Sealed With a Curse
Sometimes offbeat works. Unusual characters, out of the ordinary worldbuilding, all those touches that capture the imagination and make a story feel like it’s not the same old thing. Sealed With a Curse has some of these elements, but they just don’t fit together smoothly. The book has its promising points, but it feels too disjointed to make for an entirely thrilling read.
Celia Wird and her three sisters always stick together – they even live together. As the book begins, they have been hauled into Vampire Court for killing a vampire, a crime punishable by death. Things look bad for Celia until an image of the dead vampire convinces the court that he was obviously in the throes of bloodlust and that the Wird sisters killed only in self-defense. Bloodlust in vampires is incurable, and this trial unleashes a nightmare as it becomes apparent that the incident in the Wird home was not an isolated one, and that the vampires have an epidemic on their hands. As vampires get infected with bloodlust, the only thing to do is to kill them before they attack innocent bystanders and drain them.
As we learn in the beginning, the Wird sisters each have an unusual gift. While not considered a true shifter, Celia has the power to not only turn into a tigress but also to move through surfaces. Her sisters each have unusual gifts as well, from being able to change small objects such as toothpicks into the deadly weapons or the power of healing. These powers come as the result of a curse gone wrong when the girls were very small and while the sisters do not fit into any neat category of the paranormal world, they trust one another completely. In fact, the strong relationship between the sisters is one of the real positives about this book as it is convincingly drawn and manages to seem both warm and unusual (after all, how often do you go raid a vampire lair with your sisters?)
Misha Aleksandr is master of a vampire clan, and the bloodlust epidemic horrifies him. He starts sending extravagant gifts to Celia to apologize for what happened with Vampire Court and the very wealthy Misha also begins courting her with outrageous gestures such as setting up a catered gourmet dinner for two on her lawn. Meanwhile, Celia has also met a gorgeous werewolf named Aric. At first, I worried that this book would turn into a tedious love triangle, but that doesn’t happen at all. The relationships, such as they are, develop pretty slowly and the author throws in some clever twists on paranormal themes such as fated mates and the like along the way.
In addition to Celia’s love life, we also get treated to her sisters’ love lives. The sisters fall in love with various wolves from Aric’s pack. At times the interplay between the sisters and their mates is cute, but there’s also a certain lack of depth to the relationships. Even though the various factions of the paranormal world don’t seem to get along and the Wirds don’t entirely fit in, the sisters seem to fall into deep relationships with their wolves incredibly quickly. Celia and others make reference to the sisters’ various issues, but for Celia’s sisters, these don’t get explored very deeply as they go from single to deeply committed in the blink of an eye.
While the storyline has its interesting moments, and both of Celia’s possible heroes have their enjoyable points, the thin characterizations and some of the speech patterns grated on me. For instance, Celia’s sister Shayna says, “dude” in pretty much every scene in which she appears and this is explained as an aftereffect of her once having dated a surfer. Oh please. I once dated a guy who was very into D&D, but that doesn’t mean I have a lingering need to walk around with 20 sided dice all the time. And then there is the thin quality that carries over somewhat into the worldbuilding. Sometimes with urban fantasy, I can get sucked into the action without questioning the world in which its set. However, with this book, the worldbuilding seemed so random that I couldn’t always just go with it. Instead I kept thinking, “So, how does vampire court end up getting jurisdiction over Celia and all these other people? What role do the werewolves play aside from irritating the vampires a la Twilight?” And so on.
In the end, I felt like Sealed With a Curse had potential, but the holes in the worldbuilding and some of the dialogue kept pulling me out of the story. It’s not a bad read, but it was one of those books that I would put down and then come back to a few days later because I just didn’t feel completely compelled to read it. There are some unique ideas in there that raise things a bit above the average, but it could definitely use a little more polishing.