Terrestrial Magic — a review

Terrestrial Magic
Marina Ermakova

Most sensible people avoid fire-breathing carnivores that prey on humans. But Jordan has built a career out of studying such legendary animals, creatures thought mythological until their reemergence in the world three decades ago. She and researchers like her believe that knowledge is the key to reclaiming the land they’d lost back then, when humanity retreated into designated safety zones.

But when the humans moved out, the legends moved in.

They were the descendants of mythical heroes, inheriting the powers of their ancestors, and they weren’t afraid of the monsters. Jordan never expected to run into a legend, but when a field expedition turns into a trap for her team, she realizes that one deliberately tried to kill her. It’s a diplomatic nightmare the Roman authorities might happily sweep under the rug. But if Jordan doesn’t figure out who attacked her and why, they could try again. Yet even if she does solve the mystery, what could one stubborn scientist possibly do to stop a powerful legend?

REVIEW

Marina Ermakova’s book Terrestrial Magic combines a couple of my favorite genres and tropes.  A post-apocalyptic fantasy adventure that gets its base in ancient mythology–that might not be so ancient.

Ermakova does a fantastic job of blending fantasy and science by creating an FMC that is 100% human and a scientist…but she studies magical beings.  The nice part is that we’re not hit over the head with her science.  It’s part of the character background and does come out every now and then, but it actually isn’t the driving force of the story.

The first part of the story, while it has action, does feel like it takes a while to get into.  It’s written in first person, which isn’t my favorite.  This means that actually accurately interpreting the other characters’ actions and motives is a bit more difficult.  The reader relies solely on Jordan’s interpretations of the other characters which left me feeling like I might be missing something because Jordan is admittedly not very observant when it comes to people.  Ermakova also has a tendency to repeat things (like the fact that Jordan is not very observant when it comes to people) a lot.  I feel like I got my skull bashed in over some character traits that really weren’t very important in the grand scheme of things.

There are a couple things that I found frustrating.  The timeline is pretty fluid..the blurb says three decades, and Jordan speaks of decades of decline in civilization.  But the technology is stuff that has just happened in the last 2 decades in real time.   So my suspension of disbelief gets stretched with technology advancing regularly while society is on the decline.  I’ve mentioned this with post-apoc books before.  If you are living in an insular society because travel between societies is very difficult…then living in Italy means the chances of you having fuel for a standard vehicle are very slim–basically non-existent.  Where are they getting the gas for the cars?  And the phones…In current history, satellite phones weren’t a thing until 1998.  Cell phones came about around the same time.  Like the issue with fuel for cars, the materials needed to make them would require much more global travel and communication than is mentioned in the story.  Obviously, travel happens because Jordan is from America and in Italy…but how?  How did she get there?  Are there still planes?  So many questions and inconsistencies in regards to this topic.

However, despite that, the story was very engaging and I’m really looking forward to (hopefully) a book 2.  The characters are fleshed out and the story definitely does not feel rushed.  Ermakova delves kind of deep in the the psychological human response to fear and aggression, but it all works together to create a cohesive inner monologue that flows with the story.  One of the more surprising things is how much the characters that aren’t there are a part of the story.  Jordan relies heavily on her family to get through tough situations–but her family is half the world away.  Using only her memory and understanding of her family’s characters, she brings 3 more characters to the story.  This snazzy bit of writing is something that really brings depth to the whole novel.  This is a solid 4 stars, for me.  Maybe even 4.5.  If I could just get some resolution on those inconsistencies–even magical apocalypses need to have rational and reasonable timelines and consequences–this would definitely be a 5 star.

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