Siren Circle is a fitting successor to Ghost Garages in that it hits many of the same notes while providing a completely different story. I enjoy the blend of real life and magic, with consequences flowing in both directions, this series displays. Nothing comes easy for Pepper, but she’s a good person who acts with compassion…most of the time. There are some disturbing moments, and I say that when often it’s Pepper who is disturbed, where her dark vision of the future feels a little too plausible. It’s her self-awareness and wry humor that make Pepper so fun to hang out with, and her thought process with regards to her magic is delightful.
I did get frustrated a time or two when Pepper was slow to connect what seemed clear to me, but I’m really good at picking up subtle hints, so that’s probably just me. Often when I felt that way, within a page or two, Pepper comes to the same realization. I also find her a little too open considering the ever-present Dorothy and what happened in the first book, but then that’s part of her nature. The only one she’s paranoid about is herself. Which, by the way, is why I both understand and am unnerved by her going it alone with the magical information hunt when she has some witches she can trust.
For those who have not read the first book, or haven’t read it in a while, there’s a good bit of catch up/introductory information provided, but it comes up in context, which is beautifully done without disrupting the flow of the story. There were also many lines I just had to mark in my notes because they resonated and were just spot on. I’ll give you one example from Pepper’s thoughts, because it comes with a chuckle: “Parenting, the ultimate in improv performance.”
Which brings me to Pepper’s relationships. I love the way her kids are not perfect and neither is she, but she’s figuring her way through a very complex situation between her children having magic like hers and her ex hating anything to do with magic. The kids are complicated and sometimes not as smart as I’d expected, but on the other hand, emotions make it hard to think straight. Emotions are probably at the heart of how Pepper interacts with their father as well. She gives Matt far too much leeway in trying not to flip him out on the magic, and while it’s hard to confront his push for legal action, the consequences of him taking two magic-filled children into an anti-magic situation makes me want her to stand up for herself. She’s letting him write the narrative, and her kids aren’t smart enough to realize they’re being manipulated. Honestly, Matt annoyed me before, but now I’m developing an active dislike for his determined blindness and the damage it can cause.
While my feelings are mixed on the family dynamics, Pepper as a manager is wonderful. It’s not easy for her, especially with Rich working against her, but managing does flow naturally from her over-developed sense of responsibility. I also enjoyed the difficulties interacting with other magical beings as well. It makes her path harder and brings the different beings to full presence rather than the trolls and others serving as NPCs (non-player characters in games) there to hand her all the answers.
Her caution about her future is annoying at times, but only because she doesn’t give herself enough credit. On the other hand, she’s right to be cautious. I don’t understand why the others, Dorothy especially, aren’t more cautious around her considering the danger they believe she poses, something evident when she gets her dander up. Nor are Dorothy’s continued tirades at the coffee shop likely to keep magic secret.
You’ve probably figured out by now that I was very much engaged by the story. I’m not thrilled by where this one ends, in part because there were many rather than one dominant plot thread and only one got resolved by the end, though that could just be me. It’s not as if there wasn’t a climactic moment with big magic and big choices. It’s just that I wanted more resolution in the family thread than I got, and darn it, I wanted Dorothy to get what’s coming to her…which she might still.
All in all, a fun read with real people, both magical and not. I accuse Pepper of being slow, but I’m finally realizing this series is a lovely blend of the author’s murder mysteries and fantastical tales. Next book I’ll expect the bodies, and I’m certainly looking forward to what new troubles (and old) Pepper will have to face.