On occasion, I’ll read a book, and it will remind me of a different story. The details can be wildly different, but the book shares certain DNA with that other story. The Unseen Curse, by Zachary Jeffries, reminds me of two stories. Not from books, mind you, from television. Veronica Mars is about a father and daughter private detective team. The second is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a title that says it all, but revolves around a town swarmed by all kinds of magic and demons. The Unseen Curse stands well apart from these stories and has its own identity, but if you’re a fan of those properties, there’ll be a sense of familiarity here, and likely one that you’ll enjoy.
Much like Veronica Mars and Buffy, The Unseen Curse is a story aimed at young adults. It features a female protagonist—Juniper (or “June”) Szmydt—who lives in a small town, and has to contend with high school drama while dealing with the story’s events. The Unseen Curse includes a number of tropes associated with the young adult genre, while also infusing the story with urban fantasy and mystery. Jeffries understands these genres, and has crafted an accessible story.
While younger readers will find a lot to enjoy, if you’re looking at buying this for one, it does contain a fair amount of swearing, both in the dialogue and the prose. While not entirely necessary for the story and occasionally feeling forced, the language doesn’t include anything younger readers wouldn’t have heard; it’s language many teenagers regularly use. Jeffries’ prose is written in a vernacular that is geared towards a younger audience, and presents an inviting tone. The prose often includes acronyms its readers will understand and enjoy, but given the currency of it, I do wonder how it will fare in future years where certain terms fall out of style. The prose conveys both the mystery and fantasy elements well, with parts of it reading like a piece of horror (albeit tame, given its target demographic), and building a lushly fantastic world.
The Unseen Curse’s prose is elevated by its humour, which Jeffries has infused throughout the story. It adds character to the writing, and had me smiling throughout. The sense of humour carries throughout all aspects of the book, through to the chapter titles: these titles are essentially time stamps, listing the date and time, but are often written with a nod and a wink to the reader. Likewise, the dialogue is infused with humour as the various characters banter with one another.
As amusing as the banter is, the dialogue doesn’t always work as well as I would have liked. The characters all sound unique from one another, with distinctive voices. As I mentioned above, some of the language feels forced; a result of the characters’ dialogue not always feeling entirely natural. I can’t help but feel that another round of edits to smooth this out would have helped the flow of its characters’ speech, and make the conversations feel that little bit more realistic.
Each of the characters in the novel work well. They’re all engaging, fully formed, and most importantly, interesting. As The Unseen Curse’s protagonist, June, is the point of view character, and does the book’s heavy lifting. As the reader is introduced to the magical world of Miridical through her eyes, she is relatable, and enjoyable to follow. Her relationship with her father is handled nicely, and the reader can feel the love between the two characters. June’s various relationships with the students at her school are well-written, and as any student (or former student) can relate to, not entirely pleasant. Her friendship with best friend Connor is a source of constant delight, and June’s budding romance with Chelsea is handled nicely. The same sex relationship is deftly handled, presented with normalcy, which is exactly as it should be.
Although 262 pages in paperback (or 264 pages on your eReader of choice), The Unseen Curse is a quick read, thanks to it being written in an easily digestible manner. Throughout the first half of the book, the mystery builds as June investigates the murder. It’s paced slowly, drawing the reader in. The second half of the book picks up the pace considerably as the magical world is revealed. This second half moves at a far faster pace, and when compared to the first, the shift is a little jarring. Despite this shift, the overall story is entertaining, and builds to a fun resolution.
The Unseen Curse is an enjoyable story that infuses a fun story with a great sense of humour, while hitting the right notes to entice fans of young adult stories, mysteries and urban fantasies. Despite the dialogue not always working, the characters add to the book’s enjoyment. While the sudden change of pacing took me out of the book, the plot continued to entertain. Fans of those genres, or anyone who has fond memories of Veronica Mars and Buffy, will have fun.
Luckily, pissed-off Dad let her stare out the window silently, their town new to her again, brilliant, effulgent, splendiferous. Alive. If she tried to take it in all at once, she felt a headache developing behind her eyes – or maybe that was some kind of second-hand magic brain tumor, so June silently flitted her eyes about, like a baby in a stroller getting pushed down the Las Vegas strip.The Unseen Curse, Chapter Eleven: “October 31st, morning”
The Unseen Curse was provided by the author for the purpose of an honest review.
The Unseen Curse is available in both physical and eBook forms from book retailers (including—but not limited to—Amazon).
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