I have had the first two books of Nancy A. Collins’ Golgotham series for far too long. They’ve been near the top of my to-read next list from the start. So you can understand my sadness when Right Hand Magic (#1 in the Golgotham series) didn’t pan out the way I had hoped.
Upper-class sculptor Tate flees a bad breakup and her SoHo loft for a cheap apartment in Golgotham, New York City’s supernatural ghetto, in Collins’s bubbly urban fantasy series launch. Tate’s new landlord, Hexe, is a warlock prince outcast for using only right-hand magic to help people, rather than the left-hand magic of curses. Soon after they rescue a were-cougar fleeing the fighting pits, Tate and Hexe fall in love. The first human on the block, Tate gains insight into gentrification while holding on to some unfortunate prejudices. Collins (Vamps) wins with images like centaurs harnessed to hansom cabs, but the humor is sometimes forced, as are regrettable attempts at local dialect (“until ya gets someone t’take it”) and slang (“I’ll never bend my knee to a nump-loving dexie!”). Readers will look for future installments to flesh out the intriguing setting, the true star of the series.
Before I explain why, I will mention the things I did like in Right Hand Magic. Creativity abounds. You have centaurs, the Kymerians who are warlocks with 6 fingers on each hand and outrageous hair colors like purple and orange, goblins, satyrs, familiars, wereanimals, etc. There was even a unicorn! The centaurs drive cabs. The right hand and left hand magic (right is good and heals, left is for killing and some Kymerian practice both) and mob bosses. There are scrying crystals the size of a small egg which can be used as a map or to watch someone’s past. One can magically transport items from one location to another without being there in person. And then the story itself, a regular human artist moving to Golgotham, the semi hidden world of all things magical basically and her living amongst them, was entertaining. Even her particular style of art, using automobile and other mechanical parts to create movable art based on famous statues was pretty cool and I could totally see all of Tate’s pieces in my head.
The things I didn’t like: The dialog in many places was a bit corny and very long. For instance, when a character is explaining something, they talk for one big paragraph or two without interruption. It was too much telling instead of showing, for me. I would have liked more interaction between characters, questions and discussing the topic, not just an explanation all the way through. There was also a ton of explanations and referencing in Right Hand Magic, which is fine for this research nut, but it was a lot to digest for one book, especially one that’s only 284 pages. If descriptions of items, creatures, locations, etc. had been spread more throughout the series, it would have been easier to remember everything. Lastly, I do enjoy new languages and terms, it helps make books seem more real and plausible, but sometimes the language created isn’t a good fit. In Right Hand Magic, a nump is a human… I giggled every time I read that; and the term fecker which means a contemptible person, more giggles. And saying abdabs like someone would say damn…
So while I was cringing and laughing throughout most of the book, I did enjoy the creativity in Right Hand Magic. It wasn’t like your typical magical creature story-line; you have action and adventure and even some romance thrown in. I can’t say I’m excited to read the next book in the series, Left Hand Magic, but I do enjoy centaurs and magic and all that mythology and for that I’ll gladly give it a shot too.