2 out of 4 stars
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The magical world of Kotalina is falling apart. The suns are setting earlier, the dragons have mysteriously disappeared, and someone is funneling the magic out of the land. Ametysta, a newly minted sorceress, sets out to save her world from peril. Gifted, clever, and in possession of a tourmaline (the most potent of all magic stones), Ametysta seems to have it all — including a sexy half-wolf, half-incubus lover. But Max, the wolf/incubus, is also smitten with a woman who’d give Ametysta a run for her money. Alluring, confident, and powerful in her own right, Brenda is also determined to uncover who’s behind the anomalies plaguing the land.
One’s a sorceress; the other’s a vampire. One’s in the service of the king of Kotalina, while the other’s an envoy for Aryman, the notorious prince of darkness. Our heroines' paths will inevitably cross, much to Max’s apprehension, but Kotalina needs all hands on deck to stop a sinister enemy from conquering all existing dimensions.
Viktoria Armstrong’s fantasy novel, Ametysta, has everything but the kitchen sink. The story is packed with details that can fill a series of books, though these are largely in the service of the worldbuilding, to the detriment of plot and character development. The worldbuilding is dense but not very deep. There are seven dimensions, but not much is known about three of them. Magic pervades the life of Kotalina’s inhabitants, but how the power system works is somewhat unclear. The protagonists are near-flawless creatures who manage to easily achieve their goals. Fantasy beings abound, from magi, gift-bearers, metamorphomagi, dryads, hobgoblins, and a king called the “Vik” who’s a mix of all the races. And these are just the ones introduced in the first chapter!
Many stories are derivative to a certain degree, but Ametysta just takes it up a notch. Muggles (non-magical people), animagi, moving portraits, and a goblin who behaves like a house-elf will remind readers of the Harry Potter series. There’s even a magic wardrobe that distorts time, like the one in The Chronicles of Narnia. Some elements move the story forward, but others (like the story’s version of an enchanted closet) have little relevance to the plot.
Relevance is a perpetual point of contention in this book. For example, why devote an entire chapter showing Brenda preparing and having breakfast? The constant info-dumping already bogged down the pace; the unnecessary details just took more time away from the climax and resolution. The much-anticipated meeting of Ametysta and Brenda feels anticlimactic. Max’s fear that he’d lose one of his lovers is merely glossed over when the moment of truth came. There’s a world-ending event threatening the characters’ lives, but there’s no sense of a ticking clock, and the stakes don’t feel real at all.
I rate Ametysta 1.5 stars, rounded up to 2 out of 4 stars. The book has a lot to offer; the plot and character development just need to be given as much attention as the worldbuilding. Though there are several typos (e.g., trop instead of drop, stilly instead of silly), this could be an issue with the translation of the text from Polish to English. The book also has some profanity and sex scenes, but nothing too excessive or extreme. Overall, fantasy readers who can look past the lack of novelty might find Armstrong’s world more nostalgic than off-putting. A less forgiving audience, however, might find this a tiresome read.
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