A Criminal Magic – Lee Kelly

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Summary:

Magic is powerful, dangerous and addictive – and after passage of the 18th Amendment, it is finally illegal.

It’s 1926 in Washington, DC, and while Anti-Sorcery activists have achieved the Prohibition of sorcery, the city’s magic underworld is booming. Sorcerers cast illusions to aid mobsters’ crime sprees. Smugglers funnel magic contraband in from overseas. Gangs have established secret performance venues where patrons can lose themselves in magic, and take a mind-bending, intoxicating elixir known as the sorcerer’s shine.

Joan Kendrick, a young sorcerer from Norfolk County, Virginia accepts an offer to work for DC’s most notorious crime syndicate, the Shaw Gang, when her family’s home is repossessed. Alex Danfrey, a first-year Federal Prohibition Unit trainee with a complicated past and talents of his own, becomes tapped to go undercover and infiltrate the Shaws.

Through different paths, Joan and Alex tread deep into the violent, dangerous world of criminal magic – and when their paths cross at the Shaws’ performance venue, despite their orders, and despite themselves, Joan and Alex become enchanted with one another. But when gang alliances begin to shift, the two sorcerers are forced to question their ultimate allegiances and motivations. And soon, Joan and Alex find themselves pitted against each other in a treacherous, heady game of cat-and-mouse.

A CRIMINAL MAGIC casts a spell of magic, high stakes and intrigue against the backdrop of a very different Roaring Twenties.

Review:

I’ve been in a reading funk lately. I know it happens to me now and then, but this seems a bit worse than normal with me finding it more difficult than normal to find something actually satisfying to read. I’ve been trying to combat this in a few ways: I’ve dropped down my challenge on Good Reads from 90 to 75 as a reminder to myself that sometimes quality is better than quantity. Just because I can read all the books doesn’t mean that I should.

The other way, of course, is to read awesome books, like this one.

A Criminal Magic is a historical fantasy set in the 1920s where the Prohibition isn’t against alcohol, it’s against the Sorcerer’s Shine, pure magic, distilled into a beverage that is a trip in a shot. It’s a fun concept for a world and it’s really well done with a magic system that both feels developed and feels like it has consequence and better still, the magic serves as a backdrop for ultimately an interesting character study about two newcomers to the underworld and how that life impacts them. You watch as Joan gets drawn deeper in, the promise of wealth and security like her family has never had being worth the risk even as Alex by it all having seen both sides of it – the money and the blood on the hands that come with it.

It’s a great, adult, moody piece and it’s not moralistic or preachy about the choices the characters make. The relationship between Alex and Joan is especially fascinating to watch develop. It’s a lovely slow burn so that when they do get together it feels like it’s been earned, and at the same point in time when the end of the book has come about, the resolution feels right based on the paths the characters had been taking to this point.

If you’re looking for that bit of fresh air, absolutely give this a look. It’s fantastic.

Verdict: Buy It

Available: now