Content warning for violence, sexual and partly graphic; general sexuality; abuse, substance use, and some forms of self-harm.
Jesse M. Lelrick is a Witch; well, she was a Witch. To anyone who asks, who has any right to ask, she’ll tell them flatly that she doesn’t do that anymore, she gave up her powers, and now she’s just your average college girl. She knows it’s a lie; she was cast out by her kuven and her personal struggles merely pushed her to distance herself from the practice, yet it’s still inside her, pushing for space between depression, self-destruction, and a loss of self-identity.
When the hotbed of supernatural activity that is her hometown boils over with a string of crimes and casualties, will Jesse be able to deny her connection to her former friends and peers? Can she even afford to do so? A darkness thought long forgotten rises inside and out in Seasons of Pain by Imowen Lodestone.
A faintly grotesque cover reflects the uncomfortable demeanor the book maintains throughout the read. A cold, blue, distorted figure with extremely oversized breasts holding a bottle of alcohol and weeping confronts any potential reader as something of a warning for the kind of read they’re in for, and it’s a warning not to be taken too lightly. This oppressive misery is a defining characteristic of Jesse and the situation she has found herself in, or debatably dug herself into. It’s not a pretty picture.
That said, there’s some really evocative imagery used throughout, even to describe a subtle change in disposition in Jesse. This adds a lot to the slightly Gothic influence that has absorbed into the dark and mystical world she lives in, even if it only reflects her own melancholy view of it. This compares and contrasts with a vibrant world and the residents within who all really stand out from each other and make an extremely colorful cast for Jesse to interact with. Nobody’s perfect, but everyone’s interesting, and that’s a great thing to see.
The book edges on common decency for the entirety of the read, and though never quite crossing any lines into the outright shocking, it cannot be stated enough that any reader put off by the grim and gritty should approach with caution. It’s a lachrymose read that does an excellent job of pulling the reader down into the tarry mindset of its lead, for better or worse; your mileage may vary. Some of this content certainly could have been dialed down and it would not have altered the tone of the piece in any significant way. There’s also a great number of fairly basic errors, as well as general oddities in the writing of the book that feel like stones against the windshield when drifting through the book, all of which seem like they should have been picked up by a re-read.
The urban, somewhat Southern Gothic fantasy of Seasons of Pain is brilliant, with a vibrant cast and eclectic ideas wonderfully explored and ripe for more. Lodestone is a new author and shows a great deal of potential, and hopefully a follow-up will take on board the flaws of this flagship to deliver something truly special.