Linda Robertson’s first novel, Vicious Circle, was a fun read, and its sequel, Hallowed Circle, is even better. In this second installment, Robertson spins a highly original plot (if this has been done in urban fantasy before, it was in a book I missed!), further develops her characters and the relationships among them, and as an added bonus, passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors.
Persephone Alcmedi is still reeling from the discovery that she is the Lustrata, a “chosen one” sort of figure. Plus, she’s still getting used to having her grandmother, a foster-daughter, and a puppy under her roof, not to mention the latest ups and downs in her relationship with Johnny the guitar-playing werewolf. So when she’s nominated to compete in the Eximium, a contest in which a new High Priestess will be chosen, Seph doesn’t want any part of it.
She changes her mind when she meets the front-runner, Hunter Hopewell, who has her nose in the air and a chip on her shoulder. After dealing with the previous High Priestess, Seph doesn’t want yet another snooty social climber ruling the coven, so she agrees to compete in the hopes of knocking Hunter out of the running. But Seph gets more than she bargained for when contestants start turning up dead.
The Eximium is such a unique and fun plot. The murder mystery is compelling, and so is the contest itself, in which five revered crones set challenges for Seph and the other would-be priestesses. Hallowed Circle has two other plotlines running alongside this one; one of them concerns Johnny, and the other deals with the vampire Menessos and a group of ticked-off fairies.
I’ve often praised authors for creating a sense of place. Robertson creates a vivid sense of time. Hallowed Circle takes place during the Halloween season and it really feels like it, in every detail.
I couldn’t put Hallowed Circle down. Between the sympathetic characters, the well-grounded magical lore, and an exciting plot in which nothing is quite what it seems, this is a standout urban fantasy.