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The Witching Vault
Kathrin Hutson. Exquisite Darkness, $14.99 trade paper (268p) ISBN 978-1-73316-136-7
Hutson (Sleepwater Static) launches her Accessory to Magic series with a witty but strained urban fantasy that hinges on murder in a magical bank. Witch Jessica Northwood is trying to avoid run-ins with her troubled past while looking for a job. She happens upon an opening at Winthrop & Dirledge Security Banking and meets the bank’s eccentric owner, Tabitha, and Tabitha’s pet lizard, Confucius. In a laboriously drawn-out opening, Jessica becomes Tabitha’s apprentice. Tabitha often hints that something may happen to her—so much that it’s no longer shocking when she turns up dead. Jessica reluctantly assumes ownership of the bank and must protect a mysterious Gateway within its vaults. While investigating Tabitha’s murder, Jessica meets a variety of characters, from handsome fae Leandras to grief-stricken dwarf Kerri. There’s plenty of potential here—the worldbuilding is vibrant and Confucius steals every scene he’s in—but Hutson relies on heavy foreshadowing and frequent, intrusive inner monologue to flesh out the story. The predictable mystery, meanwhile, will leave readers waiting for the other shoe to drop. Urban fantasy fans will hope for better execution in the next installment. (Self-published)

Reviewed by Publishers Weekly on 04/02/2021

Release date 12/01/2020