Shadow Beasts (Nellie H. Steele)

Shadow Beasts is the first novel in the Shelving Magic series by Nellie H. Steele.
Finished on: 16.3.2023
[I won this book in a LibraryThing Early Reviewer give-away.]

Paige Turner has applied for a job at Shadow Harbor’s library, but after a catastrophic interview, she never expected to get it. But not only is she hired straight away, she learns that the job is actually not so much about shelving books than it is about shelving magical artifacts, and sometimes retrieving them under not so easy circumstances. Fortunately, she has a colleague, the dragon Dewey, who knows this kind of thing. Because the supernatural seems to follow Paige home straight away, and a dangerous mirror needs finding and storing. Paige has to hit the ground at her new job running, that’s for sure.

I really liked the idea behind Shadow Beasts, but I struggled a little with the execution so that I probably won’t be continuing to read the series after this first one. It isn’t completely bad, but it just didn’t win me over.

The book cover showing a red-headed woman in front of a bookshelf, a small green-blue dragon perched on her shoulder.

Shadow Beasts tries very hard to be funny, and it feels like most of this being funny thing boils down to Paige being an unbelievable klutz. She’s so clumsy, one has to wonder who she survived three decades on earth. I know that the clumsy heroine is trusted trope, but I have never seen it pushed quite as far as here. It left me rather uncomfortable. One joke the book does pull off nicely, though, is the one about Paige’s name. Paige Turner is a rather facepalm kind of name, but the book is fully aware, introduces several other characters with equally punny names and that actually did make me laugh.

As I said, I quite liked the set-up: magical library that comes with its own dragon is a straight up book/fantasy nerd dream. And I mean, I really enjoyed The Librarians. But Steele should have taken a little more care with it. That Paige basically gets her job because of nepotism despite never knowing her family – okay, that’s just how these kinds of things work. But then to throw her into the job even though she never knew anything about magic at all is just plain irresponsible and shows a lack of logic and consideration that is mirrored in the plot when Paige and Dewey are tasked with finding a mirror. They get that job because Shadow Harbor’s library is the closest library to the mirror. That is made explicit in the book. But then, nobody actually knows where the mirror is, and the plot requires Paige and Dewey to search all over the world for it – including with the help of local libraries. Make it make sense, because I don’t get it.

The pacing is also a bit off, with the book so clearly setting up a series that it all feels like an introduction with a bit of plot crammed in almost as an afterthought. It makes the entire thing a little all over the place, and it just didn’t capture my attention enough to want to continue reading.

It’s not a bad book, I’ve definitely read worse. How much you’ll get out of it probably dependes on how charming you find Paige, Dewey and their banter. I wasn’t charmed is all I can say,

Summarizing: okay.

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