Unbidden Magic #1
Published 2008 by Bell Bridge Books
YA urban fantasy
Review copy from NetGalley
I'm honestly not sure what to say about Moonstone. It contains many things I don't really like – a prophecy, overly credulous characters, simplistic designations of good and evil – but as much as these things irritated me, I never found myself wanting to put the book down.
Moonstone begins the day before Allie's fifteenth birthday, when she first discovers her paranormal abilities. Events progress rather quickly after that: she's visited by a spirit guide, finds out that she's the star of a prophecy, gets a magical moonstone, gets to know a cute boy, and discovers the existence of secret magical organizations. The problem I had with credulity wasn't precisely the events themselves, which were fairly interesting, but with Allie's reaction to them. After about eleven seconds of disbelief, she accepts the existence of her abilities and the prophecy. With tangible evidence of her own power, that part isn't really an issue, particularly for a fifteen year old, but the prophecy is a translation of faded words in a foreign language written by a person who died over a hundred years ago. Not once does anyone say, "Hey, I wonder if this is right?" much less "Why should we believe what this unsubstantiated paper says?" and that really bothered me. Prophecies should only be a plot device if they themselves are a point of contention. They can provoke a fascinating discussion of free will and determinism, but they should never dictate the plot on their own. It wasn't even a very good prophecy.
A second concern was Allie's relationship with her mother, Faye. Faye is a terrible mother. She never did anything that wasn't for her own benefit, and yet Allie regarded her with more affection and understanding than most teenagers have for the best of parents. She demonstrated astonishingly little resentment for her mother's ridiculous antics (pretending she had fibromyalgia to try to get disability money from the government, inviting her sleazy lawyer over, completely neglecting Allie so that her disease would be believed). Allie seemed far more like the parent than her mother, which can certainly work, but not like this. She's a teenage girl, not a saint, and there really should have been a lot more resentment and argument between them.
Finally, the entire conflict rubbed me the wrong way. There's a certain amount of motivational background that has to be present in a story for it to be believable and enjoyable, and that backstory wasn't there in Moonstone. The two (that's it?) sides were honestly just boring. There was a good side and an evil side, all based on some sort of palmistry, and that is basically all the background in this book. That's the kind of lack of support that really bothers me – couldn't there be some explanation of why these groups hated each other? It's much more interesting to see how good people do terrible things for the best of reasons, or bad people turn out to be better than expected. Simple genetics? Meh. Of course it's always possibly this part of the story will develop more in the rest of the series. I'm sure there will at least be more background. But for now, I'm quite dissatisfied.
All that aside, I did mostly enjoy the book and I plan to try the next one soon, though not immediately. This is definitely a lighter and younger read, but if you keep that in mind it could be a decent way to spend an afternoon.