Book Review: A Grimoire for Gamblers

A Grimoire for Gamblers, by Amanda Creiglow. I’m not going to give this a star rating, because my reaction to this one is twofold: It’s at least four-star well written, and I would advise avoiding it, because I find it morally toxic.

Two main reasons. First, the main character, Elizabeth, has no one she can trust in-story. No one, at all. From relatives to boyfriends to inhuman allies; if friendly, she either has to lie to them or they end up with their memories wiped. If not friendly, she generally has to smile and accept their company anyway, or risk being destroyed. The way the story keeps yin-yanging between “Max the charming wizard” and “Max, the guy who thinks he’s being nice when he offers to kill you peacefully so the vampiric spirit a graveling sicced on your father will finish taking its vengeance and the supernatural treaty holds, even though he could possibly stop it” is enough to make your head spin.

The second main reason is that the climax of the story hinges on gambling not just what you can’t afford to lose, but gambling with other people’s lives who never consented. Elizabeth bets not only her life, but her sister and her sister’s family’s lives on the outcome of a fight she knows won’t be fair, based on her read on the gambling demon in charge of the situation. That he favors the person who bets on the highest stakes. It’s sickening; worse because after she wins, the guy makes it quite clear he hopes to see what other bets she’ll make.

As someone who’s had to deal with other people’s addictive behavior, the climax of the story made me want to hit something.

But it’s the lack of trust and memory-wiping that grinds my gears even worse, because it robs the main character of the primary advantage humans have, in a world where every Thing else has magic. Our ability to work in groups, put together ideas and solutions that no one person can come up with alone, and watch each other’s backs. And beyond that, the mere fact of having someone else to vent to, to keep the pressure from driving you crazy. (An actual risk – though Elizabeth at least finds out her father wasn’t crazy, he was possessed. Cold comfort, now that he’s committed suicide and the spirit is killing other people.)

The worldbuilding that led to this, that at some point wizards and unnatural creatures went to war, and settled terms that normal humans were forbidden from magic, is something that just doesn’t square with how I understand humans and history, either. We have humans trying to work magic from earliest prehistory right up through modern day. If all supernaturals were as jump-the-gun nasty about successful attempts as we see in the book, there’d be blood painting the streets on a regular basis and no one would be able to cover it up. It also paints wizards as all inherently evil even though they’re supposed to be of human heritage as well, given their reaction to “completely innocent guy who just happened to be near something magical got cursed by spiteful supernatural with vampiric spirit” is not “zap spirit” but rather “let the spirit kill the guy”. Unless the spirit gets into a position to hurt them personally, in which case they zap it like a fly.

The author had this book up for free for a time on Amazon, likely as advertisement for the rest of the series. As far as I’m concerned, they can keep it – I’m getting this off my Kindle. Ugh.

13 thoughts on “Book Review: A Grimoire for Gamblers

  1. Wow. It’s like the author never considers the toxic effect that kind of environment has. Or the mental isolation effects and how that drives people crazy, or what close contact with sociopathic individuals does. Or the fact that gambling has its own way of degrading things. But no, no, let’s not talk about the real, genuine effects of gambling, especially high stakes gambling.

    I’m just going to say, that corner for Balled Up Protagonists is not nearly as full as it should be.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Sounds like someone read the same guides about making sure the characters have no-one to depend on to raise drama.

    Or maybe like I really don’t want to know what the author’s social life is like… thank you for the heads up.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I suspect the author decided how they wanted the story to finish, then solved backwards to build a world to support it.

      Gambling with lives -> Gambling culture that accepts “lives” as currency -> Grey Zone where a culture that agrees on rules for gambling but hates humans -> Hidden because humans don’t tolerate gambling with other people’s lives -> Crapsack World

      Liked by 4 people

  3. the only way i see for such treaty to really hold, is with either government funded or a great conspiracy , of Hunters that have no magic, but got silver bullet shooting machineguns, ultraviolet hand granades (against vampires) holy water spraying waterguns and waterbombs, and other onti supernatural armamnets, that reqiure no magic, mass produced, in enough force to arm the thausands of troops they have, training…

    and ready to ponce the moment the psychics, whos psionics are NOT magic, because they arent recognized as magic by any active detection or sense – and therefore do not count (no matter that psionics arent normal, they also arent magic), will sense the need to.

    otherwise you get world war supernatural – or at least a latter agency experimenting on vampires and wizards in secret basement of a facility that officially doesn’t exist.

    the memory wipe is also something i always had big issues about – and felt as something overused with not nearly enough caution…

    Liked by 5 people

  4. I hate memory wipes and mind-jiggering. Tomorrow’s post covers some of that. Ugh, do you know what messing with a person’s mind does to them? What it does those who care about them and vice versa? That’s not even getting into the moral aspect of that type of action – I actually hinted that this was a Bad Thing in my story in Planetary Anthology Uranus *for a reason*: messing with minds has *consequences*. You *don’t do that* if you’re the hero.

    Granted, I can understand Professor X throwing Magneto’s worst memory in the latter’s face telepathically when the other X-Men are down and everyone’s life is at stake. It’s ugly and he shouldn’t want to do it, but if it’s life and death and there’s no other viable option, it’s got to be done. Jean Grey altering the minds/memories of Kitty Pryde’s parents to let her join the X-Men *at twelve* and never being called on it? *Someone* should’ve whacked Jean over the head with a two-by-four sized cluebat for that, because that’s *wrong*. Phoenix empowered or not, Jean *should have known* – and done – the right thing, which was to *leave them alone.* Same for Agatha Harkness when Wanda Maximoff lost her magically-created sons. GAH!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’ve got an Evil Empire that uses attempted mind-editing as part of how they have power. They do it by, of course, brain chunk removal. (but it’s tiny, TARGETED bits!)

      They’re really good at it, MOST of the subjects survive and are functional enough to not need a nurse-maid!

      …hand-waving stuff in without identifiable scarring wouldn’t be viewed as any less horrible.

      Liked by 3 people

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