Oakland Arcana: Awakening/ posted in: Book Review, Reading Oakland Arcana: Awakening by Renae Jones
on October 2, 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction
The world is complicated. Power is currency, lives are cheap. Hephzibah Euphrasia Joséphine d'Albret hates her name. She hates the life she comes from, the fourth daughter of a legendary family—and, perilously, the one with negligible magical potential. And that suits her fine. Fleeing the Authority allows her to choose her own path: software engineer and startup founder. Finally, Zizi’s found a life she loves. One that doesn’t care about the magic she doesn’t have. Unfortunately for her, Zizi is all Oakland has. With misfit allies and lethal enemies around every corner, an encyclopedic understanding of magic theory, and serious amounts of snark, can this Sorceress possibly survive the summer?
Zizi is used to being considered a failure. She’s the powerless youngest daughter of a powerful Sorceress. Sorceresses bond with cities and use their power to protect them. Zizi was trained for the role since birth just like her sisters. But she never was able to do much magic and she left that world behind. At least she did until that night a year ago with too much tequila when she bonded with the city of Oakland.
I heard about this book on Twitter. I was in as soon as I heard the author’s description of Oakland (and all the cities) as distinct sentient beings.
This book was great. Zizi hasn’t told anyone that she is bonded to Oakland. She knows that is going to bring down all kinds of bureaucratic nightmares down on her. No one suspects it because Oakland as been unbonded for thirty years. But now there are all kinds of weird things going on in Oakland and Zizi needs help. She needs an Arcana.
Arcanas are the groups of magical helpers that surround Sorceresses. Zizi doesn’t want one. Most Sorceresses use their power to bond their Arcana to them. They can compel their people to do what they want. The main way they do this is through Earth magic and sex. Zizi wants nothing to do with this and starts to assemble a team that wants out of the old ways of doing things too.
The characters in this book are fresh takes on many of the common types seen in urban fantasy books. The vampires are truly vicious but also do a lot of their business at Taco Tuesday/Cowboy Karaoke Night. (“Don’t do Dolly if you can’t stick the landing” might now be my favorite mixed metaphor ever.) There is a kraken in a lake raising an orphaned capricorn even though the baby is a vegetarian and the kraken is disturbed by that. There is a weretiger pack in Chinatown.
The book starts with Zizi having been the secret Sorceress for a year. Sometimes it can feel like maybe you missed a previous book when she refers to events in the past but this is the first one. I loved the combination of sassiness and smarts that Zizi has. She’s very smart and took her magical training seriously growing up so she has the theoretical knowledge she needs even if she doesn’t have the power that would help get everything done. She’s very funny. I found myself highlighting a lot of lines in the e-book. I liked the idea of a sex-positive bisexual heroine who is adamant that she is not going to use sex to get things done.
I’m looking forward to seeing where this series goes in the future.
My only criticism is that there are a few typos, grammatical errors, and misspelled words in the book but I loved this book so much that I’m forgiving that.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- Books Set in North America
- LBGTQ authors/characters