The Seat of Magic – J. Kathleen Cheney

About the Book

Magical beings have been banned from the Golden City for decades, though many live there in secret. Now humans and nonhumans alike are in danger as evil stalks the streets, growing more powerful with every kill….

It’s been two weeks since Oriana Paredes was banished from the Golden City. Police consultant Duilio Ferreira, who himself has a talent he must keep secret, can’t escape the feeling that, though she’s supposedly returned home to her people, Oriana is in danger.

Adding to Duilio’s concerns is a string of recent murders in the city. Three victims have already been found, each without a mark upon her body. When a selkie under his brother’s protection goes missing, Duilio fears the killer is also targeting nonhuman prey.

To protect Oriana and uncover the truth, Duilio will have to risk revealing his own identity, put his trust in some unlikely allies, and consult a rare and malevolent text known as The Seat of Magic….

400 pages (paperback)
Published on July 1, 2014
Published by Roc
Author’s webpage

This book was sent for me to review by the publisher.

The first thing I want to address regarding this book is the cover art. I always take books with me to work because I get some precious reading done during my breaks. Sometimes my coworkers will comment on the books I read based on the cover art. I have honestly never had so many people ask me what I was reading based on the alluring cover art before. So, the results of my unofficial, unprofessional study are as follows. This cover art is classy and eye catching, and I gave out more book, series, and author information to people purely based on the cover art than I’ve ever done before.

So there is that.

The Seat of Magic is the second book in The Golden City series. While I do recommend starting with the first book, new readers might be able to start here with minimal struggling. However, if you do start here, expect to spend some time getting used to the world, cultures, and the tensions that are at play. Cheney has a way with creating a world that is both mysterious and real at the same time. Past Portugal isn’t a place I’ve ever spent much literary time in, but Cheney makes it so vibrant that I feel like I could live there, or have visited at some time. The world is seamless, natural, and easy to sink into.

In fact, that’s probably what I noticed about The Seat of Magic more than it’s predecessor The Golden City. While The Golden City was easy to enjoy, it felt more forced than The Seat of Magic. Cheney has already done all the heavy lifting, and it pays off. The foundation has been built, and it is a firm one. In The Seat of Magic she is free to embellish, add layers, smooth out some details that seemed a bit loud in the previous book. Due to that, Cheney expands quite a bit on the political situation, and she adds some family, friend, and personal relationships for some great depth.

All of this makes the world itself feel a lot larger, not really in dimensions on a map, but in the reality of it all (if that makes any sense at all). Before The Golden City was interesting. Now, in The Seat of Magic, it’s real. That’s a huge difference. While there is plenty of politics and relationship dynamics at play, Cheney keeps them easy to absorb, and somehow manages to make all of them from being overwhelming to readers.

For the most part, despite some trauma that happens at the start of the book which can make the start feel a little slow, things pick up almost directly after where things left off in the previous book. The family dynamics really allow readers to get a different perspective into their two main protagonists. The story is mostly told from Duilio and Oriana’s perspectives, but occasionally Joaquim’s voice would tell a bit of the story. While I appreciated how he added a different dynamic to the things that were happening, I did find myself less interested in his sections of the book, and occasionally it caused the book to feel a touch uneven.

Duilio and Oriana were set up for a potential romance in the previous book, and I really and to give Cheney a tip of my imaginary hat for how she handles their affection in The Seat of Magic. It’s a slow, subtle burn that adds some real tension to the plot but never skips ahead. While Duilio and Oriana are more comfortable together, and their attraction is obvious, they haven’t known each other long, and Cheney deals with it naturally. These are two people getting to know each other, and it felt very real.

The Seat of Magic moves pretty quickly. Oriana and Duilio are both more certain of themselves and their relationship to the world and politics around them. They felt more adult, and due to that, I could really enjoy the book and what happens in it rather than wait for the two protagonists to have some sort of revelation regarding their place in the world.

While The Golden City was a book I truly enjoyed, The Seat of Magic stands head and shoulders aboveit. Cheney felt more confident. Her world was more dynamic and real. Her characters seemed far more comfortable in their own skin. The politics and family relationships added a depth that I really appreciated. The plot was fast moving. The Seat of Magic shows Cheney’s skill. This is a series I loved from the start, but now I feel really invested. I want more.


4/5 stars

One Responses

  • Yet another series I should read…

    There is something to the “second novel focus on the story” and not doing such heavy worldbuilding as the first that can be a blessing and a curse.

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