SPFBO: The Vessel of Ra by Catherine Schaff-Stump

Series: The Klaereon Scroll #1 Rating: 4.8/10
Date of Publishing: March 19 2019 Genre: fantasy/historical
Publisher: self-published Available: Amazon
Number of pages: 265 Author’s website: https://cathschaffstump.com/

Quote of the Book

“Octavia’s eyes flashed open, glowing like the ocean bouncing back the blue of the sky. The shadows realized their mistake as Octavia gazed upon them. They streamed away from the Binder like the River Styx. Octavia reached out delicate hands and twisted and wove the shadows into strands, tightening and knotting, an expert in the embroidery of nothing. Then she grabbed each end and twisted them together. “Come forth, Khun. Come to your mistress.” A thrill trembled inside her. The woven shadows sliced in half like a separated seam. One hairy hand with long, dirty nails birthed itself from the slit into reality. Another hand, and then the head, woolly hair, small horns, eyes at strange angles. Long, muscular arms, bare waist and midriff descending into goat legs. The shadows Octavia held firm writhed and quivered and sparks followed, heat and flame, sultry spice.”

Blurb

While traveling in Venice in 1837, Lucy Klaereon, in order to save her family’s honor and her immortal soul, decides to commit suicide by drowning herself in the Grand Canal. Unfortunately for Lucy, she is rescued. Her rescuers believe they can separate her from the demon Ra, whom she is destined to fight because of an ancient family pact. 

What Lucy does not know is that her rescuers have their own agenda. Paolo Borgia, head of a deposed magical family, wants to use Ra for his own purposes. Lucy is given an alternative, to separate herself from her demon and family, which she gladly welcomes. When she finds out the truth about Ra, Lucy's purpose changes from not only freedom, but to righting an ancient wrong.

Octavia, Lucy’s older sister, is in pursuit. She has been trained since birth to kill Lucy when Lucy loses her battle with Ra.. At the ritual to free Ra, the two sisters clash with surprising results. Octavia is possessed by Ra and Lucy is determined to free her sister and keep Ra from reshaping the world in his image.

There is one small problem. Lucy has been murdered. However, she’s not about to let a small detail like that keep her from correcting her mistakes. Lucy will save Octavia, even if it kills her again.

 

 

SPFBO Note

Please keep in mind these are personal thoughts only, and this does not mean the book have been eliminated by all the group or are a final choice to go through to the semi’s. We will update this post as the judges read along and add their opinions. Once a final decision has been made whether this book will remain or be eliminated, we will note it accordingly.

Jen’s Review – 4.5/10

The Gods of Egypt have been banished to the abyss and called demons, the Solomon Scroll may hold the key to freeing them. The Klaereon family holds that scroll and Lucy and Octavia, are inline to inherit it – depending on which of them is the strongest daughter and survives the attempt at binding their demon familiars.

Ra is the strongest of the Demons/Gods and has chosen Lucy. Octavia fears her sister too weak to Bind Ra – binding the demon gives them power over it, if they fail at the binding then the opposite hold true and they lose everything. If Lucy fails, Octavia will have to kill her.

But Ra has whispered to Octavia that she is the stronger of the two sisters and should be the one to have Ra. That they should hold the Scroll together, pushing Octavia’s weaker Demon Khun and Lucy, out of the way altogether.

***

This was one of the more interesting reads so far. I really loved the whole set-up with the magic, the God’s and the way they’re bound to the family and the way an aspect of the demon stays with the girl it has chosen – Lucy’s Ra is a falcon and Octavia’s Kuhn a dog, etc.

I also liked how the other families all had their specialties. Drussus’ and his family are Weather Mages. Carlo is a Borgia; of poisoner fame- so obviously they’re alchemists. And Lucy’s family, have bound familiars/demons (though Lucy’s mothers’ side were Blood mages). It felt like there was attention spent on making the different family’s magic fit together in the world of this story. Of course, more care was spent on the Klaereon girls, but it did make me wonder if the author has each or the families magic worked out to the same degree and if any of the other families would play a bigger part in upcoming books.

***

Lucy and Octavia

I was surprised to find Lucy to be more head-strong than I expected. We know right away she has a good heart because she tries to save her sister from having to do the awful deed of killing her when she ultimately fails at the binding. But there is also a fair amount of time establishing that Lucy is and seen as the weaker sister. She is a little person; she is deformed, in her fathers’ eyes and persecuted because of her doll-like size. She even sees herself this way. So, it sort of threw me off when we get back to her POV again and she is more assertive than we see her in the beginning when she was deciding whether or not to jump into the canal.

Of the girls, I found Octavia the more interesting of the two, whereas Lucy (at least in the beginning) was being pulled around by the story other characters, Octavia was more proactive and led hers. There was a bit more layering to her character as she wrestles with right and wrong and the pressures from everyone that surrounds her to take want she wants and justifying it to herself even though she knows she shouldn’t do it. There is even a bit of that “bad girl wants the bad sex” kind of trope.

In some ways this book felt more like it was about Octavia, and her struggles, than about Lucy being a Vessel for Ra. I was ok with that though because both girls’ stories had potential to be interesting.

Story-wise it’s pretty much what it says on the box. The summary takes us through a good half the book and was a quick read. The second half was a little weaker- it wasn’t as interesting to me or as tightly written but ends in a good spot with lots of room for future stories.

My biggest issues were to do with the repetitive thoughts and info – with everybody and about everything. From the reasons for wanting the scroll and what it does, to having to win in the binding ritual and the consequences of not winning etc. so, a lot of the back-end felt like we had been there done that. Especially with Octavia, who is back and forth on killing Lucy. I almost dropped the story over this.

Also, in scenes with multiple characters or where a lot was happening- the talking could be whippingly fast and the actions convoluted- making it tough to follow what was going on or who was talking.

TLDR:  This was a really cool concept and I enjoyed it; particularly the first half of the story.

 

Timy’s Review – 6/10 (read 28%)

When we got our books assigned, this was one of the ones that picked my interest. And though I didn’t love it, seems like a decent read still. I symphatised with Lucy being short and underestimated by everyone, most of all by her family. The story is set in 19th century Europe – Venice, most of all – and follows the story of Lucy Klaereon mostly, but there are other POV characters such as Paolo who saves her life and is destined to play an important role in the coming events – he might end up being the love interest too, though that’s just my guess – and Olivia, Lucy’s sister. This book has magic, demons, complicated relationships and a bit of a predictable outcome. I wish we learn more about the magic system and the Klaereon family’s relationships with demons (especially Ra) – and why they brainwash their own children. It’s actually an easy and fast read so it can be finished in a setting or two. I recommend if you like intrigue and a main character who has every odds against her and still keeps fighting on. All in all, I quite liked it and may read it on one day, but I have to part with it for now.

 

Nick’s Review – 4/10

A period-piece fantasy taking place in Venice in the early 19th Century that just never hooked me unfortunately.  The writing was fine and the premise of sisters who are able to bind demons is a very cool one.  There’s also quite a bit of Egyptian mythology infused into the storyline.  My enjoyment of the book was hampered by issues with pacing (the plot takes quite a while to move forward) and the characters who I thought weren’t fleshed out as much as they could have been.  I wanted to know more about their stories and backgrounds but I feel like that was skimmed over and never really addressed.  Also this book was a bit heavy on the romance angle which I’ve stated before I’m not a huge fan of in my books.  All in all a decent enough effort but just not enough for me to continue reading.

4 thoughts on “SPFBO: The Vessel of Ra by Catherine Schaff-Stump

Add yours

  1. Ooh, I like having all the reviews in one place! Already it seems like there are variations in what each reviewer wants from the book (which is to be expected!). I’m intrigued by the concept of The Vessel of Ra so I may cautiously give it a go.

    Bunny/Jen, thanks so much for the longer review! There is so much there that I feel like I’ve got a very good idea of what to expect. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And I already added Nick’s thoughts too! Posting reviews is a bit of a mess right now, but everything is linked on the main SPFBO page, so hopefully everything can be followed…

      Like

    2. Thank you Victoria! I hoped that it was enough to get an idea what to expect (I also just tend to be yappy). It’s a neat story, I hope you enjoy it if you decide to check it out.

      Like

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