Book Reviews

Book Review: Harley Merlin and the Challenge of Chaos

Title: Harley Merlin and the Challenge of Chaos
Author: Bella Forrest
Genre: Fantasy Fiction

What it’s about: Imogene helps Harley work through her emotions, specifically as a confidant. She and Harley then go to meet with the Rag Team at the Infirmary, where they discuss the stolen children, and other items that they would like to bring up in front of the California Mage Council. Harley makes the decision to try to go the next parts of the steps alone, without any of her friends, but Finch doesn’t allow it.

Katherine returns to her Island, which she had to move to Oahu, and visits the magical children, with plans to find additional ones, including getting her hand on Louella. She sends Naima off on her own to find the eleventh magical child that she needs for her fifth ritual, while she reminisces about her past–she was pregnant with Finch already when she murdered everyone in her family during Christmas, because they had told her to get over Hiram, not knowing about her pregnancy. Finch reminds her of Hiram, and Katherine knows that he didn’t have any chance of being loved. She visits her grandfather at her beach house, and then keeps walking until she finds the cage holding the real Imogene Whitehall, where she kills her.

Alton agrees to assist Harley in resurrecting her parents, based theories in Necromancy, that no one has achieved previously. He speaks with Imogene and mentions the need for another necromancer, which gives Katherine an idea and she reaches out to Davin Doncaster, a Necromancer that she knows, who agrees to the project.

While visiting Jacob in the infirmary, Harley finds out that Levi also has a Djinn by the name of Zalaam. Apparently the men of the Levi clan suffer the same fate due to a curse made by a Persian Warlock. Raffe shows up after Harley calls him, and automatically Kadar comes out to tell Zalaam that he never told Raffe anything about Zalaam’s existence. Ultimately, Zalaam agrees to help Kadar and Harley regarding Katherine. The next day, Katherine also speaks to Zalaam, reminding him of the deal that she made with Erebus in Tartarus in which the Djinn cannot say word about her. Since all Djinn are born of Erebus, they must follow his rules.

In the meantime, Harley faces more challenging tasks in using her ability to control Purge Beasts–she gets the Gargoyles to listen, and then struggles with Leviathan. She has to feed the dark affinity in order to get Leviathan to heel. She then prepares all the necessary ingredients for the Hidden Things spell, after Alton informs her that Davin agreed to assist. One of those ingredients is the bones of the Bai Gu Jing, which are brought by Kenzie, to Harley’s surprise. Kenzie, in turn, brought Finch, but Harley pushes him away. Back in her room at the coven, Wade waits for her and after a tender moment, they head to the Infirmary where Zalaam tells her that Naima was seen at some warded cabin in Montana with a young magical girl. He gives them the portaling spell that Djinn use, but for that they need to have Sahar emeralds. To find them, they go to the Ireland Coven, and steal them off a sword, replacing them with fake emeralds, and then on to the Cabin in Montana. They face Naima, arriving a little too late to rescue the girl, and Harley gets her to obey her. Naima reveals the location of the Cult, and Harley kills her. In the meantime, Katherine welcomes the girl in Eris Island.

Harley entraps Wade at the cabin, and returns to her room in the SDC. She and Alton make their way to an abandoned church in northern France where Harley meets Davin for the first time. Bai Gu Jing agrees to assist her, and brings back her parents, which results in a heartfelt reunion between the three. Then they go through their own memories, which for Harley is a painful memory that she doesn’t remember in which she felt the loneliest that she had ever been in a foster home. Harley then tells herself that she has always been loved and that she’s an extraordinary person. The eight-year-old version of her gives Harley a piece of a matte black glass.

When Harley returns to the present, she manages a few more minutes with her mom who also found her black glass. Unfortunately, Alton goes into a purge, dropping their connection, and Finch arrives to assist Harley in capturing the beast. He turns around and is surprised to see Hiram, who just finishes his part of the spell. They tell Hiram that Finch is his son, and Hiram tells him that he would have done everything to get him away from Katherine. Harley tries to push Finch away with Alton back to the SDC, but instead Finch drags her with him to the SDC, leaving Alton behind to deal with Davin. At the coven, Harley uses the matte glass she received to look through the Grimoire, when Finch gets a message from Louella asking them to meet at the infirmary.

Louella tells Harley and Imogene, that she has been able to tap into Jacob’s mind, and finds out that Imogene is Katherine. This results in Harley lunging at her, and a fight which involves Davin Doncaster coming through a portal with a bunch of cultists. Zalaam knocks Harley out, and Katherine takes Harley, Jacob and Louella through a portal, leaving Finch behind as the coven starts to crumble.

When Harley wakes up in the Land of Gaia, Katherine reveals that she has been letting Harley use the book because there is a spell in there that she needs in order to possess Harley’s body. She then turns to the magical kids, and starts taking away their Chaos. Louella is the only one that is not in a trance, and she goads Katherine saying that Katherine is unwanted. Katherine challenges Gaia, but not before Harley tells her that she killed Naima, which pisses Katherine off. During the fight with Gaia, Davin distracts her, and Katherine kills her. Harley tries to use the Grimoire, but because she has the atomic cuffs, she’s unable to do anything, and Katherine calls in her cultists to watch the finale.

Except that Harley refuses to read anything from the Grimoire for Katherine, preferring to be tortured. She holds out long enough for a portal to open for numerous magicals to stream in, amongst which she sees Remington, O’Halloran, the Rag Team, Garrett, Finch, Krieger, Hiro Nomura, the other Preceptors, and the Crowleys. Even Gaia’s children take on Katherine, which distracts her long enough for Finch and Wade to grab Harley and pull her towards Jacob. Katherine does give the order for Davin to get them, but he just stands there. Alton uses the same magic he used on Harley’s parents to bring back Isadora long enough for them to get into the world, and also out of it. Except only the Rag Team, O’Halloran, Zalaam, Finch, Garrett, and Harley make it through the portal, which leads them to the Catemaco Cabin in Mexico. This angers Katherine who swears she will kill her son the next time she sees him.

There they catch up with each other on the occurrences in both worlds, and then Harley purges a very powerful Purge Mist. Suddenly, all of the Chaos in them winks out, and Jacob wakes up. It has always been Katherine’s goal to get rid of Chaos and only give it to those who she believes are worthy. Lucky for them, Zalaam and Kadar still have their abilities, as they’re intertwined with their hosts, so it’s obvious that Chaos still exists. They just need to find it.

My Verdict: This book is very engaging, and for once it shows Harley’s range of feelings. It makes her more human, real in a way that up till now, she hasn’t really been. And also, my opinion of Finch is changing–I think he really loves Harley enough to want to see her protected.

Overall I really enjoyed the action and the suspense in this series; however, one thing that I keep noticing is that every time Harley and the Rag Team go up against Katherine, they keep losing. She always outsmarts them, and becomes more powerful. Failure, after failure, and it seems like the same script of “Harley wants to take down Katherine but when they finally figure out what she’s up to, they’re too late to do anything about it.” I’d like for that to change, and see more variety in the plot line for the Harley Merlin series.

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