Title: Flatline (Medicine and Magic Book One)

Publisher: ASH Publishing

Author: S.A. Magnusson

Pages: 352pp

Price: $13.99 / 0.99 cents

Kate Michaels is working as a resident physician at Hennepin General Hospital in Minneapolis. She is also a mage — or, at least, a descendant of mages, which gives her some strange abilities of her own. She can feel death. She knows when a patient is teetering on the edge, long before any equipment or her more experienced colleagues do. It’s an ability she keeps secret from the mundane staff at the hospital, most of whom are ignorant of the existence of magic. But then a series of strange cases appear in the ER: men with cauterized stab wounds. After she stumbles across a sword fight between a Knight of the Mage Council and a demon, her grandparents suddenly come to town on secret Council business, and her own repressed abilities begin to flare up. Something is wrong with the Veil. More and more demons are slipping into the mortal realm. It’s only a matter of time before the Veil falls and the real monsters appear ….

I am forever on the hunt for new urban fantasy novels to read. When I came across a Bookfunnel offer for a free copy of Flatline, I jumped on the opportunity.

First, the good points. I like the world that Magnusson has created. Millennia ago, the world’s various magical beings (mages, shapeshifters, and vampires) joined forces to create a Veil to keep out the truly malevolent (or just plain chaotic and uncontrollable) entities, such as demons, the fae, and the Old Gods. The Veil is held in place by three “Carters”, one of each species, at various power points across the globe. One such center of power is in Minnesota, where a major river system is born. I love this idea of species who distrust one another being forced into an alliance by mutual need, and by the idea that magic and nature are interwoven.

I also really liked the opening chapters. I liked seeing how Kate dealt with life as an ER resident, and how she covertly used her magical ability to help her patients. Kate’s first encounter with Aron, whom she assumes is a Knight of the Mage Council, was also exciting.

And then the story just sort of … fizzled. Lots of standing around and talking. Lots of questions with no answers. Followed by more talking, repeating things that had already been said. And I do mean repeating. The author needs a thesaurus. My eyes started to glaze over with the use of “dark magic” and “council” five or six or seven times every page. Very obvious typographical errors made it into the final book, such as “Grants” for “Gramps” and a female character being accidentally given masculine pronouns near the end.

Additionally, scenes that should have been dramatic were oddly flat. There was no sense of danger, no edge-of-my-seat quality to the writing. For example:

I stepped out of the car and watched his taillights as he drove away.

When he reached the end of the street, slowing to make a right turn, another car zoomed through the intersection and slammed into his car.

“Jesus!” I shouted as I ran toward the intersection.

Uh. That’s it? Where’s the rest of the scene? The sound of the impact, metal crumpling and tearing, glass cracking and shattering, plastic breaking. Alarms ringing. The smell of gasoline and windshield washer fluid and rubber. Is Kate’s heart pounding in fear and dread? Is her breath sawing through her chest? I have no idea.

A serious copy edit, for both content and grammatical errors, would have caught all of these problems. The components of a good story are there: the characters, the conflict, the competing desires, the world they all inhabit. But the execution left much to be desired.

if you are looking for good urban fantasy, try The Malykant Mysteries by Charlotte E. English, The Girl With Ghost Eyes by M. H. Boroson, the Gargoyle Guardian Chronicles by Rebecca Chastain, The Dark Yule by R. M. Callahan, The SPI Files by Lisa Sharon, and The Tarot Sequence by K. D. Edwards.

[Reviewed by Rebecca Buchanan.]

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