REVIEW: Foul Days (The Witch’s Compendium of Monsters Book 1) by Genoveva Dimova

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As a witch in the walled city of Chernograd, Kosara has plenty of practice treating lycanthrope bites, bargaining with kikimoras, and slaying bloodsucking upirs. There’s only one monster she can’t defeat: her ex, the Zmey, known as the Tsar of Monsters. She’s defied him one too many times and now he’s hunting her. Betrayed by someone close to her, Kosara’s only choice is to trade her shadow—the source of her powers—for a quick escape.

Unfortunately, Kosara soon develops the deadly sickness that plagues shadowless witches—and only reclaiming her magic can cure her. To find it, she’s forced to team up with a suspiciously honorable detective. Even worse, all the clues point in a single direction: To get her shadow back, Kosara will have to face the Foul Days’ biggest threats without it. And she’s only got twelve days.

But in a city where everyone is out for themselves, who can Kosara trust to assist her in outwitting the biggest monster from her past?

CW/TW – The “biggest monster” from Kosara’s past is one who grooms, isolates, and then drains his young female victims of their love/life.

Dear Ms. Dimova, 

I’ve been trying to branch out a little in what I read and with its focus on Slavic folklore, this fantasy looked inviting. At first I was totally on board and enjoying the fast pace. Then around the 3/5 mark, the tics of the book began to irritate me. I’ll be honest and admit that I forced myself to finish it. 

Kosara lives in a walled city. Each year, for twelve days, the city is subject to attack by various and assorted horrible monsters. The citizens basically have to hunker down, stay inside at night, and hope that either the wards that they pay witches to draw around their doors and windows hold or that they’ve stocked up on the weapons that can be used to defend themselves. What I should have noticed is when Kosara mentions how some of them never seem to listen to the warnings that the Witch and Warlock Association issues every  year. You’d think that after this many years of facing the same (damn) monsters, the city folk would wise up and do what the WWA says but they don’t.

That right there is this book in a nutshell. People ought to pay attention, plan, and be ready but they never are. Kosara included. 

Kosara thinks she’s going to be ready this year when the monster from her past appears. But just like always, he finds her. This year though, she has a bit of an escape in the form of someone who promises to whisk her out of the walled city and into the neighboring one. Desperate, Kosara accepts his bargain and in doing so she is removed from her past monster but she loses the thing most important to her – her shadow. Without it her witchly powers are useless and worse still, the fatal disease she knows she will eventually get because of not having a shadow appears almost immediately. The clock is ticking on her life and she must get her shadow and her power back. 

As I said, the book begins with a bang. I was invested. I read the first half in a day. Then I began to notice things. Kosara is one of those “jump out of the frying pan and into the fire” people who never plan things out. She decides to do something and just goes for it, pretty much. When things don’t work out like she wants (and that’s almost all the time) she awkwardly tries to bluff her way past problems (rarely works) or has to be saved by someone else. At least Kosara’s true to form as her witch mentor always told her that Kosara is too impatient. However Kosara never learns then whines when things go badly after which she endlessly blames herself since she has little self confidence. 

Along the way we see Kosara faced with various circumstances which she immediately declares won’t turn out this way only for those circumstances to then turn out exactly as Kosara swore they wouldn’t. People she knows couldn’t possibly do this yet that’s exactly what they then do. I lost count of how often this happens but it’s a lot. Kosara then gets angry because “how could this person betray her?” and then she declares she should have seen the obvious signs. Rinse, spin, wash, repeat. The romance is very tepid at best though this might change in the second book. I also had trouble pinning down the worldbuilding as it’s got monsters but also telephones, guns, and trains. 

The description for the book is adult but it reads as very YA. Very, very immature, impulsive YA. But YA with scary monsters. I did enjoy the Slavic monsters and folklore and entertained myself by reading East vs West Cold War scenarios into the walled city of Chernograd and the outer city across the wall. There is a ton of exposition, some things are minutely described while others (including what the main character looks like) are sparse, Kosara sulks a lot, and though one of the main themes is supposed to be Kosara finding her own strength yet even at the end she still seems to doubt herself. I think readers looking for an adult fantasy will be disappointed in the immaturity of Kosara (I was) but perhaps the different Eastern European folklore will carry the day. But I seriously doubt I will bother to read the sequel. C-             


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Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 25 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there’s no TSTL characters and is currently reading more fantasy and SciFi.

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