What I’m Reading: Summon the Keeper by Tanya Huff

What the book is about: 

This is a fantasy book about a Keeper, Claire, who is summoned to a magical accident site to clean it up. Of course, once she gets there, everything starts to go wrong. For example, it’s not a quick clean up and go site. She becomes stuck there as she realizes the extent of the problem and that she wasn’t summoned to seal it, but to monitor it, because there is a hole to Hell in the basement that no one can seal because of the mechanics and reasons it was formed in the first place.

Claire is angry about this, but eventually she sort of tries to make the best of it. Along the way, she continually insults the 20-year-old Dean who has an obsession with cleanliness, makes friends with a ghost who constantly begs for flesh so he can be her lover, and is kept somewhat on her honest toes by her talking cat, Austin.

What I liked: 

  • Creativity – the story itself is very creative and there are lots of little things all the time that keep the plot moving forward, even as weeks and months pass by.
  • Hell’s sense of humor – can I say this without it being too much of a spoiler? Well, I’m going to anyway. We get to hear some of the conversations Hell has with itself and I found myself bemused, ESPECIALLY by the Young Frankenstein reference.
  • Characters – the characters were well placed and well-worked. For example, from the moment we meet Jaques the ghost until the book ends, he is CONSTANTLY trying to get Claire to agree to give him flesh so he can give her pleasure. It never lets up and I wouldn’t expect it to because it’s just who he is. All the characters act in ways that are consistent with their character, even when I find it annoying, they are nothing if not consistent, realistic, and I suppose predictable would be an okay word here. I never found myself surprised that a character responded in a certain way because that response is logical and expected.

What I didn’t like: 

  • Being confused – it took a very long time for me to get the slightest idea of what was going on. Even by chapter 5, I still felt like I didn’t really get it. I didn’t understand who Claire or a Keeper was, I didn’t understand why Austin is a talking cat, I didn’t understand what exactly she was supposed to be doing or what her role is – there were a lot of things I just didn’t get. And it really dropped down the enjoyability of the book for me.
  • Claire’s know-it-all demeanor – this is probably just a personal thing, but her insistence that she was the only person who could possibly understand what was going on got tiresome for me. I get that it was a NECESSARY element of the plot because her personal growth plot line, but I struggled with that quite a bit throughout the book.
  • Austin the cat – I’m not a cat person. At all. And so the smug cat thing didn’t really do it for me, either. Quite frankly, I enjoyed Baby the really annoying Doberman from next door far more than Austin, though he had some good one-liners and was essential in keeping Claire much more honest than she’d rather be.

Overall thoughts and opinions: 

This wasn’t my favorite book ever. It took me the entire month of November to read it for a couple reasons.

  1. I struggled to actually enjoy the book, so it was easy to put it back down
  2. I kept reading because it was NaNo last month and I didn’t want to tempt myself away from writing by finding a book I REALLY enjoyed reading.
  3. I have a hard time stepping away from anything I’ve started. As in, I’ll read books I don’t like, I’ll watch movies I don’t really like, and I’ll listen to far more podcast episodes than I should of shows I don’t really like for the simple reason that I HATE not finishing something I’ve started.

It’s not to say that this book was terrible, because I don’t really think it was. There were lots of good writing elements, the characters are consistent, etc.

The magic system and what’s going on could have been fleshed out a tiny bit more closer to the beginning so that I didn’t feel like I was lost for half the book. By the last 20 pages, I finally felt like I knew what was going on, but for me, that’s a bit late in the book for that.

Finally, sometimes the actions tags around the dialogue were confusing to me and I had to go back and re-read in order to understand what was trying to be conveyed. Sometimes just a little tighter editing would have gone a long way to help with the clarity of the book.

This book is part of a series, but I will not be continuing the series.

Given all these things together, for me, I have to give this book 3 stars. If you can get to the end, you should try, but if you’re not enjoying it all that much, just put it down and find something else.

3 star rating

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3 thoughts on “What I’m Reading: Summon the Keeper by Tanya Huff

  1. I love that this is an honest review. When you stated the concept at the start I was very ‘wow this sounds interesting’ and at the end I was like ‘meh, maybe’. Thank you. What age range would you say this book would fall into? Because Hell had a significant role in the story do you think it was counter to your religion?


    1. Thank you! Honest reviews are honestly a little terrifying!!

      I think this would easily fall into YA. There was nothing overly sketchy. While there was plenty of sexual innuendo, there was nothing graphic at all. The ONE “sex scene”, if you can call it that, is literally 8 or 10 words long.

      Your Hell question is interesting. Two books I’ve read now, this one and On A Pale Horse, incorporate Hell as a major part of the world and I honestly think they do a pretty good job of it. I think I felt more with On A Pale Horse because it was all about how people get to Heaven and Hell and that’s where I take issue – the meritocracy. There was no real mention of how one gets into Hell necessarily here, so it was here nor there. Hell was probably not quite sinister enough for reality for me, but its desire to try to manipulate every little thing was VERY spot on. Every little thought or flicker could be a spot in life that’s easily manipulated and takes one further away from their relationship or a potential relationship with Jesus Christ.

      When I read about other worlds and the gods made up, I can compartmentalize that as just part of this world that the author has made up. I struggle more with my own writing and the religious aspect required there. Because my writing reflects me, and I believe I represent God, I have to wrestle a lot more through what my religious systems say. Or least I feel like I do.

      Does that answer your question or was it just a long ramble?? HAHA!

      And again, THANK YOU for the encouragement about the honest review. They can be scary to write sometimes, especially when I didn’t particularly enjoy the book.


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