Book Review – Magic in the Shadows

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Title: Magic in the Blood
Author: Devon Monk
Publisher: ROC Fantasy
Edition: Paperback
Year: 2009

You know there’s a problem with a book when you started it just after finishing the book that comes before it in the series, namely Magic in the Blood. When that was book #3 of the year and this is now book #22…well…

However, that’s unfair. I did have my semester to worry about, and I got hooked on a different series, and I won the ARC of God of the Hive which meant I had to backtrack a bit and read more Laurie King than I’d intended.

Magic in the Shadows presents a new dilemma for Allie Beckstrom: her dad is living and existing inside her head. Meanwhile, the Authority, a long-standing magical regulation system, has decided that they need to consider adding Allie to their ranks because of her abilities to channel magic and the possibility of being Zayvion’s Soul Complement.

Let me get the bad out of the way, because I did still enjoy this book, but it’s got some problems. What drew me to the first book in the series was the premise: urban fantasy that made magic an every-day utility to the common person that ran in pipes just like power or gas, and it did not include vampires or werewolves. That is still technically true. However, now there are death creatures that are looking more and more like really whacked werewolves, and the overlying issue is people wanting to come back from the dead. Not particularly original. This shift also made the book more profane. The first two had one or two f-words, maybe five, but this one the number was close to 50 to 100, and definitely felt overused.

The writing was a little frustrating. In the first two novels, the narration was too heavy-handed, but because I liked the characters and premise enough, I pushed on through. This time the narration was not near as pushy, but the story dragged. It’s the longest of the books so far and takes place over only two days. The book promises to show Allie’s training with Maeve, a powerful member of the Authority, and that only happens once. And then things go very bad. You feel like Allie’s been dealing with this her issues for weeks, but it’s only two days; that falsehood hurts the pacing and the believability of the story. It felt like a bridge novel; certain things needed to happen to make the next step possible. Kind of like Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. There are some really cool moments, and there was some seriously laughable ‘what the crap’ moments, but in the end, the movie is all filler just so we can find Spock, because if they didn’t find Spock, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home wouldn’t be near as awesome.

Anyway, the good stuff. Lots and lots more Allie and Zayvion interaction in this one, which is what I thought was really lacking in the second book. It wasn’t lacking here, and we finally get to see what Zayvion does for a living, and it’s pretty dang cool. Although the idea of the Authority itself isn’t particularly original, meeting the new characters surrounding the Authority added new flavor. The novel had a wonderfully blurred line of good versus evil. Zayvion has the ability to control both light and dark magic, considered the best at it, and yet everything his does he tries to do because it’s right, not because it’s necessarily good. The Authority is both a peaceful mediator and a powerful dictator over magic, and the blurring of lines makes the morality of the characters’ actions fascinating and somewhat unpredictable.

Honestly, it sounds like I didn’t like this book at all. That’s not true. It was just a disappointment. I wanted it to be better and have as much to offer as the first two did, but with this one it turned back to genre stereotypes. However, every series has a dud. I’ve got the fourth book, and the general consensus seems to be that it’s better than this one. I hope that’s true. I would hate to have to part with Allie and Zayvion. They’re my favorite literary couple in a long time; I’m not ready to let them go yet.

Grade: B-

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