A Plucky Redhead Walks into a Bar... and Finds She's Not in Kansas, Anymore (UF book review)

After not reading a single book for two months—Say whaaat, girl? (I know, weird, huh… but believe it or not, sometimes it’s even possible to get burned out on that most lovely of pastimes)—my choice of return to the written word was a little… well, unexpected.

How so, you ask (no doubt still trying to wrap your brain around the multi-month moratorium)? Because I opted for an urban fantasy—no, that’s not the fascinating part—the sort of UF that I thought I’d already read waaaay too many of, in the past… you know, where everyone involved is barely legal, impossibly beautiful (or insanely, bodice-rippingly hunky), and, oh yeah, somehow manages to solve crimes (stop bad guys, save the world, prevent the apocalypse, etc.).

Or, at least that’s what I thought I was getting myself into, after opening the cover of Annette Marie’s Three Mages and a Margarita… which, while definitely a bit of all the above, surprisingly turned out to be way more fun, and a lot more interesting, than the inclusion of such tropes would’ve had me believe.

So, the premise: Tori, a part-time college student (whose fiery temper pretty much proves the whole “hot-headed redheads” notion) has just managed to lose another part-time waitressing job. That situation is not at all great, because Vancouver (or Vancouver-like, since the city is never actually named) is good-sized… but not nearly large enough once Tori learns she’s basically been blackballed by all of the nearby restaurants (oy, that hair-trigger temper).

Fate steps in, though (as it often does, whether in fictional or real life), when an errant sheet of paper—with a handful of job listing written on it—lands at her feet after blowing down the street. With nothing to lose, Tori sets off for the first one on the list: a bar she’s never heard of, in a dodgy part of town, looking for a bartender (which no, Tori is not, but eh, girl’s got nothin’ to lose, remember?).

I won’t spoil anything (because where would the fun be for any of us, in that?!), so, broad strokes, here… The bar is seriously understaffed—and with a big private gig that night—so Tori lucks into a “trial run”. (But, not a bartender, you’re saying! True, but… girl has her phone and the internet; she can totes get through one night, that way, even if it’s not very efficient, m’kay?) The real hitch? The clientele are seriously unfriendly. In an odd twist of fate (ooh, there you are again, you scamp!), Tori somehow wins some respect when she finally reaches her (admittedly-not-too-high) breaking point… and not only does she not get fired, she instead gets offered the job.

Shortly afterward, though, fate throws a bit of a spanner in the works. Tori learns that the bar isn’t a regular ole bar, it’s a guild—as in, a group of people belong to it—and the group isn’t just your run-of-the-mill motley lot (as if!), but is actually a secret congregation of… well, people with supernatural powers, skills, and whatnots. (Yep. Really. Think mages, witches, all sorts of mentalists, those who can manipulate things, and so on, and you’ve got it.) And all of them? Don’t know that Tori isn’t one of them, that she’s just a regular human, whose greatest superpower is her temper.

But, anyone who’s ever read UF knows better than to count a scrappy human out of the game, right? It’s up to Tori to prove her mettle, and when things go sideways, to prove it... which she does (making some new friends—as well as some “frenemies”—along the way). 

The author makes a point to let the reader know the series isn’t about a young woman and her “reverse harem” (oops, the eponymous “three mages”? they’re all über-hot, funny, sexy, yada yada… and they become friends with our heroine), but rather, about the young woman’s journey finding herself… with help from some friends she makes, along the way. (At least, that’s my take on The Bigger Meaning. ;)) And that, I’m very much okay with… more than okay, actually. (I’m still gonna roll my eyes every time Tori describes how smokin’ the other characters are, but then again, she’s young, and there’s those hormones, ’n all…)

Seriously, though, Three Mages and a Margarita is a well-written, fun, and humorous romp… with hints of greater depths to be plumbed in most of the characters we encounter, and some fascinating world-and-myth-building. Now that’s a serious I can get behind! (Happily, there are more escapades planned. :))


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