Keeping a series feeling fresh after 6 books is a difficult challenge. Book 6, Harley Merlin and the Cult of Eris, felt like a bit of a stumble as it’s position in the overall plotline felt a bit forced to ask a question which it immediately answered early on. There was a lack of tension that made it feel flawed. Luckily book 7, Harley Merlin and the Detector Fix by Bella Forrest, while being a strange name for a book, turned out to be a well written addition to the Harley Merlin series overall. It stumbles in some areas but brings back and reinforces a feeling of tension we should come to expect from a book this far in a series.
It’s odd to see a story where the development isn’t so much in the main characters as it’s with more of the side characters. Harley, for the most part, doesn’t really change from who she is at the beginning of the story to who she is at the end of the story. This isn’t honestly a bad thing as it allows room for other characters to really develop and showcase their own growth through the series. It works pretty well with some characters involving surprising twists and interesting character revelations. But some of the other characters are really left wanting despite having practically earth-shattering story moments for their backgrounds. Truth be told it feels like a disservice to those characters.
As with previous books, the second point of view character is Jacob. However, unlike the previous books, Jacob is used more as a vessel for plot progression and minor development of other characters. Surprisingly this book did what I always wanted and that was to really get a better sense of Katherine’s villainy rather than always being told about it. She finally feels like an antagonist worth all the fear and anxiety she inspires in the magical world. It’s a pity it took seven books for us to get to this point, but it’s better than never.
While the story is certainly a character driven story, it’s focus is clearly progressing the plotline of the series as opposed to further developing it’s characters. While normally this would be a detriment to the quality of the story, in a series as long as the Harley Merlin series, it kind of makes sense to focus on plot progression as opposed to character development. After six books in the series, one would think that the characters have gotten to a point where they can now focus moreso on the main series plot. But I don’t necessarily agree.
A bit more meta in this analysis, but we’re in book 7 out of 9 in the first part of the Harley Merlin series. Seven books in and we still have members of the rag team that have yet to have point of view narratives nor real progress on their subplots. This wouldn’t be an issue if it wasn’t for the fact that they are treated as equally as important as the characters that have had PoV narratives. But with two more books in the series it’s possible at least two of them will hopefully have the same level of care and attention.
But character sub-plots aside, Harley Merlin and The Detector Fix has a pretty entertaining and well thought-out plot with enough twists and turns to maintain a level of excitement and anticipation. Admittedly, for a time throughout the book, a lot of elements of the story felt very off. Some characters having out-of-character moments or attitudes (one of my biggest pet peeves in storytelling) and a subplot that felt meandering were both resolved in a wonderful way by the end of the book. While I may have complaints of how some very important character subplot moments may have been thrown in rather than properly analyzed and developed, the main story of this novel is pretty well done.
It’s strange how seven books in and this is the first time where Katherine’s influence in the magical world felt far more tangible. In the previous books, it was always implied that her actions would inspire defectors and lead to ruin for the magical society. There was a lot of telling rather than showing but in this book we finally start seeing how question of loyalties and trust start appearing after it’s revealed what is happening within the magical world. Katherine’s actions start to affect the background world of Harley and I really hope we see more of this in the final two books of this part of the Harley Merlin series.
Strangely enough, this book felt a lot more dense compared to the previous books. I think what caused this feeling is the fact that there’s far more descriptions of what’s happening and Harley’s thoughts and feelings rather than dialogue. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, yet there are times where it feels a bit too dense. In some cases, the paragraph is so long that it feels like the reader would want to rush through to reach to the next scene or dialogue to progress the story. This is, however, a very subjective thing that varies from reader to reader but young adult fiction is normally aimed towards younger audiences that usually don’t care for really dense paragraphs. It’s nowhere near as dense as say, Lord of the Rings, and doesn’t detract from the overall flow of the story too much.