Thursday, August 22, 2013

Review: Midsummer Magick by Laura Navarre


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Linnet Norwood, whom we met in Magick by Moonrise, her purpose to Rhiannon fulfilled, has left the Summer Lands with no clear memory of her stay there. Bastard, mad -- these are the words whispered about Linnet who struggles to fill in the gaps in her memory. Now as the Countess of Glencross, and the last of her line, Linnet has traveled to London, in the guise of seeking a husband for Glencross, to find clues about her mother and, perhaps, her true lineage.

But someone wants Linnet dead -- and Zamiel stepped in to rescue her, setting into motion a series of events that will lead to his salvation or downfall.

For Zamiel isn't mortal and not just an ordinary angel -- but the Angel of Death, one touch and your soul is forfeit to either heaven or hell. And Zamiel stands apart as the son of Lucifer, the first fallen angel.

As the Severity of God, Zamiel is not supposed to save lives but to take it -- but something about Linnet and the fire and passion he senses in her stops him from stepping aside and letting the Almighty do His will. As punishment for his insubordination, he is exiled from heaven and trapped in his mortal body.

Limbo. The characters in Navarre's story are all standing on precarious ground: Linnet must play her role as noblewoman and loyal subject if she is to protect her heritage. One misstep could mean the loss of Glencross and her life. She skirts about the fleeting images from her memory of her time inthe Summer Lands or else she will be imprisoned again at Glencross Abbey.

Even the position of Elizabeth I isn't secure: she is constantly on-guard against those who threaten her reign as Queen of England. She is besieged from within her realm and from outside.

Unable to remain still, Elizabeth Tudor sprang to her feet and paced, agitated as the caged lion in her menagerie. "Are you aware the Scottish succession is a matter of desperate concern to this court? I must contend with that viper Mary Stuart, raised and nurtured in the bosom of the French court, and her damned French mother who keeps the throne in Edinburgh warm and waiting for her. This Scottish-French alliance is the greatest threat to my realm.

"And the nightmare that wakes me sweating in the night is the prospect that my loving brother-in-law Spanish Philip, who plots ceaselessly to steal my throne, will ally with the French. Then I'll have them all at my throat."
- pp. 97-98

When Linnet and Zamiel discover that the key to recovering her memory is a pagan ritual, both must decide if it is worth the sacrifice.

"...Ye must sacrifice yer maidenhead to the Goddess, take a lover tonight before the sacred fire and regain all ye've lost."
- p. 225

The choice is a painful one for Linnet to make and equally difficult for Zamiel. He must decide between his salvation or Linnet's -- for he cannot have both. To return to his heavenly home, he must repent -- but, if he succumbs to his mortal cravings, he will fall.

Navarre crafts a suffocating, claustrophobic world -- there are eyes and ears everywhere: on earth, in Heaven and in the world of the Faeries and each character has their own agenda, their own gains to pursue -- power teeters on the balance.

For we are created in His image and likeness. I loved the politics in Midsummer Magick and it amazed me how cleverly Navarre mirrors the problems of Heaven and on earth. Zamiel is considered the rebel in his circle in Heaven and Navarre depicts a power struggle between the different hierarchies. Navarre's knowledge of angel mythology is astounding and she weaves it so wonderfully in this story. (Really enjoyed the discourse in pp. 194-196)

I'll end this with a word about the romance -- it was well-done. I loved the tension of wanting but not having that both Zamiel and Linnet experienced: Zamiel could not succumb to his desires because it would mean his fall. If he left her alone, he would be allowed to return to his former life and live through infinity alone. And Linnet must preserve her purity for the sake of her future husband, a man who would be chosen for her by the queen in a relationship forged not by love but by necessity. Love comes at a cost and both must figure out what they are willing to sacrifice to be together.

Laura Navarre continues her mesmerizing world building of angels, faeries, Arthurian legend and Tudor England in Midsummer Magick, the second novel in her Magick Trilogy. This was an engrossing read -- and one that really put my iBooks' dictionary skills to the test with words like arquebus, cressets, tocsin (different from toxin!), stramash, hippocras, etc. -- as I was reading through the novel, I kept thinking how thoroughly Navarre did her research on the period. This is not a book to read casually -- one needs to invest quiet time and attention in order to fully enjoy the book -- but, trust me, it is worth it.

To find out more about Laura Navarre and her books, click below:
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Disclosure: I received the ARC through Netgalley. (Thank you to Laura Navarre and to Carina Press for accepting my request.) Yes, this is an honest review.

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