Mr. Underwood’s Geekomancy, book 1 in the Ree Reyes urban fantasy series, was a fun romp into Geekoland with some great characters and a good storyline. He takes that a step further with Celebromancy; his writing was good but now it’s even better. His dialog is crisper, action more visceral and storyline more cohesive. Mr. Underwood’s sophomore novel has taken a good start and improved it significantly. There are a couple of caveats when it comes to the content of Celebromancy: while it’s good to see change, we went from Ree having relationships while focused on the many aspects of her life to a focus on Relationship. That shift felt fairly abrupt; the abruptness then took on a feeling of being fairly contrived to make politically correct points. I also thought that the end had a bit of over-aggrandizement of the celebromancy powers, but that’s a nit. Overall, Celebromancy is a fun book that continues to incorporate the current cultural geek milieu into great lines and interesting powers.
Ree has moved up in the world – she’s now a working, not merely hopeful, screenwriter. The star, Jane Konrad, appears to be a Lindsay Lohan on the comeback. The project is risky and trouble comes flooding. Chaos ensues and Ree is put on the spot to save the day whilst Drake, the erstwhile Victorian now steampunker’s friend, rescues Ree. The backdrop of this story continues in a brilliant milieu of geek, magic and movie world.
The characters are more than they appear. Ree, screenwriter on the outside is, as we know from Geekomancy, a geekomancer; she is able to take power from items or shows beloved by geeks. Drake displaced from another realm but has all the sensibilities of Victorian England. really grows on you; he seems to be a bit oblivious (and not quite with it coming out of his Steampunkish world), but he has all of the great virtues. He is unstintingly loyal, will taking risks and has no expectations of reward. He also gives the hint that he’s not so clueless as he appears. Jane’s not quite the out-of-control mess as her press would have and a bit more real and genuinely caring. Rather than the apparent gorgeous but self-destructive babe, she is a celebromancer, which I’ll leave the book to describe – bottom line – cool powers. Ree remains a complex bit of desires and conflicts. She is willing to help and serve others, but not mindlessly and not at all costs. Everyone’s a bit more real and complex than you would think on first blush; even Eastwood’s relationship deepens from his “off-stage” interaction.
The snag in the relationships hit when they become the sole focus and the “glee problem” arrives – that of losing your story to make a point. Not only is the focus changed but the emphasis on the lesbian relationship seems forced. If you don’t quite get the message – oh wait, the bodyguard is gay too and he has a cute kid adopted with his partner. It all became a bit forced and preachy. The other quibble I had was the big end scene with Jane’s ceremony as a second attempt of taking on America’s Sweetheart title. It was a little over the top for my taste.
Mary Robinette Kowal (a Hugo-award winning writer herself) did a fabulous job narrating the Audible version of the story. I flipped between the Kindle and the Audible version. It was a delight to be able to use Whispersync (about which more here, if interested) to jump between my Kindle version and the Audible recording without back-tracking or losing my spot.
So where do I land on Celebromancy? The writing was fabulous, the storyline was clever but if the series (there’s another Ree Reyes coming in 2014) degrades into plugs for the wonderfulness of the LGBT life, I can always go to GLAAD’s site for that. I look forward with interest in Mr. Underwood’s next project (Younger Gods series) as he continues to hone his already formidable writing skills.