Justice Calling (The Twenty-Sided Sorceress #1) by Annie Bellet
Justice Calling is the first in The Twenty-Sided Sorcerer series featuring sorcerer/gamer/nerd Jade Crow. I love nerd fantasy. (The technical genre is ‘litRPG’.) That said, while I loved the jokes and Jade as a character, there were some elements that I wanted in Justice Calling that just weren’t there.
First, and this is a big one for me, Jade and her friends are nerds but they never do anything nerdy in this story. Jade paints some orc figurines, but this story could’ve used a scene where Jade and her friends nerded out. They needed to go Full Nerd, and I would’ve believed this entire world and story more. They could’ve watched a movie. Or had a LAN party or cos-played or anything. There were lots of nerd jokes and deftly laid references, and Jade’s first person POV convinced me she was a nerd, but the plot never slows quite enough to establish Jade’s friends (Levi, Ezee, and Harper) as actual characters. The villains were just as thin, but whatever, they were clearly the starter pack villains for this series. The overall ‘meh’ towards everyone else Jade interacted with made it difficult to feel invested in anyone Jade talked to.
I liked Jade a lot. I didn’t believe her romance with Alek at all (ah, the character problems continue). I was more interested in her failed (and probably creepy and definitely abusive) relationship with her ex, the sorcerer Samir, than anything she did with Alek. Alek is a Justice, a shape-shifter Super Cop, and he has a vision that Jade is going to be the catalyst for the death of many shape-shifters. This is the Plot Kick-off, and that’s all that really happens on that front. Alek shows up and says ‘hey, there’s a prophecy about you and now I have to stalk you’ and somehow Jade is completely okay with this. Sure. Whatever. A sorcerer (probably connected to Samir) targets shape-shifters, freezing them in their animal form and stealing their powers. Jade’s past as a sorcerer becomes relevant–she has the power to stop them but that would come at a gross price (eating hearts).
This story reminds me a lot of how The Dresden Files started–not particularly strong on the plot front and with some woefully or weirdly underdeveloped side characters–but with a strong main character personality. If book two gets better, I think I could like this series quite a bit, but there needs to be another character I care about besides Jade for me to stick with this series. Still, this book is worth the read as the starter pack for a hopefully more interesting story that revolves around Jade and the shifter world.
Rating: 3 stars. I liked the main character and world building ground work, but I didn’t love the other characters or really get a sense of who they were. That ruined a lot of moments for me.