Audio Book Review: Spectacle by Rachel Vincent, Narrated by Gabra Zackman

Book: Spectacle by Rachel Vincent, Narrated by Gabra Zackman

Published May 2017 by Record Books|Length: 9 hours, 25 minutes

Where I Got It: I own the audio book

Series: Menagerie #2

Genre: Adult Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

In this riveting sequel to New York Times bestselling author Rachel Vincent’s acclaimed novel Menagerie, Delilah Marlow will discover that there is no crueler cage than the confines of the human mind…

When their coup of Metzger’s Menagerie is discovered, Delilah and her fellow cryptids find their newly won freedom brutally stripped away as they are sold into The Savage Spectacle, a private collection of “exotic wildlife.” Specializing in ruthless cryptid cage matches, safari-style creature hunts and living party favors, the Spectacle’s owner, Willem Vandekamp, caters to the forbidden fetishes of the wealthy and powerful. At the Spectacle, any wish can be granted—for the right price. 

But Vandekamp’s closely guarded client list isn’t the only secret being kept at the Spectacle. Beneath the beauty and brutality of life in the collection lie much darker truths, and no one is more determined than Delilah to strip the masks from the human monsters and drag all dark things into the light.

This is another book I’ve really enjoyed!  I really liked the first one, and I’m glad I switched to the audio book, because Gabra Zackman is one of my favorite narrators, and she was a great choice for this book.

I liked seeing the aftermath of what happened in the first book at Metzger’s, and what happened once they were taken to the Savage Spectacle.  What they had to endure there was horrible- more so than what we saw in the first book, and I hated seeing them go through that.  In particular, I hated what Genevieve, Gallagher and Delilah had to go through, but I think that’s because Genevieve’s story really stood out, and we get chapters from Delilah and Gallagher’s perspective.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the different perspectives we see in the book.  I really liked in Menagerie, and I did like it in this book, but not as much as I did previously.  I think part of it is that I didn’t find the other perspectives as interesting.  And I think part of it is that it didn’t translate well to audio.  At least for me, but there were points were I was paying attention but also had my attention elsewhere, so maybe I just wasn’t paying as much attention as I should have been.

Like Menagerie, we get snippets of headlines and other stories about cryptids and the Reaping.  I’m curious to see how what’s going on now will come together with everything that happened before.  It’s more creepy and horrifying and it really opens up this world that Delilah is now living in.

Life at the Spectacle is pretty contained, much like life at Metzger’s was, but somehow, this book opened up more of this world.  I think it’s because of everything Vandekamp was trying to do, with the collar, and the clients that frequent the Spectacle.  When you have a lot of wealthy and powerful clients, it’s going to change things, and I’m curious to see the fallout from what happened there.

With being able to control them at the press of a button, and trying to break them to learn what their triggers are…it’s a brutal world they’re now living in, and it’s a lot more threatening, especially where reproduction is concerned.  There’s no consent for the cryptids (as far as humans are concerned), and that’s something to keep in mind if you pick up this book.

What’s interesting is that while Menagerie would make a great stand-alone, there’s still a lot of story that could be told in this world.  Spectacle is a great addition to the series and adds to the world we get introduced to in Menagerie.  I can’t begin to imagine what we’re going to see in the next (and last) book, but I’m hoping it’ll add more to the world while wrapping things up.

4 stars.  The brutality and cruelty was a little hard to handle, especially on audio, and the multiple narrators didn’t work as well as I thought they would.  Gabra Zackman did a great job narrating the book as well.

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Book Review: Imprudence by Gail Carriger

Book: Imprudence by Gail Carriger

Published July 2016 by Orbit|355 pages

Where I Got It: I own the hardcover

Series: The Custard Protocol #2

Genre: Adult Fantasy/Steampunk

From New York Times bestselling author Gail Carriger comes the delightful sequel to Prudence.

Rue and the crew of the Spotted Custard return from India with revelations that shake the foundations of England’s scientific community. Queen Victoria is not amused, the vampires are tetchy, and something is wrong with the local werewolf pack. To top it all off, Rue’s best friend Primrose keeps getting engaged to the most unacceptable military types. 

Rue has family problems as well. Her vampire father is angry, her werewolf father is crazy, and her obstreperous mother is both. Worst of all, Rue’s beginning to suspect what they really are… is frightened.

The second book in the Custard Protocol series, in which Prudence travels to Egypt for Queen, ghosts…and the perfect pot of tea!

I liked this one!  Not as much as the first one, or her other series in general, but I still liked it.

It was a fun book and I liked seeing everything that happened after the events of the first book and what happened in India.  We learn a lot more about what’s going on with Prudence, and we see some of the characters I’ve come to know and love in this book.  Some I had forgotten about, and there were a few times where I wished I had read the entire Parasol Protectorate series, because I had some trouble remembering who some of the characters were.

I think one reason why I only liked it was Prudence herself.  I loved Prudence as a kid in the Parasol Protectorate series, but I don’t know that I love Prudence as an adult.  There’s a lot that happens in this book, and a lot she learns in this one about her family and becoming an adult that she should have taken the time to realize before.  It really felt like she didn’t care until it was too late, and hopefully it will be a learning experience for her.

I’m having a hard time liking Prudence, but I do love Carriger, this world and the characters, so I’m going to happily continue to read this series, because I do like it.  And I really am hoping Prudence will grow on me.  She hasn’t yet, and I do feel like she’s pretty selfish and spoiled and bratty, but maybe now that she knows what she knows, she’ll grow as a character.

I did like seeing everything going on with the local werewolf pack.  It made sense, especially once we learned everything going on, and I’m glad it seemed to work out okay.  At least for now, and hopefully, it will stay that way.

The relationship Alexia and Prudence have is really interesting.  I’ve always loved Alexia, and she and Prudence don’t always see eye-to-eye on things.  It’s weird seeing her through her daughters eyes, and this Alexia is very different than the one I remembered from the Parasol Protectorate.  I hope we see her again- and I’m sure we will- and that she’s the Alexia I remember from before.  I doubt it, since this book is set long after that series, and we’re not getting the story from her perspective.

I guess I’m having a hard time with their relationship, for some reason.  Maybe I need to re-read the Parasol Protectorate, or maybe this series isn’t for me.  Maybe I just read it at the wrong time, which is possible, because I haven’t been in a huge reading mood lately.  At any rate, I only liked this one, and I wish I liked it more, because I have really enjoyed the other books set in this world.

3 stars.  I liked it, but I really wish I liked it more.  It’s still fun and enjoyable, especially if you’ve liked her other series.

Audio Book Review: Dawn Study by Maria V Snyder, Narrated by Gabra Zackman

Book: Dawn Study by Maria V Snyder, Narrated by Gabra Zackman

Published January 2017 by Harlequin Enterprises, LTD

Where I Got It: I own the audio book

Series: Soulfinders #3, Study #6

Genre: Adult Fantasy

New York Times bestselling author Maria V. Snyder brings her Poison Study series to its exhilarating conclusion.

Despite the odds, Yelena and Valek have forged an irrevocable bond and a family that transcends borders. Now, when their two homelands stand on the brink of war, they must fight with magic and cunning to thwart an Ixian plot to invade Sitia.

Yelena seeks to break the hold of the insidious Theobroma that destroys a person’s resistance to magical persuasion. But the Cartel is determined to keep influential citizens and Sitian diplomats in thrall and Yelena at bay. With every bounty hunter after her, Yelena is forced to make a dangerous deal.

With might and magic, Valek peels back the layers of betrayal surrounding the Commander. At its rotten core lies a powerful magician and his latest discovery. The fate of all rests upon two unlikely weapons. One may turn the tide. The other could spell the end of everything.

I still can’t believe it took me so long to actually get to this book!  I’m glad I did, but it’s bittersweet.  I mean, I’ve enjoyed this series since the very beginning, and I was excited to see it end, but at the same time, I’m sad it’s over.  I really like all of the characters, and I really like the world, but I’m also excited to see what Snyder will write next.

So, at this point in the series, I never felt like they were in any danger.  Things were really bad, of course, with the cartel taking over Sitia and controlling everything.  And the whole possibly being invaded by Ixia thing.  But I didn’t get the sense they were in horrible danger, like I did in the first 3 books.

I’ve really liked Valek in books 4-6.  He’s very protective of Yelena (but not controlling), and he’s different than the Valek we saw in the first half of the series.  Granted, it’s been a while since I’ve read those books, but he is different than I remember.  Clearly, he wants a more calm life with Yelena.  Well, as calm as things can be when these two are involved in pretty much anything.

I loved following all of the characters, and it was great to see characters like Leif, Ari and Janco, but it was also great to spend time with characters like Reema, Fisk and Teegan.  It was good to have some chapters from Valek’s POV, but I think that’s part of why I didn’t feel a sense of danger, you knew what was going in Sitia and Ixia, and it took away from it a little bit.  At the same time, though, it was nice to get more backstory on one of my favorite characters.

I missed seeing Yelena use her magic, and I missed her conversations with Kiki most of all, but I also liked seeing her learn how to live/survive without it.  Also…I know this is the last book in the series, but part of me wants a spin-off or sequel focusing on her child.  I really do wonder what her abilities are, and it would be cool to see how the child of Yelena and Valek turned out.  One can only hope it’ll happen someday, but even if it doesn’t, at least we know how things turn out.  Things did end up on a good note, and I’m pretty happy with how things were resolved.

I also love Gabra Zackman as the narrator.  She’s been an amazing narrator this entire series, and I can’t imagine the series being narrated by anyone else.  I specifically got Snyder’s Touch Of Power series on audio because it’s narrated by Zackman, even though I already have the e-books.  Zackman really brought Yelena and Valek to life, and I’m glad she was the sole narrator, because I can’t imagine anyone else narrating Valek’s chapters.

4 stars.  I didn’t love it, but I still really enjoyed it, and it’s a great ending to the series.

Audio Book Review: The Book Of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor, Narrated by Robin Miles

Book: The Book Of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor, Narrated by Robin Miles

Published September 2015 by Audible Studios|Length: 8 hours, 50 minutes

Where I Got It: I own the audio book

Series: Who Fears Death #0.1

Genre: Adult Fantasy/Dystopia

A fiery spirit dances from the pages of the Great Book. She brings the aroma of scorched sand and ozone. She has a story to tell….

The Book of Phoenix is a unique work of magical futurism. A prequel to the highly acclaimed, World Fantasy Award-winning novel Who Fears Death, it features the rise of another of Nnedi Okorafor’s powerful, memorable, superhuman women.

Phoenix was grown and raised among other genetic experiments in New York’s Tower 7. She is an “accelerated woman” – only two years old but with the body and mind of an adult, Phoenix’s abilities far exceed those of a normal human. Still innocent and inexperienced in the ways of the world, she is content living in her room speed reading ebooks, running on her treadmill, and basking in the love of Saeed, another biologically altered human of Tower 7. Then one evening Saeed witnesses something so terrible that he takes his own life.

Devastated by his death and Tower 7’s refusal to answer her questions, Phoenix finally begins to realize that her home is really her prison, and she becomes desperate to escape. But Phoenix’s escape, and her destruction of Tower 7, is just the beginning of her story. Before her story ends, Phoenix will travel from the United States to Africa and back, changing the entire course of humanity’s future. 

I really liked The Book Of Phoenix!  Nnedi Okorafor always writes really interesting books, and this one was no exception.

This one is a prequel to Who Fears Death, and I kind of wish I had re-read that one first, just to get back into this world.  Also, I couldn’t begin to tell you how the two books are connected, but maybe I’ll re-read Who Fears Death just to see.

I did like Phoenix, and I thought it was horrible what people were doing to the biologically altered.  I do remember wondering how we got to the future we saw in Who Fears Death, and I am thinking that maybe everything we see in this book is what leads to that future.  I could be wrong, and I really am wishing I had re-read Who Fears Death.  But that is what I get for randomly deciding to read a book without re-reading any of the other books in that series.

That being said, I thought the book stood on its own really well, and I don’t think the order in which you read the books matters.  Also, you could probably read just this one, and be fine.  It is its own story, and I liked seeing Phoenix try to take down the towers and fight back against her controllers.

The Book Of Phoenix worked really well as an audio book.  It’s an oral history, told by Phoenix herself, and I felt like Phoenix was telling me her own story, which really worked.  Also, it’s narrated by Robin Miles, who is a fantastic narrator.  I’ve really liked the books I’ve listened to that have been narrated by her, and this one was no exception.  I’m really glad I went with the audio, and I wholeheartedly recommend the audio book.

4 stars.  I wish I had more to say about this book, but I don’t.  I really liked it, and I love how Okorafor blends fantasy and sci-fi.

Audio Book Review: Sorcerer To The Crown by Zen Cho, Narrated By Jenny Sterlin

Book: Sorcerer To The Crown by Zen Cho, Narrated by Jenny Sterlin

Published September 2015 by Recorded Books|13 hours, 9 minutes

Where I Got It: I own the audio book

Series: Sorcerer Royal #1

Genre: Adult Fantasy

Magic and mayhem collide with the British elite in this whimsical and sparkling debut.

At his wit’s end, Zacharias Wythe, freed slave, eminently proficient magician, and Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers—one of the most respected organizations throughout all of Britain—ventures to the border of Fairyland to discover why England’s magical stocks are drying up.

But when his adventure brings him in contact with a most unusual comrade, a woman with immense power and an unfathomable gift, he sets on a path which will alter the nature of sorcery in all of Britain—and the world at large…

I really liked Sorcerer To The Crown.  It was hard to get into, especially at the beginning, but by the end of the book, I was really glad I stuck with it.  I loved Prunella, and she was such a cool character.  It’s interesting, because you’d think she wouldn’t have a huge role in the book, but she turns out to be pretty important.  I’m hoping there’s more of her in the next book.

I think the one thing that kept me going with this book was the fact that I listened to.  I originally tried to read it in print, got a few pages in, and decided to give the audio book a try.  I’m glad I did, because I really liked the narrator.  She really brought the humor and time period to life, and I think if you like Gail Carriger’s books, you’ll really like this one.  There’s something something about the history and magic and humor, though her books are quite different from this one.

There were times where I wasn’t paying attention, but I suppose that’s what happens when I’m listening at home while I’m cooking or something.  At least it didn’t fade into the background the way The Reader did when I listened to that recently.

Still, it was fun to listen to, and there were quite a few times when I couldn’t help but laugh.  And there were some really interesting things about the book as well- Zacharias has a lot of enemies, and there are a lot of people who don’t think he should be in the position he’s in, just because he was a former slave, and because of the color of skin.  And when you add in Prunella, who’s at a school because women are seen as unsuitable for magic.  I think some of that got lost in the audio book, though maybe those were the points where I wasn’t completely paying attention.

I like that it’s set in an alternate Regency England.  Can this type of fantasy stay around for a while?  It’s a nice change from the medieval Europe fantasy that seems pretty normal for fantasy, and it’s nice reading something different.  I think that might be why I liked it so much.  Plus, even though there is a sequel (which needs more Prunella, because she is absolutely amazing), it’s pretty self-contained.  It makes me curious to see where things are going to go, but there is enough going on in the book that there’s so much she could do with another book.

I also really liked the narrator.  I liked her enough that I think I want to at least see what else she’s narrated.  Her narration, like I mentioned earlier, is what kept me going with the audio book, especially since I struggled with the beginning.

4 stars.  I really liked Sorcerer To The Crown, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Book Review: Menagerie by Rachel Vincent

Book: Menagerie by Rachel Vincent

Published September 2015 by MIRA|429 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Menagerie #1

Genre: Adult Fantasy

From New York Times bestselling author Rachel Vincent comes a richly imagined, provocative new series set in the dark mythology of the Menagerie… 

When Delilah Marlow visits a famous traveling carnival, Metzger’s Menagerie, she is an ordinary woman in a not-quite-ordinary world. But under the macabre circus big-top, she discovers a fierce, sharp-clawed creature lurking just beneath her human veneer. Captured and put on exhibition, Delilah is stripped of her worldly possessions, including her own name, as she’s forced to “perform” in town after town. 

But there is breathtaking beauty behind the seamy and grotesque reality of the carnival. Gallagher, her handler, is as kind as he is cryptic and strong. The other “attractions”—mermaids, minotaurs, gryphons and kelpies—are strange, yes, but they share a bond forged by the brutal realities of captivity. And as Delilah struggles for her freedom, and for her fellow menagerie, she’ll discover a strength and a purpose she never knew existed. 

Renowned author Rachel Vincent weaves an intoxicating blend of carnival magic and startling humanity in this intricately woven and powerful tale

I really liked Menagerie!  It’s a really cool concept and I liked the mythology behind it.

I felt really bad for Delilah and everyone at Metzgers.  They’re treated horribly, and they’re seen as not human, even though quite a few of them have the appearance of being human.  It’s creepy and awful and you slowly realize how helpless Delilah, and everyone else at the Menagerie are.

I did like the mystery surrounding what type of cryptid Delilah was.  It fit her pretty well, and I thought it worked really well with the story.  While I wasn’t trying to figure it out, I can’t say I’m completely surprised by it.  Considering what we see of her, it does fit.  I can’t say I’m surprised by a character like Delilah, because I kind of figured that we’d have a character like her.

We do have multiple POV in Menagerie, and while the writing style was pretty much the same for each one, I thought each perspective was very different, and showed what it was really like at Menagerie.  It seems like Delilah has a pretty…unique…experience there, and not completely representative of life at Metzger’s Menagerie.

There is violence (and rape) so this book is definitely for adults, though some older teens may be able to handle it.  It is unsettling, and makes it clear that the many people in the book will do whatever they want to the cryptids.  There is no fighting back for the cryptids, because no one cares what happens to them.

One thing I wish we got more of was the Reaping.  We do get snippets of an event called the Reaping, where hundreds of thousands of children go missing or dead, and their entire families are killed.  I wish it were more clear what it was, and what was behind it.  I mean, there are two more books after this one, so there’s always the chance we’ll learn more about what happened.  It’s clear that something led to how the cryptids are treated, and I did want more about what happened.

Still, VIncent created a pretty convincing world, and I feel like you could draw a lot of parallels between the world of Menagerie and our world.  She doesn’t refer to real world events or atrocities, and she has her own story, but still, I think you could draw your own conclusions.

4 stars.  I really liked it, and I thought the world was unique but familiar.  I wish we had more about the reaping and the cryptids, but perhaps we’ll see that in the next book.

Book Review: The Masked City by Genevieve Cogman

Book: The Masked City by Genevieve Cogman

Published December 2015 by Tor|340 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the paperback from the library

Series: The Invisible Library #2

Genre: Adult Fantasy/Steampunk

Librarian-spy Irene is working undercover in an alternative London when her assistant Kai goes missing. She discovers he’s been kidnapped by the fae faction and the repercussions could be fatal. Not just for Kai, but for whole worlds.

Kai’s dragon heritage means he has powerful allies, but also powerful enemies in the form of the fae. With this act of aggression, the fae are determined to trigger a war between their people – and the forces of order and chaos themselves.

Irene’s mission to save Kai and avert Armageddon will take her to a dark, alternate Venice where it’s always Carnival. Here Irene will be forced to blackmail, fast talk, and fight. Or face death.

I liked The Masked City, but not as much as I thought I would.  I think I liked the first one more, but I found myself a little more bored reading it.  I had a harder time getting into this book, and that made me a little sad, since I really like the premise of a librarian-spy.

It is an alternate Venice, and I liked the Venice we see in the book.  Instead of a Victorian-steampunk setting, we get an alternate carnival setting, and one of the interesting things about this series is the potential to see the different realities and dimensions the librarians have to go to for their missions.

I think maybe I wanted more time in the library, and less time in the world said library is in.  I just really wanted more about the library, but since there are more books, there’s a chance we’ll be spending more time in the library itself.  I think I just wanted more balance between the library and the different dimensions.  And as much as I want to keep going, I don’t know that I want to immediately read the next book in the series.  I’m sure I’ll get back to it eventually…or maybe I should try the audio book?  I suddenly had the thought that maybe it’s a series I need to listen to, and not read.

It is entertaining and fun and light, and it would be great to read over the summer.  They’re really good summer reads.  Or just good vacation reads in general.

3 stars.  I liked it, but it didn’t have the same appeal that The Invisible Library had.

What I’ve Been Reading: Part Two

I thought I’d share some of the books I read earlier in the year and never got around to reviewing.  I talked about some of the books I read earlier in the year in this post, and figured I do another post since I had some more books to talk about.  All of the books were from the library.

Book One: The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

What I Thought:

  • So, The Invisible Library is about Irene, a spy for a very mysterious Library, and her quest to retrieve a dangerous book from an alternate London
  • It’s a really good read-alike if you like the Eyre Affair…but instead of going into books, you’re going into parallel dimensions and alternate worlds to take their books for the sake of preservation and research
  • The library has a life of its own, and the librarians seem like an interesting bunch
  • I really want to know more about the librarians.  We get a little bit of the hierarchy and structure of the library, but not a lot, and I’m hoping we get more
  • The way I feel about the librarians is the same way I feel about the Library.  We get a general idea of the library and how it works but I want more
  • It is the first book in a series, so it is setting up for future books.  Hopefully we’ll see more
  • There are a lot of possibilities, though.  I mean, they go into parallel dimensions to retrieve books, and there are a lot of possibilities for future books.  It would be interesting to see how things could possibly spiral out
  • My Rating: 3 stars.  It’s a fun book to read, and great if you like books about books and libraries, but I wanted more about the Library and the librarians who work there.

Book #2: Carve The Mark by Veronica Roth

What I Thought:

  • Carve The Mark is about Cyra, who is pretty much able to torture people, and Akos, who has some power I cannot remember
  • I was really excited about this book, because I loved the Divergent series (even Allegiant, which I know people either love or hate), but I did’t like it as much as a thought
  • Well…what I remember, which isn’t much
  • Honestly, even though it’s set in space, it felt like it could have been set anywhere.  I kind of forgot it was space in space most of the time
  • It was really slow and confusing and I wasn’t a big fan of the dual narration
  • I don’t remember a lot about the book, and I honestly can’t remember what I liked or didn’t like.  I know I read it, but that’s pretty much it
  • I think it could be an interesting read-alike for fans of Graceling and An Ember In The Ashes
  • I vaguely remember that it’s slightly interesting blend of sci-fi and fantasy- there are element of both, and it didn’t feel like it was one or the other
  • My Rating?  2 stars.  I don’t remember enough to dislike it, but I don’t remember enough to like it

Book Three: King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard

What I Thought:

  • I really wish I re-read the first two books in the series first, because I had a hard time remembering what was going
  • I’m starting to like this series less and less, and I honestly thought this book was the last one
  • I was very surprised on learning this is, in fact, not the last book in the series.  I was disappointed with how it ended at first, because nothing felt resolved, but when I saw there were more books, the ending made a lot more sense
  • I was more bored reading this book than I was with the other books
  • Nothing stood out to me as interesting or memorable, and I couldn’t tell you a single thing that happened
  • I do like the overall premise of the series, and I am determined to finish it out…but part of me wonders if it’s being stretched out too much
  • Maybe I need to re-read the series before I make up my mind.  And maybe if I do re-read it, I’ll do an updated review
  • Rating: 2 stars.  It wasn’t very memorable, and I remember being bored when I was reading it.

Book #4: In A Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

What I Thought:

  • This book is bananas!
  • Seriously, what is going on with Clare and Nora?  Clare has some issues, as does Nora
  • I mean, Nora’s okay, but she was really hung up on a short-lived relationship that happened when she was 16.  I thought it was weird that she was so hung up on something that happened 10 years earlier
  • And Clare…I get that she was worried what people thought about her (don’t we all worry about that, to some degree?) but she took it to an extreme
  • To me, they acted a lot younger than they were.  Not that they have to act a certain way, just because they’re in their mid-twenties, but Clare in particular seemed very determined to get what she wanted
  • It was not as creepy as I thought it would be.  They’re in a cabin in the woods, and it’s pretty isolated from what I could tell.  But it was not at all creepy
  • I did want to keep reading, though, and to see who was killed and why.
  • Rating: I have to go with 2 stars on this one.  I just wanted something more creepy.

Book Review: A Criminal Magic by Lee Kelly

A Criminal Magic CoverBook: 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

Series: None

Genre: Adult Historical Fiction/Fantasy/Alternate History

Blog Graphic-What It's About

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.

Blog Graphic- What I Thought

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.

Blog Graphic- My Rating

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!