Magic at the Vatican: Bookburners Levels Up in Season Two

Bookburners: Season Two (2016)
Written by: Max Gladstone, Margaret Dunlap, Brian Francis Slattery, Andrea Phillips, Mur Lafferty, Amal El-Mohtar
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 734 (Kindle version; although I listened to the audio)
Series: Bookburners
Publisher: Serial Box

Disclaimer: I received a copy of season two of Bookburners from the publisher Serial Box. This was not done with the understanding that I would write a review. The fact that I received it for free will not impact my opinion/rating of the book.

Why I Chose It: Having enjoyed the first season of the fiction serial Bookburners (my review is here), I knew I wanted to continue. So I was pleased when Serial Box contacted me and offered me the whole season for free.

The Premise:

Magic is real, and hungry — trapped in ancient texts and artifacts. Only a few who discover it survive to fight back.

Join Detective Sal Brooks, newest recruit to a black-ops magic hunting team backed by the Vatican, as she travels the world to keep the supernatural in check. Just remember: watch your back and don’t touch anything.

Fans of Supernatural, The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and The Da Vinci Code will love this epic urban fantasy. Bookburners Season 2 is written by Max Gladstone, Margaret Dunlap, Brian Francis Slattery, Andrea Phillips, Mur Lafferty, and Amal El-Mohtar and presented by Serial Box Publishing.

This review is spoiler free.

As someone’s who’s watched more than her fair share of television over the years, I can’t help but pick up on certain trends. Often, you’ll come across a show that has an entertaining if imperfect first season, only to have them really hit their stride in season two. Maybe this has to with a writers’ room learning how to effectively work together, actors needing time to find a character’s voice, or simply the effects of trail and error, but it’s almost becoming easy to predict which shows will fall into this pattern.

And perhaps it’s because Bookburners was written like a television show (writers’ room and all), but while reading the satisfying yet uneven first season, I found myself wondering if the serial was going to fall into this trend. Now, having read the second season in its entirety, I can gladly report back that Bookburners has really leveled up. For me, much of the success of the second season is due to two things: compelling character arcs, and watching the characters get to delve deeper into the past mythology of the Bookburners universe.

While Bookburners has always been an ensemble property, Sal Brooks was arguably the protagonist of season one, providing an effective outsider perspective to introduce us to the Vatican’s anti-demon/magic squad. Interestingly enough, this isn’t the case with Season Two, and while I like Sal plenty, I think this ends up working in Bookburners’ favor, as is allows other members of the team to shine.

The two characters who end up really taking the reigns in season two are Asanti and Liam, two characters who have had very difference experiences with magic. Asanti doesn’t view magic as purely malicious, but as a potentially useful tool that can be used in their fight against evil. Asanti’s perspective creates a delicious level of conflict within Team Three, especially when it comes to Father Menchu who, having seen his childhood village destroyed by magic, is far more cautious. But cautious doesn’t mean inflexible, which means that Asanti’s quest to understand magic sets Team Three on a quest to discover the truth behind Team Four (the Vatican’s long-lost magical experimentation unit). This exploration into The Society’s long past produced some of my favorite episodes of the season.

Liam’s story, on the other hand, deals with his history with the Network. In the interest of keeping this review pretty spoiler free, I can’t go into specifics, but I can’t help but think that focusing so much on Liam ended up being a pretty gutsy move. The reason? He’s not always the most likable member of Team Three. Regardless, I came out of Season Two feeling as if had a much better idea of Liam as a character, and the presence of the Network really ends up raising the stakes of the story.

Liam and Asanti aren’t the only ones who get some compelling character arcs. Grace — whose existence has been magically tied to a candle flame — has some really great moments, as she begins to more fully examine the consequences that magic has had on her life. Much like Asanti’s storyline, Father Menchu’s arc also gives us a deeper insight into the greater working of The Society, as the Vatican searches for a new cardinal to lead the way.

It’s also worth mentioning that Season Two of Bookburners includes two new writers among the staff. Yes, Max Gladstone, Brian Francis Slattery, Margaret Dunlap and Mur Lafferty all return, but this time they are joined by Andrea Phillips and Amal El-Mohtar, who write some truly great episodes this season. Getting to experience the book on audio was also a treat. This is mostly for practical reasons (getting a nice chunk of time just to sit down and read is becoming increasingly rare for me), but also due to the fact that narrator, XE Sands does a really solid job at tacking the wide variety of accents present in this very global story. One of the nice things about Serial Box app is when you pick up a season of their content, you get both the ebook AND audio version, and you can chose to read or listen as suits you, which is wonderfully flexible.

In Conclusion: Thanks to its strong character arcs, worldbuilding, and a couple of talented new writers, the second season of Bookburners improves upon the promise shown by the first, resulting in quite a page-turner. The final episode ends with Team Three drastically changed, and raises lots of interesting questions for season three. The third season of Bookburners is in the midst of being released as of the writing of this review, and I am looking forward to binging it on audio once all the episodes are out. Much like season one, if you are looking for a fun, team-oriented paranormal series with lovable characters and plenty of action, then I would recommend you give Bookburners a chance.

3 Comments

  • Shara White August 24, 2017 at 12:49 pm

    I’m glad to hear season two gets better! S1 is waiting on my kindle! 🙂

    Reply
  • Lane Robins August 24, 2017 at 1:22 pm

    Oh good! I picked up season two but kind of bounced off of it (tired and cranky that day) and was hoping it wasn’t the book. Now I know it’s just me and I have a treat waiting on my kindle! Have you tried the other serial that Gladstone is writing for? The Witch Who Came in from the Cold

    Reply

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