Book: A Criminal Magic by Lee Kelly
Published February 2016 by Saga Press|432 pages
Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction/Fantasy/Alternate History
In Lee Kelly’s newest fantasy novel, two young sorcerers experiment with magic and mobsters in 1920s Prohibition when a new elixir is created that turns their lives upside down.
Washington, DC, 1926. Sorcery opponents have succeeded in passing the 18th Amendment, but the Prohibition of magic has only invigorated the city’s underworld. Smuggling rings carry magic contraband in from the coast. Sorcerers cast illusions to aid mobsters’ crime sprees. Gangs have even established “magic havens,” secret venues where the public can lose themselves in immersive magic and consume a mind-bending, highly addictive elixir known as “the sorcerer’s shine.”
Joan Kendrick, a young sorcerer from the backwoods of Norfolk County, accepts an offer to work for DC’s most notorious crime syndicate, The Shaw Gang, when her family’s home is repossessed. Alex Danfrey, first-year Federal Prohibition Unit trainee with a complicated past and talents of his own, becomes tapped to go undercover and infiltrate the Shaws. When Joan meets Alex at the Shaws’ magic haven, she discovers a confidante in her fellow partner and he begins to fall under her spell. But when a new breed of the addictive sorcerer’s shine is created within the walls of the magic haven, Joan and Alex are forced to question their allegiances as they become pitted against one another in a dangerous, heady game of cat-and-mouse.
When I first heard about this book, I knew I had to read it, because the idea of Prohibition, but with magic, instead of alcohol, was really different but also interesting!
I just love the idea of a world where Prohibition was all about magic, and not alcohol. It’s really different, and I wanted to keep reading, even when I had finished the book. I particularly loved the last few chapters, and especially the last chapter. It was all so unexpected, and for the entire book, I wasn’t sure what to expect as far as the ending went.
And it’s interesting is that things are tied up really well, and you know it’s the end of the book, but it’s still just open enough that you’re hoping it’s the first book in a series. I was surprised to find that’s a stand-alone, because the world was so fascinating that I wanted more, and I couldn’t believe that this was all we were getting.
I loved the world, and I wanted to know more about it. Considering it’s fantasy, and just over 400 pages, the world-building was pretty good. You get a really good sense of what magic is like in this world, and how different the magic is for everyone who can do magic. And I loved the concept of The Shine- and the other products (which seems to be the best way to describe it) that produce a similar effect that Shine does. In a way, the effects reminded me of someone on drugs, so maybe that would be a slightly better word than products.
Still, I can’t remember if we ever learn why magic was illegal, and if it’s not explained why, then I wish it was something that was explained, because it’s something I really want to know. And if it was mentioned, then clearly it didn’t stick.
But I really liked the twist on Prohibition, and I think the time period was why it worked as a stand-alone. While there was a lot of world-building, it didn’t need as much because it was a twist on something that already happened.
I really liked Joan and Alex, but I found that I liked Joan’s chapters a lot more than Alex’s. Alex did have an interesting story, and I liked how their stories came together, but as the book went on, I found that I cared a lot more about Joan than Alex, and I’m not sure why. Still, they both had such an interesting story that I can’t help but wonder what happened to both of them after the end of the book, and if Prohibition was ever repealed in this world.
4 stars. I didn’t love it, and I’m not sure why, because there are a lot of really interesting and different things about A Criminal Magic. But I did really like it, and it’s definitely worth checking out!