Review: Dark Heart of Magic by Jennifer Estep

Pub Date: November 2015
Publisher: Kensington
Format: Trade Paperback
Length: 368 pages
FTC: Requested from the library
POV: 1st person, past

I've generally avoided YA because I have a YA in the house and can't handle a ton more drama, but this series has me hooked. My only issue with this book, and it's a biggie, is the tournament. I think Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire ruined me for all other tournaments. It's not fair, but there it is. I can't read about tournaments, especially involving magic, without thinking of that book. Or the Court Jester. Yes...I'm weird.

The 2nd book in a series often has a tough job. It's subject to a bit of a sophomore slump, in that it doesn't have to build the world, but it has to move the characters forward. Luckily, that's exactly what happens here. Every character has more revealed about them. Lila, our narrator (in 1st person, past TYVM), has some significant character growth both in maturity and in depth. Her relationships with everyone grow and change, and she seems to be slowly figuring out who she is and what she wants.

The tournament amps up the danger quotient a bit, with dangerous obstacles and one-on-one fencing matches. It also provides a bit of structure for the novel, as the tension "levels up" with each narrowing of the field.

There is a secondary plot line that parallels the tournament: someone or something has been slaughtering monsters. For me, that secondary plot was far more interesting than the tournament and really could have used more page time. I wanted some real investigation there. Those bodies littering the countryside seemed almost forgotten for most of the book.

Even though I was not really feeling the tournament story line, I enjoyed the book overall. There's plenty here for both teen and adult readers, and I am looking forward to book 3 in the Black Blade series, Bright Blaze of Magic, which is scheduled for an April release.

My Grade: B

The Blurb:
Something Wicked This Way Comes . . .

As a thief, I stick to the shadows as much as possible. But when the head of the Sinclair Family picks me to compete in the Tournament of Blades, there's no escaping the spotlight--or the danger.

Even though he's my competition, Devon Sinclair thinks I have the best shot at winning what's supposed to be a friendly contest. But when the competitors start having mysterious "accidents," it looks like someone will do anything to win--no matter who they hurt.

As if I didn't have enough to worry about, mobster Victor Draconi is plotting against Devon and the rest of my friends, and someone's going around Cloudburst Falls murdering monsters. One thing's for sure. Sometimes, humans can be more monstrous than anything else...

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