Blog Archive

View My Stats
Wednesday, March 15, 2023

SPFBO 8 Finalist Review: Mysterious Ways by Abbie Evans


Book links: AmazonGoodreads

AUTHOR INFO: Abbie Evans grew up in Wellington, New Zealand, and spent many years travelling the world before settling back down in a small New Zealand seaside town. She writes queer-centred fantasy stories that have been described as adventurous, fun, chaotic, and “too gay to function.”

Publication Date: August 3, 2021 Page Count: 293 


Mysterious Ways was hit-and-miss for me.

Cerys, a local thief and Isabella’s biggest thorn in her side (Isy is the captain of the guard), is arrested for a crime that Isy doesn’t believe she did and is set to go before the Judge. If found guilty, The Judge sends people to the fifth dimension where they’re tortured for eternity. The problem is that pretty well everyone has been found guilty, leading Isy to doubt how things are being done. Isy wants to make right her mistakes and improve the system so she and Cerys team-up to look into the problem.

I enjoyed Cerys and Isy, and their budding enemies to lover’s romance. I was even a little disappointed when there wasn’t more. It’s set-up like a romance, complete with the gender-swapped dashing-rake of a character Cerys (whose floppy hair blowing made me think of Disney Princesses), and the strait-laced serious head of the City Watch, Isabella.

These two have a Catch Me If You Can, kind of thing going on, with Isy and her crew, continually foiled by Cerys’ antics. The opening with Isabella, caught in an embarrassing giant mouse-trap (not the head-snapping kind) made by Cerys, with her guardsmen teasing her about being stuck was a lot of fun, and unexpected. It set a light, playful tone right off, that I enjoyed. The whole vibe around them was entertaining.


A big miss for me was the plot around The Queen Imanta, being nearly poisoned and requesting the City Watch led by Isy to look into it.

Partly because Imanta, was such a drama Queen, she gave new and literal meaning to the term- I was ready to poison her myself, just to get her off my page. (I also could not help but picture her stamping her feet and having a meltdown as the Queen of Hearts… like in that adaptation Burton did of Alice in Wonderland)

And partly because by the time we get back from the underworld (which btw made me think of Hercules) and resolve this storyline, it felt a little like an afterthought just to tie-up the loose ends. (I do appreciate tying up loose ends though)

The world-building had some nice ideas with the gender-switch society, but in places felt awkward or heavy-handed. Theo’s wanting to apply for captain and Isy’s reasons for not supporting him is a good example.

Unfortunately, the other thing that missed its mark for me, was how the story took an abrupt left, to a darker more serious side. Not that I don’t like dark and serious. I did like how the turn was orchestrated; it added an element that was unexpected to this budding romance. And the contrast was interesting (especially with the levels of hell) but it didn’t always work for me as much as I would have liked.

I think part of my problem was mostly to do with how the tone-shifted in huge degrees. Does it want to be a chaotic, fun romance, or does it want to be serious, and dark, and tackle the social problems?

I do get what Evans was aiming for with the bleakness and the levels of hell in comparison to upper world life and in trying to highlight the problems in our own society by showing it from the other side. There are definitely stories out there that manage to genre-blend like this and do it well.

But in this case, I think I just needed a softer-line drawn between the two. Or maybe just less of that over-the-top Queen would have been enough.

Mysterious Ways had some fun moments. I liked the romance aspects between the ladies, and I enjoyed their banter and personalities.


Mysterious Ways is fast-paced, quick to read, and entertaining. More or less, anyway.

It’s about many things: religion, power, and romance. Isabella Varselak, the commander of the 7th Unit of the Solistopian City Watch, used to deal with burglaries, demons, and other crimes. Easy-peasy. The whole system, though? An entirely different matter. 

To make things interesting, she has to deal with the mysterious (and seductive!) con artist Cerys. Prepare to see some rivalry but also a healthy dose of sparks between them:)

As long as you don't think too much about the plot or the world, the story flies by at a nice pace and makes for a fun read. If, however, you pause and consider the setting, well, it makes little sense. It's diverse and inclusive, and kudos for that. Gender role reversal, though, is utterly simplistic and shallow. We get a matriarchal society in which men are considered weak and emotional. There's nothing wrong with the idea, but its execution resembles cheesy 70s-era fantasy, except the poor characterization of women was replaced with the poor characterization of men. I'm not sure if that should be the point of gender reversal?

Then, we have bizarre shifts in tone that made me wonder what was supposed to be lighthearted and what was supposed to be serious. The book contains all kinds of scenes: funny, heartfelt, suspenseful, but also over-the-top silly. It makes for a bizarre read that's not sure what it wants to be.

But I don't want to sound that harsh. I read the book in two sittings. I think readers looking for something "different" often amusing, sometimes cheesy, should check Mysterious Ways out.




Click Here To Order “Cardinal Black” by Robert McCammon!!!
Order HERE


Click Here To Order “Cyber Mage” by Saad Z. Hossain
Order HERE


Click Here To Order “Miss  Percy's” by Quenby Olson!!!
Order HERE


Click Here To Order “The True Bastards” by Jonathan French!!!
Order HERE


Click Here To Order “Rumble In Woodhollow” by Jonathan Pembroke!!!
Order HERE


Click Here To Order “The Starless Crown” by James Rollins!!!
Order HERE