Alex Benedict works as a magical consultant for the police since his estrangement from his wealthy and influential family.
As Mandeville, the fiance of the very rich heir Julian St.Alban is murdered, Alex takes the case. Unusual circumstances force Julian to invoke an ancient courtship lottery (think the Bachelor), and Alex decides to take part, as to better observe the other suitors and find the culprit among them. But as Julian and Alex get along better and better, Alex decides winning might just be his major goal, after all.
I was pretty excited about this book, since I adore unusual magic systems, and Alex's acoustics-based magic was quite unusual and fun, too.
I loved all the bits in the book about the magic, making potions and amulets, listening to auras, magical creatures and all that. Even the pretty long and detailed parts. But it's new and unknown to me, so it works.
But then the author pads the whole book with just mundane, everyday clutter. The world is essentially modern, just with added magic and some rather archaic traditions for the elite.
So when we get to listen to a full report on Alex's day, every action and hour accounted for, basically, it gets boring fast.
There is so much in there about going out to eat, or someone cooking, about drinking tea, playing card games, driving around, having entirely normal and meaningless chats with people. Nothing about it is unique to the world, interesting or unusual. It's what most of us do. So I really did not need to read a full page about Alex and friends taking breakfast or visiting a bakery, when a short sentence would do just as well. Not to mention endless, detailed analysis's of his foods and clothes. It doesn't further the plot or deepen the characterization and I just did not care. The book could have easily been made about half-length, without missing something important.
That said, I did like the plot, when something did happen. I though the action part where good, the mystery was not bad, even though I thought in the end it was a bit of a throw-away, but I liked it while it lasted. I did not immediately get who was the murderer, maybe because I didn't read the book in one go, but I wasn't very surprised either. Though, I do have to say, in the end I found the whole case wasn't very well explained, and seemed rather forced or maybe the villains where just stupid, I don't know.
I did like Alex, though I felt the book did a pretty major bait and switch with him. In the first 10% I read as a teaser, he was more of a grumpy, anti-social outcast that was hard to get along with.
And right after that he morphs into a charming, joking, chain-flirting guy, who acquires friends left and right. I think the author wanted to go for a transition, but it was essentially a sudden cut.
I think I liked him better in the beginning, but I found him still charming and cute for the rest of the book.
The romance is a pretty minor part, even though it's integral for the story. Julian really doesn't show up all that much, compared to all the other side-characters, like the guardians, and he's pretty flat too. Sympathetic, but with little depth. Alex doesn't even think about him too much when he's not around, as is usual in most romances.
The relationship with Alex also evolves quite fast and really smooth, there is no drama or doubt in that respect. It's not so much a slow burn, as just no burn at all.
All in all I did not hate be book, because the magic bits where so intriguing, but it annoyed me a lot of the time with it's length, and in the end I did not quite feel satisfied enough with any of it. It get's 2,5 stars, rounded up, because I'm nice like that.
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Very interesting magic system, rather padded and flat in all other aspectsSakuko
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