2 – Secrets and Lies (Cassie Scot #2)
3 – Mind Games (Cassie Scot #3)
4 – Stolen Dreams (Cassie Scot #4)
Sometimes I try to read something different (particularly when I get given the first book in the series for free.) Cassie Scot is basically urban fantasy/romance; a very light read.
Reviewing the Cassie Scot series is an interesting challenge. There’s a great deal I like about the books, but at the same time there are hitches when my over-analysing complex kicks in and I start to wonder about the world-building and basic background. There’s also a problem with many of the major characters … but we will get to that in due course.
Cassie Scot, the protagonist (the stories are largely told in 1st person) is the eldest child of a very powerful magical family. Unfortunately, Cassie has no magic of her own, while the rest of her siblings do. (This is obviously not unlike Johan of The Very Ugly Duckling.) Obviously, comparisons are going to be made between Cassie’s condition and the squibs of Harry Potter, a comparison Cassie herself gleefully lampshades on the very first page.
“After the Harry Potter books came out, a couple of people called me a squib. Since I haven’t read them, I have to assume it’s a compliment.“
This isn’t a very comfortable place to be, it should be noted; Cassie’s family live in a town dominated by sorcerers, while her family has a nasty feud with another magical family. She is literally helpless against some of the threats she has to face on a daily basis. Worse, perhaps, the sorcerers are largely bad enough to make Harry Potter’s Ministry of Magic not only seem decent, but an urgent requirement. (Indeed, several characters agree that most of their problems are caused by a shortage of actual government, but they fall out arguing over who should be in charge.) Given just how much seems to have leaked out, it’s hard to see why the existence of magic has remained a secret for so long. Maybe the sorcerers run the government <grin>.
[The world-building part of my mind keeps asking why anyone without magic stays there, as normal people seem to be cursed or hexed on a daily basis.]
In an attempt to separate herself from her family, Cassie has set herself up as a ‘normal’ detective, at least partly in the hopes of doing something about the unpleasant sorcerers who infest her town and pick on mundanes with evil glee. Even with her family’s protection, this is not the safest job in the world; I honestly don’t understand why she didn’t leave long ago. As the series progresses, Cassie is not only drawn into the feud between her family and their enemies, but into a whole series of supernatural threats against the entire community.
Cassie herself is a fun character to follow (I’m not convinced she’s the most objective of witnesses); brave, determined and unwilling to bow her head to greater force. She has nothing, but knowledge; the way she uses that knowledge, to gain advantage or beat people far more powerful than her, is admirable. I like her, although I don’t always understand her. The decisions her family makes in the first book (spoilers; sorry) should be enough to destroy any love she might have felt for them, particularly as they come alarmingly close to throwing her to the wolves. Uncovering the secrets her family and their enemies hold – including the horrific reason why Cassie was born without magic – forms a major part of the story.
Unfortunately, I can’t help thinking that Cassie is the only truly likable magician (or someone close to magic) in the story. I don’t think there was a single magician who was a decent person; indeed, the only person I can name who was, I think, was Evan’s mother. She calmly accepts the fact that Evan is in love with Cassie, even though Cassie is the oldest daughter of her family’s enemies. Power corrupts, as always; the trope runs right through the series.
One element I really didn’t like, at least at first, was the relationship between Cassie and Evan. They might have started life as school friends, but their relationship for most of the series was decidedly off-kilter. Evan is the typical controlling boyfriend; over-protective, stalking, taking decisions for Cassie despite her clear opposition … he might not have been quite as unpleasant as some of her other suitors (Cassie is targeted by hundreds of sorcerers who believe she has the genes for magic, without the power to defend herself) but I disliked him more than I cared to admit. He does grow up a lot in the final book, developing into a mature person who can actually be a good partner for Cassie, but I think most girls would have dumped him long before then. Think of a slightly warmer Edward Cullen and you get the idea. Their relationship is far from healthy.
Overall, most of the time, he wants a prize for basic decency.
Actually, that may be a little harsh. Given a chance to take advantage of Cassie, he doesn’t; given a chance to literally make Cassie marry him, he doesn’t. There are definite signs of a better character buried under the arrogance and entitlement (certainly when compared to the other suitors). That said, it doesn’t really help – IMHO – that most of the time he’s right. Cassie is in hellish danger and needs protection to survive. (She spends too much of the novel as a Damsel in Distress, although her attempts to escape that role disqualify her as a pure-blooded example of that trope.) Evan spends far too long hovering on the brink of ‘I must control you in order to keep you safe.’
It’s actually interesting to compare Cassie to Johan, even though they come from different worlds. Johan was abused far worse than Cassie and consequently had no intention of returning, when his powers finally developed. Cassie, on the other hand, wasn’t treated so badly and finds herself torn between a desire for independence and a desire to be truly part of her family. Johan made friends with Elaine, who helped to develop his magic; Cassie had to endure her creepy relationship with Evan. Johan tears his family apart; Cassie helps glue hers back together (after an outbreak of fighting between the two families that will probably sow the seeds for the next round of feuding.)
Mind you, I thought I saw parts of the ending coming, but the author still manages to surprise me.
Overall, the books are not particularly deep, but they’re definitely worth at least one read.