Where Honesty Never Ends.
Severed Ties by Angie Skelhorn
Genre: Paranormal (Coming of Age?)
Synopsis via Amazon.com:
By the use of divination and magic, some ties can never be severed.
In the beginning, by the light of the Full Moon, Frankie connects with Candice’s energy through dream time and witnesses her involvement in a terrifying act of violence. After receiving information from Sandra that their childhood friend is missing, they pack their bags and head to the inner city to find her.
Frankie, afraid for her own safety, has a chance encounter with a local named Calvin who is plugged into what’s happening. Using his workable ideas—as well as Frankie and Sandra consulting tarot, ordinary playing cards, astrology, and spell-casting—they set forth to free Candice from the dangerous situation she is in.
First, to share her views on Severed Ties, Wordsmith Andi:
The Wordsmith’s Verdict: Severed Ties is a 5 out of 10 TRB Stars.
Severed Ties was a short read and mercifully so. While definitely well-written (the author knows her craft) this story missed some key aspects that kept it from achieving the full 10 out of 10 stars, ranking in at 5 for this reader.
The synopsis is spot on as to describing the plot but what I immediately noticed is that the “inner city” that Sandra and Frankie move to is never identified by name, location, geographic area. Specific streets are named when scrying for Candice produces results indicating to me that this was set in some actual city somewhere but the author never gives us that answer. I found it hard to connect with the story fully from the beginning due to this lack of information.
Correspondingly it takes the entire story to explain exactly how Sandra, Frankie and Candice know each other. I’m not sure if the author has written other works in which these characters have been previously featured and this story is something additional but there was a disappointing lack of familiarizing the reader with who these women were.
It is clear the author knows her magic and there are two sides to this coin for me. The story moves very quickly into discussion of magic and magical abilities through such practices as tarot reading, scrying, spell-casting, and communing with spirits. This is an area of study that appeals to this reader for a variety of reasons all going to the point of making me a fan of this subject and genre but there was very little easing a “newbie” into what a few things meant. The characters rely a great deal on their tarot decks but the author doesn’t spend much time at all in explaining what some of the cards meant when they came up, providing only the character’s automatic knowledge and response. I am unfamiliar with tarot and found this assumption that the reader should have that same intimate familiarity to be a disappointment. If you’ve watched at least two or three episodes of “Charmed” you’ll understand about 60% of what the characters are talking about. However if you are someone who does have that intimate familiarity this aspect wouldn’t be a turn off. In fact it’s something you probably wouldn’t even notice.
I found Frankie’s narrow-mindedness tedious and often smirked along with Calvin in agreement with a great deal of his sentiments. Sandra spends quite a bit of time giving her pep talks and speaks more like she is twice Frankie’s age rather than being roughly the same. I almost thought of Sandra as more like Frankie’s older maternal guide than her closest friend and because the author never clarifies exactly how old these girls are beyond inferring they’re still in high school I was consistently confused.
It may have been advertent to make Frankie an intensely naïve and potentially sheltered character but I found this to have a “preachy” element, hence my agreement with some of Calvin’s observations regarding Frankie’s opinions of Candice’s life choices. At times it read as though the author was writing from a stereotyping viewpoint rather than having experienced any of the darker elements Candice’s life revolved around.
There just wasn’t enough connective, familiarizing detail to make this a story that I could easily relate to. Therefore it was difficult to embrace the characters, their backgrounds, relationships or their motivations beyond something that felt formulaic – a series of ill applied elements woven around a proficient knowledge of Wicca (I’m guessing this is as close as I can get to describing some of the girls’ beliefs but again this is one more detail never specified) in order to showcase the author’s knowledge.
Now we will find out what Nikki sees in this story.
Moralistic, Magical Mess.
This is a supernatural, moralistic tale of two friends trying to save another friend from a life of drug addiction and prostitution. The author, Angie Skelhorn does a good job of describing the seedier side of life in her physical descriptions of the strip club and low life people that frequent it. I was drawn in by this and eagerly awaited more of the same, whilst wondering how she would incorporate the mystical/Wiccan theme.
Billed as a supernatural book, Severed Ties begins more like a Chick Lit novel. The characters talk about their missing friend using very girly dialogue and discussing what to wear. At first I was confused, waiting for some kind of paranormal activity to occur. When it did, I’m afraid I found it somewhat weak, bordering on cliché.
The witch/spiritual aspect of the story isn’t well developed. The only bit of magic they used was a pendant, a candle and a pack of cards, saying phrases like: ‘Oh spirit guide find our friend.” I found it all a bit tame and not dramatic or atmospheric enough for me. More magic comes into play towards the end of the book, but it isn’t particularly exciting. Things like astral projection, telepathy, some mist, a bit of transparency and that is it.
The main characters aren’t all that well developed, Sandra and Frankie don’t sound or behave all that differently to one another; they could be the same character almost.
Frankie comes across as being rather judgmental and very up tight. When she has to work in a strip club in attempt to rescue Candice from a life of drugs and sexual exploitation, she reacts in a very puritanical way. This is good as it reinforces the personality of the character. I would have liked Angie Skelhorn to develop the characters more via their reaction to events that occur, so enabling a more satisfying narrative.
Sandra isn’t as well defined as Frankie and seems to be there as some kind of side-kick or conscience. She lies on the couch or the bed for much of the novel commenting on the clothes Frankie has to wear to go to the club. There was too much talk and not enough action. The drama of Candice’s predicament is good and I would have liked less long, often moralistic conversations between Frankie, Sandra and Calvin and more physical action and interaction to keep up the narrative pace. Chapter nine is one long conversation without any action to speak of
I did not think that the novel was very well written. I believe that the author needs to do some serious editing to make this work credible, as the sentences are often clumsy. The dialogue is stilted and qualified with unnecessary adverbs, verbs, and adjectives. I have copied a selection here, taken from the same conversation. It is littered with redundant phrases:
“She was sarcastic in her choice of tone. “What do you suggest I wear?”
“What do I do when I find her?” she asked softly.
“That will hardly cover my ass!” she said coolly, meeting his eyes straight on.
“Try it on,” he said, tossing her the mini dress.
“What a friggin’ nightmare,” she said in disbelief, leaving to change her clothes in the bathroom.
“We are not haunted. We are tuned in,” she answered, annoyed.”
I was not engaged in this story because it wasn’t saying anything that hasn’t been dealt with before, in far more exciting and interesting ways. The narrative was full of clichés and moralistic ramblings that got in the way of the action. Many chapters were just conversations and when the inevitable finale occurred I was relieved that something actually happened. The ending was another big cliché for me and far too simplistic. I felt the author just wanted to get her take on life and death out there via a rather unimaginative plotline and cardboard cutout characters. Some readers may enjoy this kind of witch/supernatural book, but I’m afraid I did not.
No need to do any fancy adding and diving here. Both Nikki Vision and Wordsmith Andi were on the same path with rating: 5 out of 10 TRB Stars.
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