This was one of my most anticipated books of the year. You see, I’ve always been interested in the Prohibition Era, and I love urban fantasy, so…
Prohibition Era + Magic/Urban Fantasy = Very Happy Kristen
And I was not disappointed by that combination! So many aspects of this book blew me away.
First of all, the writing did an amazing job of capturing the alternate 1920s vibe.
There was also the world building, which added even more to the amazing 20s feel. It had all the right details and in the perfect amount—everything from the gangsters to the settings to backstories about the characters/society/gangs to the way the magic worked to the plot itself.
Then there were these specific things that I just loved and found really fascinating. For a while, Alex’s POV was my favorite because the gangster side of things was so intriguing. I guess I read about magic a lot, but I never read about gangsters. And every single little thing about the gangsters, the two different gangs, the history, the bosses and underbosses, the drugs, the deals being made, etc. was so detailed and well thought-out without being confusing once you got all the information.
But then I also started to enjoy Joan’s POV just as much because everything about the Red Den where she worked was just as incredible. The whole performance—*MILD SPOILER ALERT* starting with the sorcerers on their individual stages while the patrons sipped cocktails, then the intermission during which they flirted and interacted one-on-one with audience members, then the big, immersive finale (not to mention all the different finales they created), then making the shine on stage *END SPOILER ALERT*—was so creative. Even the way they had the schedule for practice… it was that attention to detail that just made everything so realistic and made me feel like I was there, surrounded by the story.
Yet another amazing, realistic thing was the characterization. They weren’t my favorite characters ever, but damn if they weren’t ridiculously well-written. The two main characters grew and developed in a really natural way, even if it wasn’t always for the better.
And for anyone wondering about the romance, it was there, but it wasn’t mushy, and it never overpowered the story.
Last but not least, there was a great build up of tension throughout the entire book as things got worse and more complicated and more tangled and more dangerous. The book was a little slow-paced at times, but that tension kept me hooked. I just kept waiting for everything to come crashing down and explode. I didn’t get quite the massive explosion I wanted since things kind of crashed down in parts instead of all at once, but there was still a good resolution to all the anticipation.
As for the ending, my immediate, subjective reaction was that I didn’t like it. But now that I’ve had some time to think, I realize that it was the only right way for the story to end.
So overall, this book had a unique magic-filled Prohibition Era world, attention to detail that really made things come alive, and incredibly realistic characterization. Rarely have I come across writing and storytelling this intricate and superbly well done!
THE NIGHT CIRCUS meets THE PEAKY BLINDERS in Lee Kelly’s new crossover fantasy novel.
Magic is powerful, dangerous and addictive – and after passage of the 18th Amendment, it is finally illegal.
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.
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.
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.