Well, here I am again, as promised. And initially, I had planned on making this the second installment of On the Fence. But… in the process of writing this, I did some extra digging and… yeah. I just can’t. I promise I will explain why.
In brief unrelated news, I did actually finish The Dark Lands, and it was definitely worth finishing.
Now this series on the other hand…
Today I’m going to be talking about Ancient Magic: The Huntress Book 1 by Linsey Hall.
DNF Percentage: 75%
DNF Series: 15%
DNF Macro Series: ??? I’m seriously not doing that math.
This is the first book in The Huntress Series, which is part of the Dragon’s Gift macro series. I think that’s the right terminology. Basically The Huntress, series is a five book series, and then there’s a sequel series called The Seeker, then another after that called The Protector, and so on and so forth. As far as I can tell Hall has written six different series set in this greater Dragon’s Gift setting.
Let me just say that the idea of that just… makes me absolutely giddy. I had to do some research to figure all of that out since her audible page wasn’t particularly helpful. But, speaking of her audible page, the first four series can be attained in box sets, so you get five books for one credit. I’m all about those crazy deals. Granted, that’s how I managed to stumble headfirst into Forsaken, so take from that what you will.
Unfortunate parallel aside, The Dragons Gift series is urban fantasy, a genre that I have an affinity for. And let me just say… I love the world that Hall has built for this series. There are supernatural creatures, a huge shock for urban fantasy, I know. A real game-changer.
But the twist that Hall puts on the concept is that she calls magic users Magica, it includes witches, sorcerers, and mages. There are also Shifters, demons, and fairys, which are supernaturals as well, apparently their magic is different from the Magica. We also learn eventually that there are Dragons and Griffons and such.
The thing that really caught my attention was the idea of FireSouls. They are a kind of supernatural that gain the powers of the individuals that they kill.
I had typed out a whole quote from the prologue, but then I remembered that it spells out what a FireSoul is in the summary! So I’ll just jump feet first into that.
Cass Clereaux is good at two things: finding treasure and killing demons. Lying low is a close third – but not because she wants to be good at hiding. Cass is a FireSoul, one of the unlucky few to inherit a piece of the dragon’s soul. On the surface, the perks are sweet – she has the power to find and steal any type of magical treasure, including the powers of other supernaturals.Hall, Linsey. Dragon’s Gift Complete Series: An Urban Fantasy Boxed Set.
But it doesn’t come without a price – stealing powers requires that she kill, and others would destroy her if they discover what she is. In a world full of magic, hiding her powers is the only way to survive. Finding magical artifacts is the only way to pay the bills. But it’s a dangerous job when you can’t use your magic.
When Aidan Merrick, the most powerful shifter in the city, hires her to find an ancient scroll, she doesn’t want to take the job. His immense amount of power reminds her of too much of murky memories from a past she can’t remember. But she has no choice. The scroll will reveal what she is. And if anyone finds out, she’s dead.
Well, I’ll take a break from saying nice things to critique for a second. The line “she has the power to find and steal any type of magical treasure.” That’s patently untrue. She doesn’t have the power to steal any type of magical treasure. Her power certainly lets her find them, but stealing is a different story. She works hard without ever using magic to steal things. That’s a big part of the story, but I’ll get into that later.
So, yeah, that’s how FireSouls work, and I kind of love that? I think it’s a great idea, and I very much enjoy the concept. I don’t mind how Hall writes it either.
The concept of FireSouls is one of the things that kept me going. But now that I’m seeing it written, the one-word thing, with the second word of your one word being capitalized is weird. That sentence I just wrote is weird. It’s not a bad thing. It’s just a thing.
I will admit that I don’t think that I ever read the summary. Of course, I had to for this segment of the entry but I don’t have any memories of ever reading it before that.
Having listened to the amount of book that I have, and then reading it, I think I would have made the same assumptions that I have. But I’ll address those in the content section.
One of the things that drew me in was the cover, which I showed above. Except when I was doing the appropriate “research” for this entry, I realized there was another case of different editions having different covers. I do not have a problem with that in practice, but sometimes you have a better idea for a cover later.
I don’t necessarily have an issue with the two covers. I think the one on the left is actually a little more dishonest. Cass, the main character, does not like to use her magic. In fact, she doesn’t use her magic for more than half the book. She primarily uses a pair of enchanted daggers en lieu of ever casting spells. There’s a narrative reason for that, so I’m not casting shade on that decision.
But I think it’s definitely… an interesting choice to put Aidan on the cover, it would have absolutely have squashed my theories, and told me immediately what kind of book this is.
However, the cover on the right seems to be exclusive to the Ancient Magic Kindle edition. The one on the left is the one that was used for both the Audible edition of AM, and also the cover for the box set on Audible.
I like to think that it is well documented that I do not like prologues. Prologues tend to set the wrong tone for the story to come. The worst one I’ve ever read was in Tiger’s Curse. I’ll spare you that rant, but that is another DNF’d book that maybe I’ll get to. Having to subject myself to that again…
Anyway, Ancient Magic doesn’t fall into the setting the wrong tone pitfall. In fact, it prepares us for the trials and tribulations that the girls are going to go through.
Three girls awaken in a field in, well, they’re not sure. I don’t know if we ever find out, but they wake up in a field and they all have amnesia!
Each one of them has a single thought running through their mind. Between the three of them they get the messages, “run,” “hide,” and “FireSoul.” So naturally, they run into the nearby forest and hide in the trees. And it’s at this point that we get trial by exposition.
This section is a little clunky, but it serves its purpose. They don’t know their names, they have no memories, and when they try to remember their heads hurt.
Despite this, they know a lot about the world, and also how to speak the Irish language. They also realize that they have magic.
We discuss what being a FireSoul means. If anyone finds out that they’re FireSouls they will literally be hunted down and…
If we were caught, we would be thrown in the Prison for Magical Miscreants. It was a cold, dark, terrible place, I remembered that. A shiver ran over me. My own personal bogeyman. In the corner of my mind, it felt like someone had once threatened me with that prison, but when I poked at the memory, the blinding pain came again.Hall, Linsey. Dragon’s Gift Complete Series: An Urban Fantasy Boxed Set.
Not only do they have the supernatural community to worry about, they also have the magical authorities the Order of the Magica and the Alpha Council. But through the bits of their memories they do have, they can determine that they’re not currently on the run from the two organizations.
They decide to name themselves after constellations, so we have Phoenix–Nix, Delphine–Del, and Cassiopeia–Cass–who is our main character. They decide–despite not being biological related, or so they guess because they all have such different physical traits–that they are sisters. After all, they only heave each other. Throughout the book they refer to each other by the Irish word for sister, deirfiúr. It’s kind of a nice touch?
The chapter ends after it’s revealed that Cass is a mirror mage. She tries to mirror Nix’s conjuration magic, but manages to make a massive roaring fireball in the sky. Turns out Cass is not just a mirror mage, but an insanely powerful one.
I was going to go through all the chapters but I don’t have that kind of time, so I’ll get right into the meat of the issue. I think the prologue sets up the issues that I have with the rest of the book.
So we pick up ten years later and Cass has become a Tomb Raider, Lara Croft style. Except instead of just stealing artifacts she has Nix conjure replicas with some of the artifact’s power stored inside of them. Then they sell the replicas and Cass returns the stolen treasure to the place she took it from.
I guess… my biggest problem is how gosh diggty darn repetitive Hall is. We get this on one page:
Mr. S planned to be the hottest weather witch on TV.Hall, Linsey. Dragon’s Gift Complete Series: An Urban Fantasy Boxed Set . Bonnie Doon Press. Kindle Edition.
Then just a couple pages later we read:
“There. Ready for old Mr. Sampson. Hottest weather guy on TV for the last sixty years.”Hall, Linsey. Dragon’s Gift Complete Series: An Urban Fantasy Boxed Set . Bonnie Doon Press. Kindle Edition.
I cut out most of that first paragraph, but they talk a lot about what the Chalice can do in it and why Mr. S wants it. It seems like a little nitpick, but when we hear about what kind of trove Ms. FireSoul Cass keeps more than once, and various other things that are blindingly obvious we can start to see why this book is the length that it is. You need to trust your reader, they’ll remember things.
Ancient Magic is not long, on Audible I sussed out that it’s about six hours long, which I’d hazard means it’s somewhere between 50,000 and 65,000 words. A piece of literature is considered a novel if it is over 40,000.
I’m not dissing shorter works, the range I listed is respectable, I respect most people who can tell a cohesive narrative over a long stretch of words.
I just don’t think repeating yourself is the way to hit word target. There’s so much going on in this world that I’d rather experience more of it than just what we get to see of the town of Magic’s Bend, the supernatural community that Cass and her sisters live in. There’s so much to explore, you don’t have to hamstring yourself by just telling readers things they know over and over again.
We know you don’t like to use your magic. We know how you love your daggers.
Tell us stuff we don’t know.
Anyway, after that we get introduced to Aidan the sexy Scotsman. He’s the most powerful person that Cass has ever met and let’s be real… he’s my biggest problem with this book.
We first encounter him after he’s broken into her apartment block. Charming, I know.
We discover he’s not only a shifter, but he’s what’s known as The Origin, the descendant of the original alpha. This gives him the power to shift into any animal at will.
Aidan is here to hire Cass for a job, but of course…
“I thought you were here about a job.”
“I am. But then I saw you. I’d like to add on a date.”Hall, Linsey. Dragon’s Gift Complete Series: An Urban Fantasy Boxed Set . Bonnie Doon Press. Kindle Edition.
He’s persistent about the date and she very clearly shoots him down. Cass absolutely makes it clear that she’s not interested. There’s no coy response she literally says: No. I don’t feel as though I need to quote that but that’s her exact response.
“I’ll ask again later. Maybe you’ll change your mind if you get to know me.”Hall, Linsey. Dragon’s Gift Complete Series: An Urban Fantasy Boxed Set . Bonnie Doon Press. Kindle Edition.
I bet you can see why I don’t like this already. It’s chapter three and we already have the ruggedly handsome man who can’t fucking take no for an answer.
Welcome to my shit list Aidan.
Anyway, Aidan tells Cass he’s here because he knows she stole the Chalice from his property, and also he wants to hire her.
She is reluctant, he asks to go inside her place, she says no. He says they should get a drink. She’s immediately uncomfortable with this idea. Because their meeting is uncomfortable and weird. He broke into her secure apartment block to ask her to do a job for him. That’s one way to put someone you want to do a job for you at ease.
Anyway, he wants her to help her find the Scroll of Truth.
This of course is not a good thing, because it has a list of the strongest Magica and Shifters that have ever lived. So of course now she’s terrified that she and her sisters will be on the list and Aidan will find out they’re FireSouls.
So of course she has to take this job.
Through a series of events Nix sees that Cass and Aidan are having a drink together and once the sisters are alone the following happens:
“What’s the deal with Aidan Merrick?” She followed me up the steps. “You suddenly start dating one of the richest, most powerful hybrids in the world and don’t tell me?”Hall, Linsey. Dragon’s Gift Complete Series: An Urban Fantasy Boxed Set . Bonnie Doon Press. Kindle Edition.
This isn’t the first time that Nix acts like she wants Cass to date Aidan. In fact, it happens again a few chapters later.
“All right, well a girl can hope. I’d like you to get a life, you know. Date, meet a guy, all that.”Hall, Linsey. Dragon’s Gift Complete Series: An Urban Fantasy Boxed Set . Bonnie Doon Press. Kindle Edition.
And later even Del joins in with Nix in her antics to try to get Aidan and Cass to hook up.
I… honestly cannot fathom why they would want this? The three of them harbor a secret that’s literally described as being most likely being listed as so hated that if her name is found on the scroll it would probably be listed under:
FireSoul, subheading To Be Killed On Sight. Or, alternate, To Be Imprisoned For Life.Hall, Linsey. Dragon’s Gift Complete Series: An Urban Fantasy Boxed Set . Bonnie Doon Press. Kindle Edition.
There’s also a bit earlier on where Casss herself says:
I was dead if he knew my secret, and so were Del and Nix.Hall, Linsey. Dragon’s Gift Complete Series: An Urban Fantasy Boxed Set . Bonnie Doon Press. Kindle Edition.
She knows, so surely they know, so why the hell would these two people who have not only their own lives, but their sister’s lives on the line, push her to get with Aidan? Especially not when he’s rich, powerful, and a type of supernatural that might be able to kill them?
They’re literally telling their sister to risk their lives to get some dick. It seems so wildly out of character and makes no sense.
And no, I’m fairly sure that it has nothing to do with the surprise twist that I never read but I can guarantee is coming. Yes, I will go into that later, but I have more bitching to do about Aidan and his behavior.
Let me present the following to you.
“I know how to warm you up,” he said. His gaze was hot enough to heat me to my core.Hall, Linsey. Dragon’s Gift Complete Series: An Urban Fantasy Boxed Set . Bonnie Doon Press. Kindle Edition.
“If you’re going to say body heat, don’t even think it.” But he’d made me think it.
“The offer’s there.”
And also this, which comes just a few paragraphs later.
“If you’re not going to take advantage of my kind offer of body heat, let me at least dry you off the boring way,” Aidan said.Hall, Linsey. Dragon’s Gift Complete Series: An Urban Fantasy Boxed Set . Bonnie Doon Press. Kindle Edition.
So these two read as a fucking petulant child to me. Like, oh she’s steadfastly refusing me and saying no, so I’m going to keep fucking flirting. She’s not playing hard to get, she’s refusing you dude. Oh, and then he does this.
I shrugged off my jacket, which was probably ruined, and turned so that the flame could dry my back. It was a quick process, and the heat of the flame soon moved lower. “Are you drying my butt?”Hall, Linsey. Dragon’s Gift Complete Series: An Urban Fantasy Boxed Set . Bonnie Doon Press. Kindle Edition.
“It looked cold,” Aidan said.
That’s one way to respond to a girl turning you down.
Yeah, he keeps pushing her boundaries, and she keeps telling him no. Repeatedly.
You know how much I love that trope.
I don’t think I need to go on with that. So, the whole time I was really hoping that Aidan was going to be a villain. Every time they encountered demons he just so happened to kill them before Cass could question them. Every. Time. It happens three times.
In fact, the last time I read about he seemed to seek out the last living demon and snaps its neck.
When they get this super expensive tracking spell orb thing, Cass accidentally leaves it in his car and… well if he’d been a bad guy he would have “lost” it. Boy was I rooting for him to turn out to be evil, it would have been great.
But… he immediately gives it back to her.
Wildly disappointed and no longer really interested, I set to writing this post. I was still on the fence when I began, like I said.
The more I thought about the way things had been going the more sure I was that Aidan was going to turn out to be a FireSoul as well. I present you the following bits of evidence.
I relaxed a bit, hoping I’d thrown him off the scent. “What kind of Magica are you? Weather witch? Transport mage?” I asked to distract him. And I wanted to know.Hall, Linsey. Dragon’s Gift Complete Series: An Urban Fantasy Boxed Set . Bonnie Doon Press. Kindle Edition.
He shot me a suspicious look, as if he knew I was trying to change the subject.
“What kind of Magica are you? Weather witch? Transport mage?” I asked…Hall, Linsey. Dragon’s Gift Complete Series: An Urban Fantasy Boxed Set . Bonnie Doon Press. Kindle Edition.
…Finally, he answered my question. “A variety.”
My lips parted in surprise. “More than one?” That was rare. Most Magica were born with one root gift. He was the Origin and a multi-gift Magica? That was off the charts.
I couldn’t pinpoint if he was a shifter or one of the Magica. Both? I shivered. Half-bloods were rare, but scary strong…Hall, Linsey. Dragon’s Gift Complete Series: An Urban Fantasy Boxed Set . Bonnie Doon Press. Kindle Edition.
So, yeah, they might not seem like huge red flags, but remember that FireSouls get the powers of the magica they kill. So he’s a variety of magica? When being a half-blood is rare in and of itself?
There’s some more proof but I didn’t feel like digging up the receipts.
Final Nail in the Coffin
So there was one last thing that solidified Ancient Magic firmly in the DNF category vs the On the Fence category… it’s… the summaries of the rest of The Huntress Series.
Book 2? Fine. It sounds interesting. I won’t bother sharing it.
Book 3? Fine. Less interesting, but whatever.
Book 4? Fucking welcome to the line that convinced me to say fuck this.
Sure, she just saved her whole town and is now immortal, but immortality sucks.Hall, Linsey. Eternal Magic
Oh, also she loses her ability to do magic now that she’s immortal. That… that’s just stupid. I don’t care the narrative justification. It’s even dumber knowing what apparently is discovered by book five. I don’t think that you’re ready for this.
I had already decided to say nope, but I was curious if somehow it could get brought back at the last moment… then….
The summary for Infinite Magic contains my least favorite bullshit in any kind of book.
Fortunately, Cass has just discovered that she’s the most powerful Magica in the world.Hall, Linsey. Infinite Magic
She literally discovers she’s the most powerful magic user in the world.
I just… I am absolutely out of energy. This took four times longer to write and is two times longer than I anticipated. I didn’t think I had a whole lot to say about this book, but maybe it’s the disappointment.
That’s it. I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed. The concept is great, the world-building is great, and even the setup was great. What ultimately lets Ancient Magic, and most likely the rest of the franchise down, is just… bad characters and toxic relationship building.
And it’s not that the characters are bad. It just seems like they’re written badly. Inconsistent and sometimes nonsensical motivation, at least when it comes to Cass’s “sisters.” Aidan is a prick and I hate him. I just had to throw another swing at that douchebag. Maybe he gets better, but dude. You know what would make her like you more? Not fucking pushing your way into her life, breaking into her house, acting like a petulant child, and constantly ignoring her wishes.
And with that…