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!

Book Review: Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge

Crimson Bound CoverBook: Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge

Published May 2015 by Balzer+Bray|441 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Fantasy

Blog Graphic-What It's About

When Rachelle was fifteen, she was good—apprenticed to her aunt and in training to protect her village from dark magic. But she was also reckless—straying from the forest path in search of a way to free her world from the threat of eternal darkness. After an illicit meeting goes dreadfully wrong, Rachelle is forced to make a terrible choice that binds her to the very evil she had hoped to defeat.

Three years later, Rachelle has given her life to serving the realm, fighting deadly creatures in an effort to atone. When the king orders her to guard his son Armand—the man she hates most—Rachelle forces Armand to help her hunt for the legendary sword that might save their world. Together, they navigate the opulent world of the courtly elite, where beauty and power reign and no one can be trusted. And as they become unexpected allies, they discover far-reaching conspiracies, hidden magic, and a love that may be their undoing. In a palace built on unbelievable wealth and dangerous secrets, can Rachelle discover the truth and stop the fall of endless night?

Inspired by the classic fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood, Crimson Bound is an exhilarating tale of darkness, love, and redemption.

Blog Graphic- What I Thought

Crimson Bound is a really interesting take on Little Red Riding Hood, and there are definitely a lot of parallels between Crimson Bound and the story of Little Red Riding Hood that we all know.  After reading Cruel Beauty, I was really looking forward to Crimson Bound, which I liked almost as much as Cruel Beauty.

I thought the mystery of the bloodbound and the Devourer was really interesting, but it did get sort of confusing at the end.  I definitely had to re-read parts of it to see if would make any more sense, and it sort of did, but not much.  Something about the world and the mythology made me think of the His Fair Assassins trilogy by Robin LaFevers, so if you like that series, you might want to check out this book.

It’s also pretty slow for a good chunk of the book, so it takes a while for anything interesting to happen, but I actually didn’t mind the slow pace, because there is a really interesting world we see in the book, and I just wanted to absorb as much of as I could.  There are a lot of hints and it seems really vague, so I might have to hunt down a more clear explanation of the mythology and everything with Zisa and Tyr to see if that will make it less confusing.  I did really like the description of the Forest, which seemed more metaphysical than anything else.

I didn’t particularly care for the love triangle, mostly because I didn’t feel like there was anything between Rachelle and either love interest.  I don’t have any strong feelings towards Armand or Erec, but I really liked Rachelle and how she tried so hard to hold onto her humanity.  It is a lot darker than I expected, even for a YA fantasy, but I really liked that about the book, even though it didn’t have the same spark that Cruel Beauty did. There wasn’t as action much as I thought there would be, given the summary, and while I didn’t mind, I think that’s why the book had a slower pace. And like I said earlier, I didn’t mind the slower pace, but a little more action throughout the book would have been nice.

Blog Graphic- My Rating

3 stars.  I liked it, especially the world and the mythology, but I also wish the mythology was a little less confusing.