Short works

Books : reviews

T. A. Pratt.
Blood Engines.
Bantam. 2007

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 18 January 2018

Sorcerer Marla Mason, small-time guardian of the city of Felport, has a big problem. A rival is preparing a powerful spell that could end Marla’s life—and, even worse, wreck her city. Marla’s only chance of survival is a magical artifact hidden somewhere in San Francisco. But Marla finds her quest isn’t going to be as simple as she expected…and some of the people she needs to talk to are dead. It seems San Francisco’s top sorcerers are having troubles of their own—a mysterious assailant is gruesomely picking off the local talent, one by one.

With her partner-in-crime, Rondeau, Marla is soon racing against time through San Francisco’s alien streets, dodging poisonous frogs, murderous hummingbirds, cannibals, and the local witchery, who suspect that Marla herself may be behind the murders. lf Marla doesn’t figure out who is killing the city’s finest, she’ll be in danger of becoming a magical statistic herself…

Marla Mason is the witch in charge of Felport, but maybe not for much longer: a challenger is preparing a spell that could destroy her. So she’s gone to San Fransisco with her not-entirely-human sidekick Rondeau, to track down the one artefact that can help her. But her old friend who knows its location has been killed. Marla finds herself in a lot more trouble than just dodging a rival trying to take over her city: someone is trying to take over the whole world. And unless Marla can get her act together, he might just succeed.

This starts off with Marla being too much of an idiot. She’s supposed to be a reasonably competent witch, but she keeps arrogantly ignoring someone who just happens to pop into her life at key moments. But after a few chapters of ineffective running around, she eventually decides to notice the seer, and things start moving. It turns into a snappy and rather imaginative urban fantasy witch-against-the-big-bad tale, with an exciting denouement, an interesting resolution of her original problem, and some decisions that are going to come back to bite her later.

I’ll never look at hummingbirds in quite the same way again.

T. A. Pratt.
Poison Sleep.
Bantam. 2008

The bad girl of the magical underworld is back and badder than ever

Someone wants Marla Mason dead. Usually that’s not news. As chief sorcerer of Felport, someone always wants her dead. But this time she’s the target of a renegade assassin who specializes in killing his victims over days, months, or even years. Not to mention a mysterious knife-wielding killer in black who pops up in the most unexpected places. To make matters worse, an inmate has broken out of the Blackwing Institute for criminally insane sorcerers—a troubled psychic who can literally reweave the fabric of reality to match her own traumatic past.

With her wisecracking partner Rondeau reluctantly in tow, Marla teams up with a “lovetalker” whose dangerous erotic spells not even she can resist. Together they’re searching the rapidly transforming streets of Felport for a woman who’s become the Typhoid Mary of nightmares, infecting everything—and everyone—she touches with a chaos worse than death itself.