‘Hummingbird’ – Charade Of Magic #1 by Helen Harper

There are three absolutes in Mairi Wallace’s world:

  1. The Mages rule every city in Scotland with terrible, violent authority.
  2. It is not physically possible for any woman to wield magic.
  3. Mairi does not have a voice.

She is about to learn that none of these things have to be true.

From twisted wynds and tartan shops to a dangerous daemon and malevolent ravens, the future of a tattered nation might lie with one solitary woman.


‘Hummingbird’ had a lot of potential: an original setting, an unusual magic system, a little bit of class warfare, some interesting characters and some moments of high tension but, in the end, it seemed to me to go nowhere. It was entertaining enough to get me to the end of the first book but it left me with no interest in the rest of the series.

The main difficulty I had with the book is that, to me, it couldn’t seem to make up its mind what kind of book it wanted to be.

A lot of it felt like a Young Adult magical adventure of the type where a young woman discovers her powers and saves the world against the odds but without ever coming up against anything X-rated in terms of violence or sex. It might have worked well if it had maintained that tone. The humour worked, the main character was relatable and the pacing of her backstory (mute orphan of unknown parentage’ and the emergence of her powers (a growing vocabulary of magic words that she can give power to just by humming) gave the book some tension and some momentum.

Except, Young Adult books don’t normally contain long and moderately graphic scenes in which the young heroine has sex with a demon in order to try and steal some of his power and then, when that doesn’t work, wants to do it again because it was fun. Nor do they include graphic descriptions of hangings, torture and maimings.

I felt as though I was flipping between two books with different intents behind them. I could have ridden with that because both intents worked, albeit in a slightly discordant way, but I didn’t like the ending. It was too neat and too easy. It didn’t really resolve anything. Although it set the stage for the next book, it didn’t have any sense of urgency or threat to it.

Maybe the problem was mine for trying too hard to label the book rather than just accepting it for what it was but, even so, I shan’t be reading the next one in the series.

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