hostage scene. Seems like a group of vampires has taken the residents of Myrtle’s Happy Acre mobile home park hostage. She and her team learn that someone or something is kidnapping various supernaturals and the vampires are demanding answers. Unable to locate her boss, Harrison becomes the lead agent and teams up with a vampire master to discover what is going on. Drawing on her investigative skills and the various supernatural talents around her. Shiloh soon learns that everyone is suspect and some secrets are worth killing for.
Fans of urban fantasy will certainly want to try Kelly Meding’s latest venture, Stray Magic. The author of the wonderful Dreg City series once again introduces the beginning of an interesting world with a strong female protagonist. The first in a new series, this story begins in the novella, Freak Show, which you can find in the anthology, Carniepunk. I would recommend picking this up before starting here as Meding starts off with the assumption you have read it. Action-packed and heavily character driven, Meding sets up this world a fast steady hand, giving us just enough background to wet our appetite. All sharp corners and angles; you really have to pay attention.
Solid characters and a strong foundation cradles the tense storyline where the suspense and mystery grip you tight as you follow the twisting and turning path that Meding has laid out for us. She takes her time fleshing out the main conflict the subplots slowly reveal the real story. Some fans may find the violence a bit graphic as Meding pulls no punches and tells it like it is. There is a low key romance in here though it is oddly laid out and feels like a major part of the storyline. It has a viable presence that simmers just below the surface and I found myself uneasy about that. The chemistry and timing felt wrong and it took away from the main conflict. Shiloh has a boyfriend yet she seems to find every man around her sexually attractive and tells us this multiple times. It looks like the beginning of a romantic quad. Sex holds a strong place in this story. I would have been more comfortable had our author spent a couple books building and solidifying the arc before investing this heavily into the romance angle.
Numerous villains and heroes dot the landscape and nobody is what they seem. There are many players in this elaborate and complicated game and the lines between good and evil are rapidly blurring. The end comes hard, fast, and ugly; effectively closing the main conflict but leaving us with many many questions and a bit of a cliffhanger.
While I liked the story, I wasn’t engrossed by it. I enjoyed the heroine’s strength and snark but felt she wasn’t as solid as she should. Various tropes are used in building the world but the blending is clunky. It’s hard to figure out exactly what year we are in as Meding borrows from the 80s through now. There is a lot of repetition in both dialogue and scenes. We are constantly told the same information about Shiloh’s heritage, other characters heritages, and her attraction to everyone. The energy level is low and the pacing showed some fillers that weren’t needed. Not a bad start overall and I am curious about book two, Stray Moon, set to release in November.