I received this book at the beginning of this month for review from the awesome TJ over at the now-closed Dreams and Speculations. After reading the pretty hefty and heavy Lilith's Brood, I wanted to read something light, fun and fast. Right Hand Magic definitely fit that bill, though to be honest, it didn't do much else for me. It was definitely a good thing that I was in the mood to read this kind of thing, or I probably wouldn't have liked it quite as much as I did.
I think I'll just split this review into what I liked, and what I didn't like. Let's start with what I liked first.
Tate. Tate is the main character of the novel who finds herself moving into the weird part of New York for a cheap apartment. This town of NY is called Golgatham and is full of weird creatures and people, like witches, warlocks, centaurs, satyrs and a myriad of other things. I think what I liked most about Tate was just how normal she was. She has a sharp tongue at times, yes, but she definitely doesn't fall into the Buffy-esque kick-ass heroine trope that is rampant in the Urban Fantasy genre these days. When she's confronted with a were-cougar early on in the novel, she is scared shitless, and later on, when the creature has calmed down and turned out to be a drugged (against his will) teenager, she's still wary to go see him and talk to him because of the attack. I don't know, I just loved that she was this normal human being in this crazy part of town. She's in very stark contrast with the people of Golgatham.
I liked the sense of community within Golgatham. You can tell, without having it info-dumped on you, that this is a small part of New York and that these people are all pretty tight, for the most part. Tate gets to know and become close to quite a few of the otherworldly creatures that now surround her, and while they don't necessarily get development, you do get the sense that Tate is bonding with these people. It made Golgatham seem more... alive. Setting is important in UF, and Golgatham definitely fit the bill here.
Now, the stuff I wasn't crazy about.
While I liked Hexe, Tate's landlord, I found him almost too perfect. He's this super sweet guy who goes against the grain (he's a warlock of sorts whose kind usually only perform harmful magic -- left hand magic -- but he performs solely good magic -- right hand magic) for the better good. And oh yeah, he's a prince. I dunno. Very likable character, but I wish there had been a little more to him. I did like that he wasn't this testosterone-infused alpha male though or some broody guy shrouded in mystery; he's quite a gentleman, which was nice.
The whole "humans discriminate against Golgatham, and they in turn discriminate humans. It's so BAD!!" message was very, very didactic. I *did* like that Collins presented the issue going both ways. It's not just the humans being assholes, the Golgatham residents can be pretty nasty too (though to be fair, I think they have a little more good reason), but it a little too two dimensional for my tastes.
Some characters being major stereotypes was also a bit of a hindrance for me. At one point in the novel, Tate meets friends of Hexe who are two Amazonian (I think one actually IS an amazon woman) women who are leaders to motorcycle gangs. And would it surprise you if I told you they are both lesbians as well? I'm glad to see some diversity going on here, but that's SUCH a stereotype. Also, Tate's mom was a huuugggee stereotype (being the Rich Bitch Mommy.) Finally, the villain Boss Marz was a very, very flat villain of the "Muahahaha, I am so EVIL and greedy for money and stuff!!" variety.
Final Verdict: This book was all right, at best. It had some good stuff going for it (a likable MC who was so pleasantly normal without being boring and a pretty solid setting, which is important in UF), but it was hindered by a lot of little things that just irked me, such as the perpetuation of some stereotypes, a ridiculously flat villain and the didactic presentation of the discrimination between humans and the residents of Golgatham. Hexe was a little too perfect for my tastes too, though I liked that he wasn't an alpha male or the broody mysterious type. All in all though, I was in the mood for a light, mostly mindless read like this one, so I think I read it at the perfect time. Will I read the sequel? Ehhh, maybe, but probably not because I would most likely have to dish money for it. If I could get my hands on it for free though? Sure, why not?