1)The magic itself—Tessa Gratton’s magic was dirty, chaotic. It demanded sacrifice and pain. There was nothing “pretty” about it. If the character(s) wanted to have something out-of-this-natural-world done, it wasn’t going to be accomplished with a magic wand and sparkles. It was done with blood and herbs and, occasionally, death. This created a stark line between the magical world and the mundane world. Its darkness made the reader see that magic in this world as abnormal and scary and all-consuming if the characters let it be. Super metaphorical. I reveled in it.
2)Characterization—I loved the tragic backstories of these characters. I loved the macho/nerdiness of Reese. (I might be biased because I married someone macho/nerdy.) I loved Silla’s strength and willingness to do whatever it took, no matter how it would affect her personally. I loved Nick’s perseverance and care. I loved the way Gratton handled Lilith. The characters were people who the reader might have met already—with a Magical Crazy going after them.
3)The Story—The actual read was pleasant. The story had a unique plot. It never dragged or felt tiresome. The conflict was dire, and the resolution was fitting and creative. I enjoyed it. I didn’t devour it, but I like that I wanted to take my time to understand and wade in the pretty language the author used. When I did put it down, though, it crept into my thoughts, and that constitutes a good book to me.
4)The Journal—The use of the journal entries as part of the story drew me in completely. Should I have moral issues for saying I really enjoyed a villainous character? Well, I did. Enjoy the character, that is. I’ll worry about what that says about me later.