Bookburners by Max Gladstone, Margaret Dunlap, Brian Francis Slattery, Andrea Phillips, Mur Lafferty, and Amal El-Mohtar. ★★★★
I’ve finally caught up with season two of Bookburners! This urban fantasy series by Max Gladstone is a Serial Box story. Serial Box creates serial fiction akin to television seasons. Various different “episodes” make up seasons. Each episode has it’s own plot arc, but they connect together to form a plot arc for the season. Thus, you can read season two without having read season one. Serial Box provides recaps, which may be helpful if you decide to start with season two.
Bookburners follows a secret society within the Vatican responsible for searching out and destroying magic and demonic activity. Last season, it became clear that the amount of magic in the world is increasing. Ashanti, the Archivist, believes that Team Three should seek to understand more about magic, using magic to fight magic. This isn’t a popular idea. Meanwhile, a new magical plot is a foot from a mysterious group called “the Network.” Once again, Team Three will find themselves facing previously unimaginable situations.
As was the case with season one, the transition between different authors feels seamless. While it may be a whole bunch of different authors writing these episodes, the entire story really has the same style and voice. It’s well written in general, but I’m highly impressed by how these authors work with the same voice.
The high point of Bookburners is the characters. After the first season, I was already attached to the main cast. I’ve really come to enjoy each of them and their interactions with each other. Grace and Sal’s friendship remains a favorite aspect of mine, but I was also glad that we got to see more of Liam’s backstory. Ashanti’s a major source of conflict this season, as she’s increasingly pushed on the society to do with magic… and the society’s starting to push back. Also, how much of Grace’s candle is left? I’m getting worried about her, and I think her situation will come to a head in season three.
I wasn’t as wowed by the season two’s plot arc. I think this season might be a bit more episodic? It felt like less of an overarching story. Or maybe I was just less interested in the Vatican politicking than the demonic activity of last season. That’s not to say that this season didn’t include plenty of magic and monsters. It actually explored the magic side of things more, which I appreciated (plus Middle Coom was deliciously creepy). However, I felt like the Network was never the strong villains that the Hand were last season.
Still, season two of Bookburners is thirteen episodes of urban fantasy fun, loaded with pop culture references (I spied one to Steven Universe!). If you want urban fantasy with an ensemble cast and no romantic focus, you should really check Bookburners out. I think it’d also appeal to those who like a police procedural element and horror influences. All in all, Bookburners is a story I’d recommend.
I received an ARC in exchange for a free and honest review.
Note: Season 1 of Bookburners is on sale on all ebook and Serial Box platforms for $2.99, from midnight 7/12 to midnight 7/19.