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Reviewed by Liz Konkel for Readers' Favorite
Shrill Dusk by Helen Harper is the first book in the City of Magic series. Charley does whatever it takes to help people even if it means taking on a debt to pay back money owed to the despicable Maximilian Stone. She spends her time balancing out two lives: her job cleaning at the police station and trying her luck at gambling. Then everything starts getting weird: the station is overrun with rats, fire lights up the sky, a pink elephant is spotted in town, and trees randomly appear only to seemingly disappear. Making matters worse, her roommate changes into something she's never seen before and two strangers appear at her door to help. One is a handsome werewolf who warns her of a magical apocalypse on the rise while also insulting her capabilities, which she doesn't appreciate. She doesn't want to believe magic is real but as magical chaos happens around her, she wonders just what role she plays in what's to come.
Helen Harper weaves this larger than life plot and not only does it well, but with every moment spent with Charley you want to see more of this world and join in her fight against an insane apocalypse. Her story begins with a dark tragedy in her past which is rooted in her drive for helping people and in how she responds to this sudden surge of magic. She's so driven to help anyone in need that she puts herself in danger which plays into various situations occurring in the city during this disaster. Balancing out the magical danger is the realistically portrayed bad guy Max who gains his power through cruelty and fear. Charley constantly stands her ground against him, never showing fear and only showing her strength which comes from her protective instincts. Monroe is a handsome werewolf who's rough around the edges with ideals that clash with Charley's because while she wants to save everyone, he believes in looking out solely for himself and his pack. This difference provides a great deal of tension and inspires witty banter which often makes their scenes flirty, engaging, and with plenty of chemistry.
Harper creates a complex and interesting back and forth between them, making you want to see more of this rich dynamic. Shrill Dusk is an incredibly quirky read with lots of strange magical things happening which are often reminiscent of fairy tales. A tragic backstory, magical chaos, and an apocalypse set to tear apart Manchester make Shrill Dusk a delightfully strange adventure. A funny and emotional journey which is complete with a strong heroine, a snarky werewolf, magical beings, and the strength of heart that could save them all.