Up until this point, reading Suzanne McLeod’s SPELLCRACKERS series has often been an exercise in frustration. The novels were often confusing, but were well-written enough that I couldn’t dismiss them and always felt there was huge potential for the series. With book three, The Bitter Seed of Magic, McLeod finally strikes the right balance between clarity and obfuscation.
The Bitter Seed of Magic focuses on the curse laid on the lesser fae of London by the sidhe queen Cliona. The curse is introduced earlier in the series, but McLeod recaps it in the prologue, a refresher for which I was grateful. Among other things, it has blighted the lesser fae’s fertility, which causes problems for Genny Taylor as the various fae races see her — specifically, impregnating her — as the key to saving their people. The other main plot thread, though the two are linked, is a series of murders of female lesser fae. Genny investigates these crimes and learns more about the messy history of Cliona’s family tree and how it relates to the curse.
I was briefly worried that this book would be confusing too, especially since the fae and the vampires often give Genny cryptic information instead of straight answers, but as I mentioned above, this time the balance is right. The Bitter Seed of Magic is mysterious without being confusing. I didn’t always know how the pieces fit together, but I always felt confident that they belonged to the same puzzle. Heck, I feel like the first two books make more sense now too, after finishing this one.
Also especially satisfying is Genny’s character growth. In this installment, she grows a stronger spine against the powerful vampires and fae who seek to manipulate her, striking hard bargains to give her leverage against them. I also love her determination to not let magical forces control her sex life. Her emotional reactions to revelations about her personal history are compelling. And the ending is fantastic, bringing a touch of lightness into the dark world of SPELLCRACKERS and dealing with the fertility issue in a refreshingly non-cliché manner.
I was worried about The Bitter Seed of Magic, but ended up really enjoying it. I look forward to The Shifting Price of Prey, scheduled for US release in June 2012.