Matchbox Girls by Chrysoula Tzavelas – A Review

Matchbox-Web Matchbox Girls by Chrysoula Tzavelas
324 pages, Candlemark & Gleam (February 2012)
contemporary/urban fantasy


As you can see by the publication date, I’m a little late to the party with Matchbox Girls. But, then again, books don’t really go bad (for the most part), and I reviewed one from the nineteenth century last year, so, you know? I’m not going to worry about it. Just wanted to point out that this book has been out for a little while.

And I’m sorry I didn’t get around to reading it sooner.

Matchbox Girls is Chrysoula Tzavelas‘s debut novel. It’s a contemporary/urban fantasy tale about a troubled woman, Marley Claviger, who wakes up one morning to a phone call from a pair of frightened little girls whose uncle has disappeared. She comes to their aid and finds that she’s going to be doing more than just babysitting.

The book caught me up right away. I found Tzavelas’s prose a delight to read. Metaphors like “in a grip as strong as self-hatred” won me over as much as her characters and her world building. And they’re not bad either.

Matchbox Girls is a different read than the “urban fantasy” I’ve read previously. It’s not quite as dark or violent (although there are those aspects), and there’s no porn. In fact, the book has a YA feel to me, which is odd as all of the characters, other than the girls are adults. But there’s an unexpected lack of gloom and less focus on how hot our protagonist is. Tzavelas is much more interested in the mindsets of her characters, not what they wear or what their sexual proclivities are.

I really liked that Claviger is such a flawed character. Marley is a bit of a failure at life when we first meet her, and it was interesting to see her develop into something more as Matchbox Girls’ plot progressed. She felt real to me, as did her friends Penny and Branwyn. I loved Branwyn especially.

Doing as you will creates a bigger burden on the conscience than doing as you’re told. – Branwyn

Children in a story can be tricky, and I think Tzavelas handled the two in her book quite well. They act like little kids, and not in the precocious little adult way that so often happens. Even if there is more to them than meets the eye at first.

The only part of the story that felt weaker to me was the angels and their family stuff. That didn’t really win me over even though I loved Corbin. (ways to make M happy #242: put some kind of corvid in your book) Angels and demons really aren’t my thing; I just find the concept done to death. Tzavelas handles them fairly well, though, and many of their scenes are legitimately creepy.

So, want a good urban fantasy read that isn’t like all the others written by someone with a great flare for writing? You’d do worse than to check out Matchbox Girls. Oh, and? It’s the first of the Senyaza series. The second, Infinity Key, is on my TBR list.

Edinburgh Corvid

Corvids are the best! (Photo credit: rusty_dragonfly)

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