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Silver Hollow, Book 1
Goodreads⎮Reviewed Oct. 2017
Narrator: Amy Rubinate
Length: 5 hrs and 50 mins
Publisher: Tantor Audio⎮2017
Synopsis: When town troublemaker, Louella Drummond, drops dead in front of Isolde Quinn’s pet store just minutes after threatening both Issy and her cousin Graeme, the police in the small lakeside town of Silver Hollow assume it’s from natural causes.
Until it’s discovered that Louella was murdered.
Not just any murder, though. Murder by paranormal means. Dark magic that could only have been performed by a powerful witch. And every law-abiding paranormal knows that dark magic is forbidden and carries strict punishment at the hands of “the committee” – the mysterious entity that provides law and order within the paranormal community.
Being witches, Issy and her three cousins fear they are at the top of the suspect list. To make matters worse, a secret division of the FBI has gotten wind of the happenings in Silver Hollow and sent two agents to ferret out paranormal activity. Even worse than that, Issy is annoyingly attracted to one of them!
Armed with their unconventional posse of familiars, Issy and her cousins dodge the efforts of the police and the special FBI agents while following a twisty path of clues that lead to a shocking betrayal.
3.75 ★ Audiobook⎮A Spell of Trouble was a cute prelude to Halloween. As a cozy mystery, it checked almost all the right boxes. It took place in a small town, had an interesting group of characters, and a “whodunit” that I just couldn’t crack. Plus, there was the added benefit of it being a paranormal cozy mystery. That’s really what drew me in. It reminded me somewhat of the Halfway Witchy series.
On the surface, A Spell of Trouble seemed a lot more appealing to me than it was once I began. The main character and her cousins are all witches with varying abilities living in a small town. I love witch stories and stories about families. The protagonist, Issy, runs a magical pet shop. I’m crazy about animals. Those three things should have been enough to guarantee at least a four star rating from me, but something fell short.
The key to writing great cozy mystery is the writing itself. If the writing is lacking, the entire story suffers. The writing of A Spell of Trouble was just slightly off the mark and it made the story come off as too “kids-y”. It’s a common complaint with cozy mysteries and the paranormal angle of this one wasn’t enough to save it. The character development and the world-building were one dimensional, which prevented me from being able to completely dive in.
The mystery itself was fairly entertaining and one that I wasn’t able to figure out beforehand. The paranormal element disguised its predictability pretty well. Even though the resolution seemed a little out of left field, I still enjoyed hearing Issy investigate. I liked that she teamed up with her cousins and that the family angle was played up more than a romantic angle. A center stage romance probably would have done me in.
The point in which my enjoyment began to decline was when I realized that the plot was progressing, but the story was not. In other words, it was moving forward, but I wasn’t being pulled in. Despite there being mentions of adult things, the simplistic and repetitive writing style made A Spell of Trouble come off like a middle grade book. Take out the few references to a midnight sex ritual and this actually could have passed as a middle grade book. The premise of the story was so promising, but I was ultimately disappointed by the lack of depth. The whole thing was just too Saturday morning cartoon-ish.
However, if you’re looking for a super “spoopy”story for Halloween, A Spell of Trouble would be perfect. It was an extremely easy listen and would be great for anyone looking for something more cute than scary.
Narration review: I haven’t heard anything from Amy Rubinate in a while. My last listen from her was the final installment in The Selection series, The One. She narrated the three original books in The Selection series, so when I saw that she was also narrating this audiobook, I didn’t hesitate to make the purchase.
My listening experience with A Spell of Trouble is a testament to the symbiotic nature of narrator and story. If I hadn’t already had a positive experience with Amy Rubinate as narrator, I might have come away from this experience with a more negative opinion of her talent. In A Spell of Trouble, I found her characterizations a little too cartoonish and almost patronizing, although certainly distinct. My opinion of the narration may have been partially influenced by my dislike of story itself, because the sample of her narration for The Selection series doesn’t come off that way. It can be really hard to separate opinions of the story and the narration sometimes. Overall, it wasn’t a terrible listening experience. The sound quality wasn’t quite what I thought it should be, which was surprising, but I still recommend this on audiobook. ♣︎