Fantasy Book Review
Boundary Crossed is an entry into the contemporary or urban fantasy genre from Melissa Olson. Contemporary fantasy, unlike high fantasy, happens in today’s world. I first got into contemporary fantasy with Jim Butcher’s Dresden files. When that first of that series came out it felt really new and fresh. Butcher created a wizard that lived in Chicago and advertised his profession, as a wizard, in the Yellow Pages. He treated all cases like some film noir detective with the customary chip on his shoulder. I loved it. This then expanded into Kim Harrison’s Hollows world which, if I remember correctly, is based within some parallel version of Cleveland. Felt a little derivative, but not bad. Sadly, this turned into its own genre. Within ten years there were druids, weather witches, elves and every other role playing archetype in damn near every city in the United States. The big problem I have with the genre is that it has become as formulaic as a recipe for instant vanilla pudding. Pick a city, add magic, werewolves and vampires. Stir. There is no world building, very little in the way of creativity and it just got lazy and boring.
Boundary Crossed introduces us to a witch living in Boulder, Colorado. To be fair, Olson is a good writer, she develops her characters well and puts you directly into the story. It’s the derivative content that I have a problem with. You can imagine people sitting around, drinking, or since we are in Colorado, passing the peace pipe around, and someone says, “Duuuude, wouldn’t it be cool if you woke up one morning and found out you were a witch….”. Everyone looks at the speaker and says, “Whoa man, that would be cool. You just blew my mind.” The problem is, every other damn TV show and every third fantasy novel coming out these days does the exact same thing. Enough. Unless you have some new creative spin to add to the genre, just stop. The world needs less me toos and more creative content.
Olson’s slightly new addition is that our Boulder witch, Lex, is a boundary witch. Boundary witches draw their power from death, so more necromancy than witch. Lex is a bit of an outcast from her family in that she chose to join the army instead of go to Stanford. While in the army, she and her unit got torn up pretty badly and in a scenario where she should have died, she beat death back and came out of it with nothing more than a couple of scars. This is the setup for her nascent boundary witch powers.
Our heroine makes her way back home to Colorado where she is forced to deal with a significant loss in her family. This loss puts her in a funk that has her life spiraling into a depressing, dead-end job working at the local Qwick-E mart. Vampires, enter stage left. The vampires end up kidnapping her little niece that is the last link to her lost family member. This kidnapping starts Lex on her adventure into magic and mayhem.
Again, Olson is a solid writer and she builds a couple of characters that you do care about throughout the book but there is nothing new to see here. I’m done with the series and the genre. Contemporary fantasy has become the romance genre of the 2000s.