I stumbled upon Gooseberry Bluff Community College of Magic by David J. Schwartz through one of those Amazon Daily deals. I think. I can’t quite remember but it was uber cheap and I was intrigued. I believe that before that, it was one of Amazon’s new book serials, like Indexing. Oh, there’s a follow up to Indexing too, which I’m waiting to get all chapters before reading. I find that though I’ve found two (hopefully three) good books through the serials, it can get confusing reading it one chapter at a time.
At any rate, Gooseberry Bluff was complete when I read it. This is an alternate earth type place where magic is known. The point of turning from our earth and this earth seems to be legendary nutjob, Aleister Crowley. In this world, Crowley brought magic and magical beings into the world view by using demons to end WWII. Interesting take on that, I felt.
Our protagonist is a young agent for the Federal Bureau of Magical Affairs, Joy Wilkins. Joy has a very interesting condition called prosopagnosia. If you don’t want to click the link (just wikipedia, y’all), then let me sum up by saying that she has facial blindness. She can’t recognize herself in the mirror, let alone anyone else. The one plus side she does have is that she can read people’s auras, so she can remember people by that. If she couldn’t, people would probably think that she was rude, forgetful or even faking.
Joy is sent to Gooseberry Bluff Community College of Magic in Wisconsin to look into demon trafficking, which they think is connected to events called Heartstoppers. Heartstoppers is the massive, unexplained deaths of everyone in a certain mile radius, which varies from attack to attack. The bureau thinks that demons are involved, but they don’t know how. They also think that the trafficking is happening through the community college and may be linked to a missing teacher.
Joy goes in undercover as a teacher taking over for the one who is missing. Its her first real assignment and right from the off, everything goes wrong. Her mentor and supervisor is found dead, her new supervisor is clearly a misogynist who doesn’t trust her (never got a good reason for that other than she’s a woman, which…ugh) and she’s drawn into some screwball local secret society that may or may not be involved with the attacks.
Joy has to save herself, save the town and possibly save the planet while trying to figure out who killed her mentor and who is behind the demon attacks. And while this is clearly a first book, because it’s a little choppy, I thought it was fun enough that I keep hoping for a sequel. The characters are interesting and not what you’d expect. Joy is a young African-American woman with the aforementioned (and rare) disability. There’s a teacher who is cursed, a powerful girl who doesn’t know she’s powerful, a drunken magical duelist and someone/thing who may or may not be a god.
It was a good mix and I enjoyed reading it quite a bit. I’d recommend picking it up if you’re looking for a bit of light reading, which I would recommend to break up the chewiness of the Mistborn trilogy. Rating: A. I also highly recommend checking out the Amazon serials. You subscribe to a book for about $3 and you get a new chapter every couple weeks. You’ll end up with a full length novel for about half the price of most of their books if you just have a little patience.