A Criminal Magic
By: Lee Kelly
Publisher: Saga Press
Publication Date: February 2nd, 2016
Magic is powerful, dangerous and addictive – and after passage of the 18th Amendment, it is finally illegal.
It’s 1926 in Washington, DC, and while Anti-Sorcery activists have achieved the Prohibition of sorcery, the city’s magic underworld is booming. Sorcerers cast illusions to aid mobsters’ crime sprees. Smugglers funnel magic contraband in from overseas. Gangs have established secret performance venues where patrons can lose themselves in magic, and take a mind-bending, intoxicating elixir known as the sorcerer’s shine.
Joan Kendrick, a young sorcerer from Norfolk County, Virginia accepts an offer to work for DC’s most notorious crime syndicate, the Shaw Gang, when her family’s home is repossessed. Alex Danfrey, a first-year Federal Prohibition Unit trainee with a complicated past and talents of his own, becomes tapped to go undercover and infiltrate the Shaws.
Through different paths, Joan and Alex tread deep into the violent, dangerous world of criminal magic – and when their paths cross at the Shaws’ performance venue, despite their orders, and despite themselves, Joan and Alex become enchanted with one another. But when gang alliances begin to shift, the two sorcerers are forced to question their ultimate allegiances and motivations. And soon, Joan and Alex find themselves pitted against each other in a treacherous, heady game of cat-and-mouse.
A Criminal Magic casts a spell of magic, high stakes and intrigue against the backdrop of a very different Roaring Twenties.
It is Prohibition Era America, but the vice that has been banned is no longer alcohol, its magic. In A Criminal Magic, Lee Kelly has crafted a gorgeous and believable world of underground, black market magic in an alternative history America. This new 18th Amendment has given rise to powerful crime bosses that trade in bootlegged magic and addictive shine.
Out of this familiar roaring fire comes the Shaw Gang, and our main characters, Joan and Alex. Joan wants to protect her sister and cousin, and ease a guilty conscience, and Alex wants redemption and revenge. Their predicaments feel similar and their issues are both rooted in magic. And while Alex keeps a level head about the dangers magic presents, I especially loved how Joan evolved as a character as her confidence in magic grew. A drawback, though, is that while there is a romance between these two, it didn’t feel as organic as it could have and the ending leaves it feeling unresolved and that there could be so much more.
In terms of setting, I was expecting much more of a roaring twenties feel, I wanted to be immersed as much in the time and place as in the writing, and instead I received a book that felt, not wrong, but oddly timeless. This didn’t overshadow the fantastic writing, though, and while I didn’t get the ending I wanted, I have to say those final chapters were very well done and kept me on the edge of my seat.
Lee Kelly has wanted to write since she was old enough to hold a pencil, but it wasn’t until she began studying for the California Bar Exam that she conveniently started putting pen to paper. An entertainment lawyer by trade, Lee has practiced law in Los Angeles and New York. She lives with her husband and children in Millburn, New Jersey, though after a decade in Manhattan, she can’t help but still call herself a New Yorker. She is the author of A Criminal Magic and City of Savages. Visit her at www.NewWriteCity.com.
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