Review by Riley
Granny’s dying, but Zoraida can save her with a magic crystal of smoky quartz. Too bad the crystal is in Scotland—in a haunted castle—guarded by mind-reading, psychopathic sorcerers.
Getting inside Castle Logan is easy. Getting out––not so much. Before she can snatch the stone, Zoraida stumbles into a family feud, uncovers a wicked ancient curse, and finds herself ensorcelled by not one but two handsome Scottish witches.
Up to their necks in family intrigue and smack-dab in the middle of a simmering clan war, Zoraida and her best friend Zhu discover Granny hasn’t told them everything.
Not by a long shot.
Review of Zoraida Grey and the Family Stones
Zoraida Grey and the Family Stones (hereafter shortened to Family Stones for convenience) was first brought to my attention by author Sorchia DuBois, who thought the fact that she and her characters appreciate a nice glass of whiskey would appeal to me. Well, it is as good a reason as any to make a connection! Turns out, whiskey is not the only thing that appealed to me.
Family Stones is a contemporary fantasy that encompasses magic, mystery, wisdom, history, whiskey, tea and a cat. Most of the story takes place in an old castle in Scotland that is just filled up to the towers and and down to dungeons with atmosphere. The descriptions of Castle Logan bring the drafty medieval abode to life, complete with gates, crenelated fortifications, a keep, and, perhaps my favorite, an oubliette (a secret dungeon, with access only trough a trap door in its ceiling).
Magic runs in Zoraida’s family. Ms. DuBois paints magic as natural and logical, dark and light. Experience and training, of which Zoraida has the least, determine how well a person can wield its power. I do love it when the heroine has a challenge. Yes, she can read other people’s thoughts, but among the Logan clan, that talent is meager.
Zoraida will face many challenges at Castle Logan. For one thing, there is something going on there. Something cousin Michael is up to his handsome magical neck in. Except for Zoraida, the rest of the family is involved also to some degree, but Michael appears to be the puppet master. But master of what? That is the mystery.
Zoraida seems to be in over her head in Scotland. The day she arrives at Castle Logan, it becomes apparent that Granny did not tell her everything. But Granny has taught Zoraida many lessons. These lessons are played back to the reader at the beginning of each chapter. Bits of Zoraida’s history are revealed to announce a theme for each chapter. While the main story is told in first person present tense, these flashbacks switch to past tense. This method proved to be a great way to relate Zoraida’s history without her having to muse on it in the present tense.
Zoraida is not the only one that has history to reveal. Each little Logan family reveal adds a delicious, dangerous twist to the plot. The family is positively steeped in history. Which leads me to my next subject.
I’ve covered magic, mystery, wisdom and history. That brings me to two of my favorite beverages. Whiskey and tea. At this time, I will switch my spelling and drop the ‘e’. We are in Scotland after all.
Tea and whisky are essentials.
So says cousin Shea. I knew there was a reason I liked him from the beginning. I thought I was particular about my tea, but Shea makes brewing tea an exact science. I like this about him. Even if he is of questionable character. As for the whisky, every time the subject came up, the author’s appreciation for whisky was evident. Every time I read about Zoraida savoring her Laphroaig, I got thirsty myself.
The first person perspective really worked in this book. Zoraida is the storyteller, but knowing only her side of the tale just adds to the anticipation. For example, Zoraida sees Michael as handsome, powerful and not to be trusted. He comes across as nice, but Zoraida is pretty sure he is just pretending. I like that in a bad guy. You just never know if you can trust him. Zoraida isn’t all that sure about Shea either, though he seems a bit more honest. But it is only Zoraida’s viewpoint. Which keeps me wondering. Frustrating? Yes. But I love it!
The other major character you see only one side of is Zoraida’s friend Zhu. Zhu’s role is understated, but I kept remembering many of Zoraida’s early descriptions of her, not the least of which is: “behind Zhu’s delicate Oriental camouflage lurks the temperament of a wolverine with a toothache.” Zhu’s subtle nature is a source of humor and surprises. I dare you not to think she should get her own story!
Finally, I have arrived a the topic of ‘cat’. Grimalkin is Shea’s cat. Like Zhu, her role is understated, but I can tell, she is a special cat. She seems to like Zoraida just fine. The fact that Grimalkin likes Zoraida and also likes Shea, leads me to the conclusion that Shea is not evil. It is a cat-lover thing. I could be wrong. I hope not.
The reason I don’t know how right or wrong I am is because Family Stones does have a cliffhanger. And it is kind of a biggie. It annoyed me more that just a little. But the rest of the book was just so good! The story does not lack for plot development by any means, so the annoyance I felt when the book ended soon dissipated. The book is done, but the story continues.
So 4 ½ stars (½ off for cliffhanger – I have my standards), rounding up to 5 stars for the retail sites. Like I said, in Zoraida Grey and the Family Stones, you will find magic, mystery, wisdom, history, whiskey, tea and a cat – all sharing the path with twists, turns and anticipation. I have to have the next book in the series now!
The author provided a copy of her book so that I could bring you this honest review.
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