The Lion’s Circle, the first in the Nea Fox series by Amelia Ellis, is a detective novel, set in England, about a private investigator who faces down a dangerous, misogynistic cult with the help of various random players who join her in the action.
As I slogged through the epilogue chapters, I kept thinking about how I would critique this book as an unfinished work, which is not a good sign. On the plus side, I will say I was entertained during the more active scenes, was interested in Nea as a character, and found the plot to be solid enough. However, the pacing leaves something to be desired. I’d say a good third of the book is filled up with details about Nea’s environment, meals, friends, and daily activities, which are irrelevant to the plot and far too numerous to make for concise characterisation. In lieu of strong foreshadowing, I was pushed forward by my interest in the woman-woman relationship, which turned out to be an insignificant element of the plot. The lesbian/bisexual plot occurs in the background: it enters at the beginning, gets us interested in the blossoming relationship between the narrator (who it sounds like has never been with a woman before) and a somewhat mysterious woman. This plot then disappears under the rest of the story, only returning for a hinted continuation in the final chapters, save for a few thoughts by the narrator that remind us she has recently become infatuated. During a lull in the action, the narrator works and works up to telling her best friend about the woman she has met, and then the actual conversation is anticlimactically skipped, cutting us off from possible insight about the conflicted feelings Nea may or may not be having.
As a side note, while the story hints at supernatural elements, mundane explanations are eventually given for these. I’m still not convinced there aren’t any supernatural elements—it is strongly hinted that there is something up with Nea’s love interest and with a piece of her jewelry, although that could just be for the ambience of mystery—and I hope, too, that their relationship is explored in more depth in the sequels.
– Lesbians: a bit. Main character is bi- or pansexual (she hasn’t labeled herself.)
– Racial diversity: pretty white. India is mentioned as the source of the white men’s cult.
– Chekhov’s gun: you won’t see it again.
Overall, I wouldn’t recommend The Lion’s Circle unless you have a particular interest in the detective genre. I’m going to read further into the series; perhaps that will change my opinion.