A Magick Murder Mystery to Start the Year

When I was asked to review Holly Rhiannon’s witchy YA book, A Time When Demons, it sounded like just what the doctor ordered.

Fiction is important. When studies cite the importance of reading (which include, but are not limited to, stress relief, along with improved concentration and memory), it’s based on fiction (this is your brain, this is your brain on fiction).

Now think about what you’re usually reading: probably mostly comments and texts, atrociously written at that. Next in line is most likely articles, be them summaries or editorials, skillfully written (sometimes), but still non-fiction. In fact, even though I’m a fiction writer by preference, I’ve noticed that for the past few years I’ve been reading more non-fiction than anything else, stuffing my head with facts rather than reaping any of those fabulous fiction benefits.

Firstly, I dunno how or why things get classified as YA. I know some wonderful children’s books that are arguably even better as an adult (Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth, and Lewis Carroll’s Alice for instance). Secondly, I wouldn’t say this book is appropriate for under 16s for some of the same reasons some adults will really dig this. While the writing is accessible, it’s got all the thrilling stuff: lust, puppy love, murder, and magick (plus one scene that merits the book a suicide trigger warning).

I don’t read romance novels. Now, this isn’t a romance novel, but it has more infatuation and longing than I’m used to, which was fun. There really was a time when every crush became the centre of the world, and you could love someone you’d never spoken to so much that it hurt.

It’s intense, and a nice place to visit, but man, I’m glad I don’t live there anymore (how did any of use survive the beautiful heartache?!). These characters are about 18, so they’re in the thick of it.

I appreciated the way the magick was handled here. Powers were clear and limited, and the parameters followed the whole way through, thus preventing any of the characters from becoming invincible. That might sound like a low bar, but it’s all I ask of stories with superpowers. Superman used to just “leap” over tall buildings, you know, but I digress.

I can’t tell you too much about the murder bit, as I’m trying hard to avoid spoilers. What I can say is that I believe there are mysteries where the astute reader can pick up clues throughout the narrative and make an educated guess (albeit probably a wrong one that you’ve intentionally been led to), and there are the kind where at the end of the story we’re all equally surprised together, and probably couldn’t have seen that coming. This falls into the category of the latter, with the wrap up bringing the murderer, means, and motive together and putting a bow on it.

It’s probably fair for me to say that I’m not a fan of “pop” literature. If it’s “this season’s hottest novel” or “flying off the shelves”, it’s probably not my bag. Love stories make me roll my eyes, murder mysteries rarely catch my attention, and I’m certainly no youth (as much as that pains me to admit). If we’re talking bookstore categories, I’ve been a consistent “lit fic” chick since puberty.

With A Time When Demons, I enjoyed the magick, and the sense of emotional chaos created by a character trying to be true to themselves while also being aware of the expectations pressing in on them.

This might work for the youth / magick / murder lover in your life, or someone looking to give those genres a try. It’s available in hard copy and ebook formats, and written by a Montreal based author, so support your local artists.

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