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Monday, May 4, 2015

ARC Review: Grave Phantoms by Jenn Bennett

Grave Phantoms is a paranormal story that takes place in San Francisco during America's prohibition era. It is a continuation of the Magnusson family history that has been told in Jenn Bennett's Roaring Twenties series. I did not read the first two in this series, so I can tell you that book 3 can be enjoyed on its own.

In Grave Phantoms, characters of several cultures mixing with bootleggers and academics add intelligence and grit to a novel that tells more than one tale.

There are really two story lines that get equal time in this book. The first is the paranormal mystery. It starts out when a yacht, that had been missing for a year, crashes in the Magnusson's dock. Astrid Magnusson gets caught up in the mystery of the yacht when she comes into contact with a mysterious talisman that was left behind. Bo Yeung, is the family employee that is there when some kind of dark magic attaches itself to Astrid when she touches the talisman. Astrid and Bo become involved in a centuries old secret, the knowledge of which will lead them into San Franciso's dark underground and into danger.

The second story line is the romance between Astrid and Bo. Before Astrid went off to college, Bo was her chauffeur and security guard. They were friends and then so much more. But, the Magnussens are Swedish. Very Northern European and very Caucasian. Though Bo is like a family member, he is of Chinese descent. In the 1920's, California state anti-miscegenation laws enforced racial segregation, making it extremely difficult for Astrid and Bo be together, if, in fact, that is what they want.

First, I will say, that both story lines were interesting. The paranormal line was unique, mysterious and very dark. And on the romance side, I really liked how Ms. Bennett brought out the racial obstacles, giving us another look into 1928 California.

But the separate stories did not blend well. I felt like I was reading two different books at the same time. I should know, because I do that on purpose all the time. Since the book is called Grave Phantoms, I was expecting it to be heavy on the paranormal side and would have liked there to be more emphasis on that part. Not that I did not like the romance, because I did, but really, it could have been a whole other non-paranormal novel. After the mystery of the talisman was resolved, there were three anti-climatic chapters and an epilogue to resolve all the romance complications.

Overall, I did like Grave Phantoms, though I am not interested in reading the first two books in this series. If you are one of those readers that enjoyed books 1 and 2, you will probably like book 3 also.

**ARC provided by Publisher**

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  1. Yes, this one was a bit different especially after reading the first two which were so much stronger on the danger, paranormal, and intrigue. I thought the same thing about how this one had such a mild paranormal flavor though I was glad to get Bo and Astrid's story after staring it in the beginning.