“Curse On The Land – Soulwood #2” by Faith Hunter

curse-on-the-land“Curse On The Land” is the second Nell Ingram book and the one that seems to set it up for a solid series.

Nell is fresh back from “Spook School” and is now a probationary Agent in the PsyLED, a Division of the FBI that deals with all the supernatural stuff. Her team is immediately drawn into a case where some unknown but probably supernatural force is producing strange behaviour in animals and people. As the violence escalates and people begin to die, Nell has to draw on her power to “read” the earth to discover what is going on. This puts her in the way of powerful forces that threaten her, her team and the lives of hundreds of innocents.

In the first book “Blood Of The Earth”, I was carried along by the strength of Nell’s personality, charmed by the mixture naivety and relentless intelligence and fascinated by her history growing up in and then leaving “God’s Cloud Of Glory” polygamist cult.

I had wondered if Nell’s impact could be maintained as her naivety erodes through contact with the outside world and her links with her land weaken. It turns out, Faith Hunter has this covered. Watching how Nell adapts, trying on new attitudes and new clothes and seeing which ones allow her still to be her only more so, was fascinating and believable. Nell’s relationship with land not her own is satisfyingly complex, her powers are still emerging and her relationship with her still-living-in-the-cult family is changing and growing.

The plot is well thought through and laced with hints of a larger story arc and tantalising morsels of backstory that left me wanting more.

I think the biggest challenge in the book is the fairly abstract nature of Nell’s powers. She isn’t a sword-wielding, fist-fighting kind of heroine. Her struggles are often with forces other people cannot see and the operation of her power seems to be primarily a mixture of will, focus and imagination (a little like writing fiction). Bringing the magical struggles to life and keeping them exciting takes a lot of skill. These scenes work well but some of them seemed over-long or not quite tense enough.

I’m eager to see how Nell will develop over the course of this very original series.

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