Score: 92/100 (9.2 out of 10)
This family is NUTS!
Well, for literary and dramatic purposes, that's arguably a good thing.
Following the Madigan family is like watching the Kentucky Derby, except all the horses (and jockeys) are trying to launch and slingshot each other Ricky Bobby-style while trying to trip and check their competition NHL-style. Actually, it's more like roller derby. This family just can't sit still or walk in a straight line. Hecate forbid one of these witches gets pulled over and has to do a sobriety test.
The Cup by Marieke Lexmond is the highly-anticipated fourth installment in The Madigan Chronicles series following the aforementioned Madigan family, a family of witches and mages who are charged with securing the sacred, magical objects that hold the powers of the elements.
This book centers around the relationship between two estranged sisters, Freya and Luna, as they attempt to work together to secure the Cup of Plenty, which holds the power over water. The tenuous relationship between Freya and Luna mirrors many of the sister relationships in the series like Lucy & Tara and Bridgette & Maeve.
Similarly, Freya seems to envy Luna as the most powerful magic-user in the family and one of the prettiest. Luna is also put off by the prospect of not only seeing Freya again but also potentially working with her. Freya is haunted by a prophecy that she is given by Diane, the family's seer, that she will be on the precipice and be forced to make a choice. She soon realizes that this choice may be to support Luna on her quest, something that neither sister could imagine doing just the day before. Some seagull poop (perceived as a sign or good omen) changes that, in one of the book's most funny and charming moments.
This book also follows Mara on a parallel quest as she reluctantly serves out her indentured servitude to Queen Mab (who we'll get to later). Lucy, one of the main antagonists of the series, continues to struggle to restore her powers, obtain the Cup, and battle her own internal demons from decades of ill feelings toward her family.
Fin Madigan, Luna's son, emerges as a semi-major character who must embark on a perilous journey to the realm of Fairy to confront Mab, having to find a way to bypass the Ferrymaster, a being who demands the sacrifice of a memory to cross. The Ferrymaster also serves as somewhat of a major plot device or plot point as it helps to resolve why one major character has no memories of their younger years.
Diane comes into direct conflict with The Fates, The Mother, The Crone, and the Maiden. One of the Fates seems to possess her and... well, um... get her to explore herself... sexually. This includes some sexual devices that she just so happens to have conveniently at hand. So, like, if Diane was so out of touch with her sexuality and intimacy, why would she have all of these sex tools conveniently at arm's reach? Anyway, these segments are partly awkward and partly funny. It reminded us of how over-the-top Mab's orgy was in the previous book.
However, the funniest thing that involves the Fates is that someone makes the offhand comment that the Fates don't interfere. This is ironic (and kinda funny) because everything the Fates do in mythology is technically interference. That would be like saying that the working sewing machine doesn't sew, that the water isn't wet, and that the fire isn't hot.
It's similar to the oft-mentioned statement that witches aren't good liars. Meanwhile, much of what the witches and Fin do involves hiding and twisting the truth (and their intentions) from their enemies. This is more ironic than anything, similar to the situation with The Fates and Diane, someone who can literally see the future.
Also wandering around this book is Seamus, now a ghost, who has the ability to possess people if it means helping in a situation. Furthermore, there's some kind of romantic subplot with Maeve and Cephalop, the helpful octopus-man-like fairy, and another with Bridget and Wes, an artist who... is there doing boyfriend and artist things.
The main weakness of this book by far is that there are just too many characters and too much stuff going on. It makes the book more chaotic, convoluted, and more disjointed than many of the other books in the series. It makes it pretty hard to follow, even on a second or third rereading. Some of the characters even comment on how crazy everything is and how they don't even know what's going on.
Take this line by Bridget for example:
“We're stretched thin here as it is... If it was only that simple. We're not sure what she's becoming. I can't send Maeve, as she must be after the Dagger. We can barely keep Hat open with our family left here. Fin has also disappeared on some sort of mission for Diane.”
So, not even Bridget knows what the heck the other characters are actually doing. That's how crazy, confusing, and chaotic the whole thing is.
By the way, the “she” whom Bridget is referring to, if we remember correctly, is a character named Gwen. We didn't even talk about Gwen yet, but Gwen seems like she might be developing into a major threat/future villain in her own right. Gwen seems to have become a sociopath who went from killing rats to killing stray cats to burning trees (which is somehow seen as a step up from killing cats, but... ok...). So, we have a whole villain origin story budding in the background while Lucy and Queen Mab, the villains of the previous books, are both vying for the Cup and all this other stuff is happening.
The good thing is that we finally get a huge fight near the end of this between the previous villains. We're also introduced to quite a few interesting antagonistic characters in this. Along with Lucy and Mab, we now have the Ferrymaster, the Fates, and Gwen, all of whom stand against or threaten our characters in some way or another.
By the way, Snowflake is a character in here charged with guarding the Cup in Greenland. See, we barely had time to talk about Snowflake until now. See how [overly]involved this book is?
We didn't even mention all the dogs and other pets in here who all have names that you're supposed to remember. Thankfully, there is a character guide at the back of the book, which is actually somewhat helpful.
Lucy, one of our favorite characters overall in the the last season, is the most human and vulnerable in this book. One of the most stand-out moments is when she encounters Mara and is actually happy/relieved to see her. By the way, did you know that Lucy had a kid with a fire demon? That sounds like something that would totally happen in this series and something she would totally do. Lucy is also separated from her body at one point in this book, and her body sustains substantial damage from scuffle with Mab, perhaps the highlight of the whole series. You can't help but cheer for her despite all the evil that she's done.
Anyway, this is a terrific series about witchcraft and wizardry that really emphasizes familial relationships and drama.
Check it out on Amazon!