Lucinda Elliot

Review of ‘Evolutionary Magic’ by Christina Herlyn

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I was immediately drawn into this story of Andee’s struggle against the merciless Corporation which controls this futuristic, monster ridden dystopia.
The vivid word pictures brought this horrific society, with its hideous combination of centralised power, environmental disaster and monster ridden industrial decay, vividly to life. I could see it as a evolving series of pictures in my mind’s eye.
As an Evolutionary, it is Andee’s job to protect the Normals by killing any of the horrific monsters who emerge, and if she gets killed herself, then that’s just too bad, and part of the role.
Brave and self-sufficient, Andee is one of the best of the team. When her fellow warriors start to disappear and she begins to suspect the conspiracy, she shows her invariable intrepid spirit in vowing to fight it – and if her supervisor Josiah Hightower, who unluckily makes her insides warm and quiver, is a part of it – then she must fight him too, and her own feelings for him.
Certainly, Josiah is not what he seems. Andee cannot accept that he is Normal. For one thing, he can scent her entering a building from thirty storeys up, and although she is lugging an odiferous dead monster in a bin bag, she finds that rather a startling talent.
I particularly liked the descriptions of the beguiling and playful, but tightly controlled and coolly professional Doyon Josiah Hightower:
‘His head,with its slightly spiked, midnight black hair stayed bent as he pretended to read the book in his lap. Even seated and disinterested, Josiah looked hard. His intense, blue-gray eyes and almost sharp cheekbones implied a face of granite. The only trait that marred the effect was the wide, soft mouth.’
There are a cast of vivid characters in this story besides the likable Andee.
There is Thomas Waya, her fellow fighter – vain and arrogant, who has always had the must humiliating affect on Andee’s passions and challenges her integrity in a different way than her intestine warming weakness for Josh.
Andee has no respect for Waya, who as an Enforcer, is prepared to hand in fellow Evolutionaries who break the rules. But her body has its own ideas:
‘Just looking at that lean body,wrapped with corded muscle barely disguised by a tight black t -shirt and jeans, caused palpitations. My mind suspected Waya could show me a good time, and my body knew it. The no-fraternization rule was the most frequently broken at M-kes. Unfortunately, Waya never had fun with the same woman twice. I refused to be his toy.’
Josiah, when he was Andee’s supervisior, would never let her go out to fight with Waya, and in fact, never lets any woman partner him. It is as if he is aware of the sinister compulsive attraction that he exudes…
There is the cold and quietly sadistic Sophia Bennett, maker of monsters. Andee is sullenly suspicious that she might be carrying on with Josiah:
‘Men found Sophia desirable with her snug lab coat, too-short skirts, and too-high heels. I thought of her as a reject for a porno called ‘Sexy Scientist.’’
Provost Allen is inscrutable, Andee’s opinionated horse Pegasus is ludicrous, and Mac the scientist is avuncular.
There is a wonderful vein of humour running through this, which even extends to the fights, and I will finish by quoting few of these : –

‘I hated clichés. A 5’10”, sword-toting, monster killer with fangs shouldn’t be clad in leather.“

‘A dirty loincloth hid whatever tissue connected the legs to the humanoid torso. For the sake of my gag reflex, I appreciated the attire, though it struck me as pathetic.

‘I’d never been fought over by two men. Considering they both ignored me and neither was younger than fifty, the effect wasn’t quite the stuff of dreams.’

‘I pushed him away. If he placed any more nastiness into his words, I’d need a shower.’

‘Allen surveyed me from a distance, then gave a satisfied nod. “You refrained from ravishing her. Excellent work.” And people accused me of reading bad romance.’

Leaving that wonderful humour behind , I’d like to say that as a tea addict, this reflection of Andee’s that shocked me more than any of the monster strewn violence of this dystopia:

‘I hadn’t had tea since visiting my grandmother two years earlier. Even before Atlas’ arrival, she grew Camellia bushes to make her own tea.’

I am giving this book four and a half stars (which will show up as four) because I was a disappointed that there wasn’t more of Andee and that beguiling Josiah Hightower together. I do like him. Maybe that’s not fair: there’s a good amount, but I wanted even more…

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