So, here we are with the third Ree Reyes novel, the 4th adventure for her, and the end of her first character arc (although the only way really know this now is that Underwood keeps saying it -- I doubt I'd have been confident enough to say that until the beginning of her next novel/novella), and what a ride we've been on so far. Geekomancy was just ridiculously fun -- the style, the voice, the magic system pushed just about every one of my buttons. In retrospect, it wasn't a great novel, but it was so fun that all the weaknesses can be easily overlooked. Celebromancy was a better novel -- as far as construction, character, etc. goes, but wasn't nearly as fun and entertaining. Attack the Geek was action-packed, pretty fun, but (as it was designed to be) not much else. Hexomancy combines all the pluses from the first three, and smashes them together into the best novel Underwood's given us so far.
In retaliation for the defeat of their sister in Attack, and the resulting consequences that begin this novel -- three Strega are coming to town to get their vengeance on. Their target is primarily Eastwood, who is mentor, unnecessary father-figure, and foil (depending on the day) to our new UF hero, but since Ree was integral to Lucretia's defeat, she's not exactly safe either. They'll be coming to town at regular intervals, each one more powerful and deadlier than the last. Like bosses at the end of levels on a video game. You can argue that this part is either hokey, or perfectly fitting to this world, but that's the way it's set up (the latter is the correct answer).
And, these Strega are no joke -- nasty, powerful and brutal. Eastwood, Drake and Ree (and the occasional other ally) are pushed to their limits when they take them on -- physical, creative and moral -- like their videogame counterparts (as I understand it, mostly from watching my sons).
Between these boss battles, Ree and the rest recover, level up, and whatnot (I can only pay so much attention to what my sons do, can't keep the metaphor going). Ree spends time with her friends, in the rebuilt Grognard's, and in a little romance.
Drake is one of those characters that I think deserves his own post, if I could only find the time. Better yet, he deserves his own stories -- either prequels off in his own world, or some running concurrently to this series. His humor, his bravery, his nobility, his heart -- not to mention his cool steampunk tools and weapons, -- basically he's the whole package. Really, most people would consider building a series around him, not have him as a sidekick. But he works well in the role.
We didn't get nearly enough of Ree's dad this time -- her chats with him were a highlight of the last two novels (although, to be honest, when she did talk to him I had one of those "Oh, right, she does this" moments).
Ree and her friends have to be about the most healthy and well-adjusted groups of fictional characters I've ever encountered -- people like this may exist in Real Life, but not in fiction. It's like they've spent years in group therapy before this. Which is not a bad thing -- in fact, it's pretty refreshing. But that doesn't keep it from being weird when they react in mature, reasonable manners to various and sundry challenges presented in this novel. If I wasn't afraid it'd make me seem like a cad, I'd say the magic is easier to believe than they are.*
What about Ree herself? She's grown into her roll protecting her city, scratching by, keeping her sanity intact (mostly). She's grown plenty over these four adventures and you can see the results everywhere -- thankfully, she's still as full of snark and verve now as she was when we first meet her. Just a bit wiser, packing a few more XP, and more sure of herself. She barely references her writing now, which is a shame -- but hey, her plate's pretty full.
In his Acknowledgments, Underwood states, "If you keep reading them, I'll keep writing them". Sounds like a good deal. I'm in. Keep 'em coming, Mike!
* And I'd say that if it was a group of 4 guys, too, for the record.