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Projections, by S. E. Porter

Review copy provided by the publisher.

This is an absolutely beautifully done book in a darker vein than I would usually pursue, and if it had not been sent me as an ARC I probably would not have read it. The protagonist is brutally murdered on the first page, and she spends her afterlife screaming in horror and rage. Screaming. Throughout. Also doing other things, but the scream reverberates through the book very successfully.

Angus was sure that Catherine was his true love, his destiny. The two of them belonged together–and they were supposed to be doing magic. Grand, glorious magic! Magic in a city of magic, far from the ordinary world of mid-19th century America in which they grew up! And if Catherine didn’t see it that way–if she wanted to choose her own love, her own destiny, her own home and her own focus within it–why, he would make her see it that way. Using whatever tools he had to hand. Hence the murder on page one. Hence the ripping of her screaming ghost into the magical city, there to exist for hundreds of years while he attempts over and over again to project pieces of himself into the mundane world to find the girls most like her and convince them to love him–or else.

Catherine’s journey toward agency and even triumph is not fast or linear. It’s well-done, but it’s not an easy book to read. Flashbacks to her living years underscore rather than relieve the horror of her afterlife, and the moments of hope and sweetness are present but small, contained–fleeting?–not entirely fleeting. But let us say that Porter does not give her heroine a victory that anyone could accuse of being too easily earned. If you’ve ever grown frustrated with the magicians of grand destiny and their high-handed ways, this one might be for you.

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