Of Magic and Scales (Natalina Reis)

Of Magic and Scales is a novel by Natalina Reis.
Finished on: 25.4.2020
[I won this book in a LibraryThing Early Reviewer Give-Away.]

Despite being human, Aiden has the ability to see magical creatures for what they are. He used to be a private detective in the USA, but tired of having to deal with the magical population over there, he decided to give himself a new start in Portugal where he is running a coffee shop now, blissfully undiscovered by the magical population. Or so he thought. When different magical beings get killed, Aiden is not only sought out by a witch who requests his detective skills to help, but also meets Naël, grumpy, gorgeous merman and possibly a murder suspect.

Of Magic and Scales is nice, but there were definitely problems here. There was just an unfinished feeling about it that didn’t work for the story.

The book cover showing two men with naked upper bodies cuddling into each other at the top. At the bottom there's a merman swimming in water.

When I say that there was unfinished feeling about the book, I don’t mean that it had an open end – although it would be possible to continue the story, make a series out of it. It doesn’t seem to be the plan, at least there is a claim of it being a standalone novel in the publication info. No, it was more the fact that there is a lot thrown into the mix here – Aiden’s family background (that is never resolved), the romance, the murder plot (that does still leave a couple of questions marks) – and those threads remain a little frayed. It’s like the book was written with a lot of plot ideas that didn’t pan out (as they are wont to do) and then nobody went back and made sure that the allusions to all those plot things that don’t actually go anywhere are either cut or changed so that they fit what the plot ended up being.

I also have to say that I couldn’t shake a feeling of discomfort about the way Reis writes the romance here. For one, when the author’s publications are listed in the beginning, they are neatly divided into M/F and M/M romances – no F/F romances at all. This is a red flag for me as it points to a straight woman who fetishizes gay dudes a little. I wouldn’t have thought any more of it, if it wasn’t for Cristina, Aiden’s employee and best friend who feels so much like an author stand-in whose biggest job is cheering on Aiden and his boner-slash-romance.

The romance was okay. But Naël behaves like an ass, constantly uses ableist slurs when he addresses Aiden who tells him how much this name-calling hurts him, and it’s all waved away with “he doesn’t mean it, he does it because he’s insecure, he’s actually a big softie inside.” And Aiden calls himself a “man whore”, his best friend calls him that, too and I just don’t know where that slutshaming came from. Just one of the many frayed threads I mention above.

The pacing was also difficult. I never knew how much time had passed. For me it was like three days and suddenly, Naël and Aiden have been dating for two months? They get a lead on the murder suspect and decide that they can check it out whenever, first some fucking is in order. I mean, really?

Still, despite all of this, there is something entertaining about the novel. I really enjoyed the descriptions of Portugal – I’ve never been and I thought the images here were very evocative (Reis herself is Portuguese but doesn’t live there anymore). It is a quick read and can be read easily. It’s probably a good novel for skimming, if you want a nice, shallow read with a bit of magic and a lot of romance. I’m just not a skimmer when I read.

Summarizing: okay.

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