Before I read this, I would have said there was nothing new you could do with the magical companion animals trope. I would have been wrong.
I enjoyed this--for the concept, for the characters, for the setting. I was all set to give it four stars. And then the ending happened.
And it's not that it's a tragedy that bothers me. I actually appreciate the author's chutzpah in having the twins die, in having the bad guys escape. (I less appreciate the bad guys' over-the-top characterization as psychopaths, but you take what you can get.) It's the fact that the protagonist's presence at the climactic scene had no effect, good, bad, or indifferent, on anything that occurred. She disables Mark--and not only does it turn out he's entirely unnecessary to the ceremony, his compatriots in crime don't even go looking for him? She brings Benoit, whose magical power is the opposite of Mark's--canceling magic, rather than enhancing it--and his presence doesn't disrupt the ceremony at all?
I guess I wanted to see something
change because she was there. Have Odi's death be partly her responsibility, have Carmen survive, have Odi not escape the undertow, something. Because otherwise, Zinzi's presence in the entire novel is basically a wash. She doesn't find Song, she doesn't earn the money to cancel out her debts, she doesn't disrupt the ceremony. I guess you can say she has some personal growth, but I didn't see it; she falls off the wagon on drugs, on alcohol. She's guilty that she got Benoit hurt, but we never see her accept that he's leaving her. She's burned even more professional bridges that will prevent her from going back to her old life, and she hasn't built any new ones.
I like bleakness. But this is a little bleak, even for me.
And even then, I'd be okay with it, if I felt the novel were cast as a tragedy. But it isn't. The final scene has a positively cheery tone. And that just causes too much cognitive dissonance for me.
As a side note, this (the MM edition) had the worst typesetting job I've ever seen in a professionally published book. Lots of random line breaks and mistaken indents, plus some unfortunate hyphenation. Maybe it's ignorable if you're not a typesetter yourself, but eesh. If I read any other Angry Robot books, I think I'd stick to the original TP edition--and hope it was cleaner.