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Here is what it's ostensibly about: Jocasta Pantile is a 130-year-old private detective hired by a wealthy and dangerous wizard to track down his stolen spells and kill all who have handled them. Her assistant is an Anubis-like manufactured being known as a spellhound, and it can track the stolen spells over great swaths of time and distance.
Sounds promising enough, except very quickly the character we take to be the main one, Jocasta, is pushed offstage by the sidekick, the spellhound, who occupies much of the story, at least as much of the story as is concerned with tracking spells and killing people. Yet much of what occurs in the pages has nothing to do with the initial conceit, telling instead the tales of other people who have, to one degree or another, availed themselves of the stolen spells, one to resurrect a dead lover, another to lure and feed while marooned at the bottom of the sea, another to find true love, and so on and so on. Though telling the stories of how these stolen spells are used is seemingly a fantastic idea full of potential, one in which we might expect to see the wizard's mad drive to possess mighty powers contrasted with the simpler and more humane ambitions of lesser beings -- and from which contrast we might recognize a powerful theme with something important to say about human nature and desire -- we instead get a botch job in which characters and situations remain undeveloped, poorly connected, and a simple theme of vengeance finds itself imposed upon the far stronger one suggested by the material itself.
And that, in the end, is what this book is really about: Missed opportunity. Harvey's ideas, at least in Vengeance, outstripped his ability to do them justice.
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