Book Review – Stone and a Hard Place by R.L. King

Book Blurb

It’s hard enough for Alastair Stone to keep his two lives—powerful mage and mundane Occult Studies professor—separate without an old friend asking him to take on a new apprentice. Especially after a university colleague wants him to investigate a massive old house for things that go bump in the night. Still, Stone figures it’s an easy job: just turn up, put on a little show, and announce that the house is clean.

Only it isn’t. A malevolent spirit is reawakening in the basement, imprisoned between dimensions and intent on escape. If it succeeds, countless people will die. Worse, a trio of dark mages want to help it break free so they can control it for their own sinister purposes. They’ll do whatever it takes—including seducing Stone’s young apprentice and using him against his master—to get what they’re after.

With time running out, Stone has to stay alive long enough to uncover the spirit’s secrets. But even if he does, he fears that his own power won’t be enough to send it back.

 The concept – I have to admit to having a weakness for stories that take place in the ‘real world’ or a slightly altered version of our world.  In this case magic and the supernatural exist alongside the world as we know it.    It’s why I like things like Mercedes Lackey’s Diana Tregarde Series and Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files.  (It’s also why I smiled when I saw a youngster stick his head in the fridge at a grocery store and exclaim “There’s a whole miniature world in there.”)

It makes it easy to believe it could be happening right next door.

The Characters:  I liked that the characters were real.  They made mistakes, they didn’t see a pattern in things– they were thrown into a situation and had to do their best to get through it.  They were human and believable.

Main Character:

Alastair Stone: Acerbic occult studies professor and practicing mage… well actually he’s a tad out of practice practicing mage.  He’s been doing more research than practical lately and his practical has been leaning towards protective magic.

What works – Alastair’s personality and curiosity make him interesting to follow.

Least Favorite trait – His quickness to dismiss things that turn out to be important.

Why it works/doesn’t work:  This works because if you don’t like the lead character, no matter how good the rest of the story is- you aren’t going to enjoy the read.  His dismissal of seemingly unrelated things works because he doesn’t know he’s in the middle of a mystery and isn’t privy to the other instances the readers see.

What I liked: 

I liked the fact that this was a character driven story and didn’t bog itself down in mechanics.  It was a story that drew me in and made me want to read more.

What I didn’t like:

I so wanted to slap a few characters’ heads together.  When the apprentice is doing stupid kid things, I wanted to cringe and hide, but that’s my quirk and I know it too well.  It’s one of those double edged swords where is is very real for a youngster to be a youngster and do stupid things– and yet I have trouble watching it.

I enjoyed the story immensely and was surprised to realize that my back seat driving would have saved one character… but would have pretty much destroyed the world and killed everyone else.

October 30, 2015

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