I bought this book primarily because of the publisher; they’ve done some other novels by Sean Stewart that I liked very much. I was hoping (in vain, I thought) that this novel would have the same heart and detail as Stewart’s books. I knew it was crazy to think they’d be similar just because the covers resembled each other, but I hoped anyway.
I wasn’t disappointed. TRASH SEX MAGIC hits the urban fantasy genre from an oblique angle. Let me clarify: it’s urban fantasy because it’s fantasy set in a contemporary setting, ala De Lint, not the narrow definition or urban fantasy you’re expecting. You’ll find hot chicks in tight pants, but that’s about it. The magic in this novel is still magical. It’s mysterious, and bound up with nature, and not easily controlled even by those it’s chosen.
Raedawn and Gelia Somershoe embody all three of the words of the title. They’re white trash who live in trailers on the banks of a river. The men drink a lot and the children run feral, and Raedawn works dead-end jobs to keep them in peanut butter and used clothes. They don’t seem to mind their life, in fact, when a developer offers them heaps of money for the title to their land on the riverbank, none of them show the least interest in selling. The river is more than just a body of water, it’s their life. It’s a living thing that takes and gives unpredictably.
One of the things I liked about this novel is the cost the magic imposes on Raedawn and Gelia. Plenty of stories have witches who suffer because of their power, but usually they are either hated or feared. Raedawn and Gelia are neither hated nor feared, but because their magic requires them to live near the water, and because it makes them lustful, they never have the reputation in the town that they might if they had been normal. Stevenson makes them into, well, low-class sluts, but she treats them with enormous sympathy and affection. So, the heroine sleeps with almost every man she meets? That doesn’t make her a bad person. In fact, it makes her a good person. She heals people’s hearts by loving them. I found this refreshing and progressive.
I’m giving this four stars instead of five not because it was badly written–it was excellently written–but because it just missed the mark for my kind of book. It got a little weird for me near the end; I like to have things very clearly explained (which is why I adore YA and nonfiction). Also, the romance didn’t build well enough that I ached to see them together. I think Raedawn sleeping with those other men diffused her energy. Sex is part of the story, but I can’t help but wonder if the “romance” part was thrown in there to appease Stevenson’s fans.