Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Artie the Good Witch by Scarlet Hyacinth

Artie, the Good Witch by Scarlet Hyacinth
Publisher: Silver Publishing
Genre: Fantasy, GLBT,
Length: 239 pages

Summary: My name is Artie and I have a problem. My dear grandfather Brew died, succumbing to his love for pastries and leaving me all of his possessions. I now officially own a crumbling tower and two black cats. Unfortunately, this means I also have to take on his responsibilities as a wizard, an impossible thing for me, since I am not one. I am a witch, a good witch, and terribly poor at it. My cats are no help, and they only mock me. My parents are off gallivanting Goddess knows where. I suck at casting spells, yet I am supposed to participate in the very important ritual of the Beckoning in Brew's stead.

To top it off, instead of trying to figure things out, I keep drooling over weird men and finding love in all the wrong places. Wizards and necromancers? What's next, a dragon? In my defense, choosing a boyfriend is really difficult when you're trying to resurrect the land and save its ungrateful people. It doesn't help that I have to avoid being seriously hurt by evil geniuses and cackling witches. Help me out here. I pay in hugs and black kittens. For an inquiry, call 0-900-ARTIE-THE-GOOD-WITCH.

Content advisory: This title contains references to near rape.


Artie, the Good Witch opens in classic fairy tale fashion, with a knight doing valiant deeds and the story proceeds along those lines, lightly and with humor, told by the self-admitted poor excuse for a hero, Artie. Scarlet Hyacinth mixes some modern references in, keeping the story from lapsing too self-consciously into Brothers Grimm territory.

There are some cute touches here – Artie reads books titled Witchcraft for Dummies and Clinical Occultism, and the author really goes to town with a lot of the standard wicked villain tropes. The baddies make all the classic villain mistakes, like over-explaining, done with a wink so we know she meant to do that. It's fun.

Artie, for all he's lived with his familiars for more than five decades, has very little understanding of what he is or what he's meant to do. He's actually childlike to the point of it being squicky that he'd take off his pants for anyone, and his first foray into sex left me with an acute need to punch the other man square in the nose, for both the reasons the author intended and because Artie is innocent bordering on simple-minded. In fairness, the blurb does warn for this, and it was a tense time in the story. His second attempt seems only a little better, leaving me mistrusting the reasons for the insta-lust and not really warning up to his new and truer lover, who spends much of the rest of the story either carrying Artie from place to place, or off fighting, or managing wild monkey sex at unlikely times. Another trope that the author's having some sly fun with, the inappropriate sex is an important plot point, but does manage to evoke that "No, please not right now," reaction in the reader, and the promises it makes don't quite carry through.

The scene stealers are the familiars: they have the best lines and the most sense. The other supporting characters either don't have a very good set of clues politically or emotionally, or are busy posturing. The baddies do get nicely subtle punishments in the end – this is a fairy tale, of course evil is punished – but the unfolding is so heavy handed that it's hard to appreciate the nuances of the punishment itself.

The story doesn't quite manage to carry off its knee-slapper promises—repeating a joke a dozen times does not make it funnier—but does succeed as light entertainment with a satisfying ending. 3 marbles

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