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The Eternal Hourglass: 03/14/13
The Eternal Hourglass by Erica Kirov is the first of the Magickeepers series. Nick Rostov lives with his father in a crappy room in one of the older Las Vegas hotel. He's starting the summer off with a bad report card, and another birthday by himself.
Except this time, his grandfather appears on his thirteenth birthday with the offer of a new life, new powers, an extended family he didn't know exists and, of course, new responsibilities. He's also moving to another hotel — this one a palace and magic school in disguise, all run by his extended and apparently massive family.
How Nick reacts (or doesn't) to suddenly being thrust into a magical lifestyle is another bone of contention. Harry Potter fans seem to respond with more enthusiasm to Nick just blindly accepting his new life. Personally I have problems with the set up for both books — but here Nick, despite his crappy hotel apartment, does seem to have a good relationship with his father. I find it much harder to believe that he would just happily up and leave for such an extended period of time to go learn magic with relatives he didn't even know existed. Granted, he's still in Las Vegas, but I think he'd be motivated to find a way home.
Here magic is hidden in plain sight by making it part of the Las Vegas kitsch. It's not a separate world of wizards and witches vs. muggles. Instead, it's a world of creative camouflage. Except — and this is such an overused trope — as soon as the main character has begun to come into his or her powers, the EVIL forces come out of the woodwork. As a reader, I'm tired of this plot. Learning to handle a sudden influx of power should be dangerous enough by itself. There doesn't have to be a BIG BAD lurking around every corner; all it does is get in the way of character development and world building.
The Eternal Hourglass did not work for me. Nick was too passive a character. The inky shadows of BIG BAD, while visually interesting, were more of a distraction from potentially difficult character building opportunities or more complex world building. I wanted a better blending of Nick's personal story, the Russian family history of using magic, and Las Vegas's own checkered history. Unfortunately, none of those pieces came together, leaving me wishing I'd spent my time reading something else.