Official Review: The Bonding Spell by M. L. Doyle

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Latest Review: The Bonding Spell by M. L. Doyle

Official Review: The Bonding Spell by M. L. Doyle

Post by inaramid » 13 Nov 2019, 06:02

[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "The Bonding Spell" by M. L. Doyle.]
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3 out of 4 stars
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“If you didn’t drop it, don’t pick it up.” Years of training as a soldier had drilled that warning in Hester Trueblood’s head. But when she saw a gold coin out in the Iraqi desert, she went against her instincts and picked it up, triggering a spell that bonded her to Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of love and war.

M. L. Doyle’s The Bonding Spell, the first book of The Desert Goddess series, follows Hester six years after the bond was activated. Her life is drastically changed. While being the vessel of a goddess has its share of perks (e.g., superpowers and immeasurable wealth), it also came with a few caveats. Hester is now fighting a different type of war, one that involves ogres and monsters and witches, all the while struggling to keep the goddess from taking complete control of her body and mind. Inanna’s feelings for a certain demigod, Gilgamesh, further complicate matters. And let’s not even start on the goddess’ voracious sexual appetite! Hester’s plate is full, but a sinister force is on a killing spree, dishing out extra helpings of pain and suffering that threaten to tear apart everything that Hester holds dear.

Doyle certainly knows how to keep things interesting, concocting a genre-crossing story that blends elements of fantasy, mythology, mystery, and romance. The writing is quite engrossing, with Hester’s first-person narration shedding insight into the depths of her bond with Inanna. Throughout the narrative, Hester’s internal struggles are laid bare. Should she tell her family her secret? Should she surrender herself to the goddess? Are her feelings for Gilgamesh truly hers? Doyle then ramps up the suspense with each page, as dark family secrets are unraveled and exposed.

The mystery unfolds at just the right time, with just enough breadcrumbs to point readers to the culprit but with just as much red herrings to lead them astray. The sheer number of characters — human, divine, or otherwise — makes this a difficult case to crack, but the resulting relationships add layers of intricacies to an already complex plot. The cast is notably diverse, both in terms of ethnicity and sexuality. And although the narrative sometimes meanders to the mundane affairs of other minor characters, Hester’s internal and external conflicts tie everything together and keep the story on track.

However, there’s more than a bit of wish fulfillment in Hester’s story. In a snap, she became wealthy enough to own a restaurant and live in a luxurious apartment, so powerful that she’d win in an underground mixed martial arts fight (where she’s the only female competitor), and much too desirable that a retinue of men (and one demigod) are all positively eager to do her bidding. This is my biggest problem with the book: Everything Hester has doesn’t feel earned. Doyle shows us how it all began, but then she skips to a time when Hester has already adjusted to her new life. We don’t see the mistakes, the doubts, and the dilemma that anyone in Hester’s situation would have done or experienced. It's hard to relate to her fear of losing herself when we don’t know who she was before Inanna came into the picture. Glossing over the first six years of the Hester-Inanna bond is, I think, a huge missed opportunity.

I wavered between a rating of 2 and 3 stars. Apart from the issue cited above, the text had several punctuation mistakes and glaring spelling errors (e.g., “inpatient” instead of “impatient”), especially in the second half of the book. However, there’s a good, solid mystery here that detective fiction enthusiasts would surely enjoy. Fans of fantasy and mythology would also love how embedded these elements are in the story. Overall, I’d have to go with a rating of 3 out of 4 stars.

Potential readers should note that the story contains a fair amount of gore worthy of a horror movie flick, some graphic scenes of death reminiscent of a Criminal Minds episode, as well as allusions to child abuse that might trigger some unsuspecting readers. A couple of racy scenes and occasional instances of profanity also make this unsuitable for younger readers.

******
The Bonding Spell
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Post by Fazzier » 15 Nov 2019, 03:14

This novel sounds like a hard-to-put-down read. With the secrets Hester is keeping to herself and the difficult-to-crack mystery, I think I can also find it both engrossing and enjoyable. Excellent review!

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Post by Miller56 » 15 Nov 2019, 12:51

Thanks for the review. Your point about the story not showing the process of earning something good in your life is very valid. It certainly takes away from a story when it feels like a big chunk of time is missing.

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Post by Juliet+1 » 15 Nov 2019, 19:50

Thanks for a great review! I think I would like this book, even with gaps and gore. Perhaps the author could be persuaded to write a prequel to cover those missing six years. :D

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Latest Review: The Bonding Spell by M. L. Doyle

Post by inaramid » 16 Nov 2019, 20:35

Fazzier wrote: ↑
15 Nov 2019, 03:14
This novel sounds like a hard-to-put-down read. With the secrets Hester is keeping to herself and the difficult-to-crack mystery, I think I can also find it both engrossing and enjoyable. Excellent review!
I do think the mystery part is its greatest aspect. Thanks for dropping by!

Miller56 wrote: ↑
15 Nov 2019, 12:51
Thanks for the review. Your point about the story not showing the process of earning something good in your life is very valid. It certainly takes away from a story when it feels like a big chunk of time is missing.
There were brief flashbacks throughout the review, but they weren't nearly enough to establish the MC's past.

Juliet+1 wrote: ↑
15 Nov 2019, 19:50
Thanks for a great review! I think I would like this book, even with gaps and gore. Perhaps the author could be persuaded to write a prequel to cover those missing six years. :D
I was thinking about a prequel too! Then readers will also get to see how all the characters met.

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Post by Mbrooks2518 » 17 Nov 2019, 07:57

This seemed like an interesting story, but I don't think it's for me. I agree with your point about the time skip. It would make sense to at least have a smaller time jump. Great review!

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Latest Review: The Bonding Spell by M. L. Doyle

Post by inaramid » 17 Nov 2019, 08:33

Mbrooks2518 wrote: ↑
17 Nov 2019, 07:57
This seemed like an interesting story, but I don't think it's for me. I agree with your point about the time skip. It would make sense to at least have a smaller time jump. Great review!
I agree. But I'd go for no time jump at all! :) Thanks for dropping by!

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Post by Everydayadventure15 » 25 Nov 2019, 10:25

I love the layers of complexity you described in this genre blended book. It does seem like Hester’s missing backstory would take away from connecting with her character, but overall the story sounds very interesting. Thanks for the great review!

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Post by Falconcrest » 28 Nov 2019, 05:29

This book seems to have it all and I must applaud you for a great opening to your review. I can tell that you were deeply engaged in this story. The elements of mystery and a vixen Goddess make this book a very appetizing story. Thanks for an outstanding review.

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Post by SomeoneInTheWorld » 29 Nov 2019, 16:40

Wow, I don't even want to imagine how is it to live Hester's life, when your body and mind are not fully yours anymore and you can't trust your feelings because you don't even know if they are truly yours. Great review!

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Latest Review: The Bonding Spell by M. L. Doyle

Post by inaramid » 30 Nov 2019, 20:00

Everydayadventure15 wrote: ↑
25 Nov 2019, 10:25
I love the layers of complexity you described in this genre blended book. It does seem like Hester’s missing backstory would take away from connecting with her character, but overall the story sounds very interesting. Thanks for the great review!
Thanks for dropping by! It is an interesting story regardless, though I would still love to see a prequel.

Falconcrest wrote: ↑
28 Nov 2019, 05:29
This book seems to have it all and I must applaud you for a great opening to your review. I can tell that you were deeply engaged in this story. The elements of mystery and a vixen Goddess make this book a very appetizing story. Thanks for an outstanding review.
Thank you for your comment! "Appetizing" is a very apt word indeed.

SomeoneInTheWorld wrote: ↑
29 Nov 2019, 16:40
Wow, I don't even want to imagine how is it to live Hester's life, when your body and mind are not fully yours anymore and you can't trust your feelings because you don't even know if they are truly yours. Great review!
The author did a nice job with these elements. Thanks for dropping by!

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Post by SwanSecrets868 » 04 Dec 2019, 22:37

Beautiful concept.
I don't see these types of books often but when I do I'm always up for a good read.

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Latest Review: The Bonding Spell by M. L. Doyle

Post by inaramid » Yesterday, 07:11

SwanSecrets868 wrote: ↑
04 Dec 2019, 22:37
Beautiful concept.
I don't see these types of books often but when I do I'm always up for a good read.
Do give it a try!

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