Published by Saga Press on February 2nd 2016
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy, Historical, Alternative History
eARC provided by Xpresso Book Tours
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.
This is adult fantasy. A CRIMINAL MAGIC is such a fun story full of magic and danger. This story follows Joan and Alex in a world where magic is illegal. Whenever a sorcerer performs magic, that magic can be placed into water and it turns into Shine. Shine is a very addictive drug. Since magic is all but illegal, families keep their magic to themselves. Joan is part of a family in trouble. An accident took her mother and left her and her cousin running a front for her Shine addicted sorcerer uncle. Right when they stand to loose everything, a stranger appears and offers them hope if Joan is willing to work for him. At the same time, Alex is helping his father run some illegal Shine as well. Alex gets busted by the law and agrees to start collecting information for them. Alex and Joan end up in the same place working for opposite sides of the same dangerous game.
I loved this story. The rules are clearly laid out. Magic only lasts for a day. Shine is only good for a day as well. This world is set in the 1920s and instead of alcohol prohibition, magic is banned. In this age magic is separated into classes. Some sorcerers can read minds, some can create illusions, some can control people, and so on. It is all well described and easy to imagine. Not everyone has magic and even in families, it is hard to tell who might have the gift. In this era, magic is as much a curse as it is a gift.
Joan ends up in a life and death match to earn a spot among her sorcerer peers. Joan is carrying a big secret about her family. I loved that she is motivated and haunted by them. She is tough and powerful, which is a great combination.
“Long ago there was a sorcerer who walked to hell for her family, and in the pits of hell, the devil saw her remorse and let her walk back.”
Alex has had a lot of bad luck. He does what he does because it is the right thing, and because he has no other options. He actually hates what he has to do, but he is a man of his word.
“My fate is tied to this man’s fate. The fate of this sadistic, scheming enigma of a gangster.”
I loved almost everything about this story. The era is perfect for this story. The magic is pretty fantastic and the rules for that magic are clearly defined for the reader. This story is told in both Joan and Alex’s POV. I have to admit I was much more interested in Joan’s story, but that changed after about the 50% mark and then I couldn’t choose which one to like more.
One thing I should mention is that the ending kinda threw me. It is was a very mature ending, but I wasn’t prepared for it. At all. I was so looking forward to reading this story and I happy to say it did not disappoint. I would definitely recommend this book to fans of fantasy adult fiction.