SPFBO Review: Sworn to the Night by Craig Schaefer

37806236Moving right along with my finalist reviews! This one I decided to wait on an audible credit for, as I’ve found a lot more time for audiobooks lately than print books.

Marie Reinhart is an NYPD detective on the trail of a serial killer. When she sleeps, though, she dreams of other lives; she dreams of being a knight, in strange wars and strange worlds. On the other side of the city, Nessa Roth is a college professor trapped in a loveless marriage, an unwilling prop in a political dynasty. She’s also a fledgling witch, weaving poppets and tiny spells behind closed doors. 

When Marie’s case draws her into Nessa’s path, sparks fly. What comes next is more than a furtive whirlwind affair; it’s the first pebbles of an avalanche. Nessa and Marie are the victims of a curse that has pursued them across countless lifetimes; a doom designed to trap them in a twisted living fairy tale, with their romance fated to end in misery and death. 

They aren’t going out without a fight. As they race to uncover the truth, forces are in motion across the country. In Las Vegas, a professional thief is sent on a deadly heist. In a Detroit back alley, witches gather under the guidance of a mysterious woman in red. Just outside New York, an abandoned zoo becomes the hunting-ground for servants of a savage and alien king. The occult underground is taking sides and forming lines of battle. Time is running out, and Nessa and Marie have one chance to save themselves, break the curse, and demand justice. 

This time, they’re writing their own ending.

This book follows Marie Reinhart, who is an NYPD detective investigating the disappearance/murders of several prostitutes. She’s put on administrative leave due to a shootout along the way, but despite that, she can’t stop investigating, because nobody seems to be as interesting in investigating as she is.

It’s also the story of Vanessa Roth, a college professor and amateur artist who is married to a big time real estate magnate, and isn’t very happy at all. She dabbles in witchcraft on the side, with various success.

Marie’s investigation brings her into Nessa’s path, and when the two of them meet, it’s like they can’t take their eyes off each other. Marie tends to have dreams where her and Nessa are together, but in other worlds and in other times.

At the same time, some shady shit is going down behind the scenes. A crazy brotherhood of demon-ish worshipers are hunting people in an abandoned zoo. A group of witches are causing shenanigans. A card-flinging sorcerer is tasked with retrieving an item of some importance. All while a new drug called Ink is making its way around New York, and nobody can figure out where it comes from.

I’m never expecting books to grab me right off the bat, but this one certainly did. Before I knew it, it was 5 hours into the audiobook and it was time to go home from work (yaaaay)! However, this said, I found that I liked the first half a lot more than the last half.

It was very well written, there’s some great prose and fantastic imagery here, which made the world I imagined very dark and gritty, and so I was sucked right into the world, but I ended up faltering a lot in the second half of the book because characters I had liked in the first half became profoundly different in ways that I just didn’t grab onto. So, I liked the world that was built up, but in the end… well I didn’t really like the main characters by the end.

I liked Marie at first, the cop who goes above and beyond even the law to help those she feels are in need. As the story progressed, I found that she had lost a lot of what I liked about her when Nessa and she had started a relationship and Marie became suddenly very submissive to her. I didn’t start out disliking Nessa exactly, but I didn’t ever really like her by the end of the story. There is certainly merit in her overcoming being timid and submissive to become her true dominant and witchy self, but I found that this change was far too sudden for me, and was rather jarring. It wasn’t the instalove that bothered me, as this story presented an actual reason for that, but Nessa was very suddenly ‘you’re mine and you do what I say’ and Marie was suddenly ‘yes, yes, anything for you’. I’ve no problem with a dom/sub relationship in a book, but if that was how it was going to go, I feel like there should have been more lead up to it than there was.

Perhaps there was more lead up to it though, in some of Schaefer’s other novels. This book appears to be the culmination of a few different series by this author (don’t worry, this series doesn’t necessarily require that you’ve read them), in which characters in this series, including Nessa and Marie, have played a part. I think that I probably would have enjoyed this book more had I read the series that came before it. I would probably have understood the characters’ motivations more.

I am a very character oriented person, and alas, we can’t all love everyone… but one or two characters certainly stood out  to me. My favorite example here is the inclusion of a eccentric and half-crazed scientist who is also a sorcerer (because magic is science) who can conjure up fractals by casting a spell using the Mandelbrot set.  Daniel Faust was another character that was intriguing as hell to me, and I think I shall further investigate that series in the future, because he sounds like he leads a rather interesting life, and he had all kinds of snark to throw at people, and I do love me some snark.

The narrator, Susannah Jones, did a pretty good job. The narration was good, but the recording was sometimes a little iffy, in that I heard background noise once or twice which, as you can imagine sort of breaks up the flow to me. But, the narration was well done in general, and I didn’t have a hard time staying engaged with the audiobook.

So, all told, I liked it but I didn’t love it. There were definitely some cool and unique ideas presented here, and some lovely writing that told an interesting story, but I just could not like Nessa no matter what I did, and considering how much Marie ends up liking Nessa, I just sort of crinkled my nose at that whole dynamic and ran with it. So it goes, as they say.

Given all that, I’d say that I had 7/10 stars of fun with this one. (Reminder that this is only my score, not the final Team Weatherwax score). Not my favorite finalist thusfar, but definitely worth the read especially if you like Urban Fantasy with some interesting magical and ritualistic elements.


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