Book review: Night Terrors, by J.A. Pitts

Pitts, J.A. Night Terrors. (Sarah Beauhall series, book 4.) Monument, Colorado : WordFire Press, 2016. 358 p. Paperback. $15.99. ISBN: 9781614754107

Take a strong woman—a lesbian apprentice blacksmith moonlighting with an indie film production company to make ends meet.  Add a lover who is just as strong in her own way.  Then, stir in a feel for urban and rural life in the Pacific Northwest.  Fold in occasional visits from Odin and various Valkyries.  Finally, beat in sadistic—though well hidden—dragon overlords, trolls, orcs, elves, and the occasional witch.   It’s a great formula for an urban fantasy series and J.A. Pitts brings enviable writing skills to the task.

Night Terrors, the fourth entry into the world of Sarah Beauhall, shows her lover, bard-magician Katie, in distress.  Not only is Katie still recovering from injuries sustained in previous books, but she is also paying a physical price for wielding magic.  When she tries to open her mother’s diary—a magical artifact—her spirit is thrown into a dangerous otherworld, leaving her body in a coma.  Sarah is devastated.  With the support of her community of friends and acquaintances, Sarah searches for Katie’s soul in an otherworld of crystalline soul-eating spiders and an army led by a long-dead serial killer.

The strength of a well-developed fantasy series is that character development can happen over the course of several novels, each building upon the previous books.  Unfortunately, in Night Terrors, author J.A. Pitts depends heavily on characters introduced in the previous three books, making it difficult for new readers to begin in the middle of the series.  A scene with Sarah’s sister feels pasted in as an attempt to pull in unresolved family issues, but feels like a digression from the main plot.  I often found myself distracted by what felt like gaps in the story sequence as well as dragging plot devices. This review is based on an uncorrected proof/advance reader copy. Even keeping this in mind, I found myself distracted by multiple instances of homophone errors and uncorrected grammatical mistakes.  It is possible that these mistakes were corrected in the published version.  The first books in the series were from Tor, but the fourth book was published by WordFire.

Finding those rare fantasy fiction titles with strong lesbian protagonists is a cause for celebration.  As a reader, I hope that J.A. Pitts hires a good copyeditor before publishing future books in this series.

For libraries already holding Black Blade Blues, Honeyed Words, and Forged in Fire, I recommend purchase of Night Terrors.

 

Jane Cothron

South Beach, Oregon

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