Sunday, May 22, 2011

Magic In The Shadows - Devon Monk

Magic In The Shadows
An Allie Beckstrom Novel
Devon Monk

Urban Fantasy

In Allie Beckstrom’s world, magic is so real that it’s treated as a natural resource.  In fact, her father got rich by figuring out how to collect magic and pipe it from one place to another.  Allie is a Hound, which means she can track the magical signature of a spell back to the caster.  For Allie, the price is often pain, and sometimes memory loss.  She carries a notebook with her to record to daily activities in case of such a loss.

If you missed the first two books in the series, MAGIC TOTHE BONE and MAGIC IN THE BLOOD, you’ll be starting this one on equal footing with Allie.  Recent events took a huge piece of her recent memory.  She’s been told about what happened, but has no memory of it.  According to her notebook, she’s in a relationship with magic-user Zayvion Jones, but she remembers none of it.  Upping the awkward factor is that Zayvion remembers everything. 

What Allie does know is that her father, entrepreneur and powerful magic-user, is dead.  That little fact hasn’t stopped him from taking up residence in her head.  He wants her to find his killer (understandable, if creepy) and find some disks.  The disks are new technology from his company that will make magic portable; make it usable by anyone, anywhere; and completely bypass any price (in pain, memory loss, etc.) to the user.  In short, they’re extremely dangerous.  Adding to the mix is Detective Stotts, who would like Allie to work for him, in a magical-investigative capacity.  Allie’s predecessor was Pike, the leader of the Hounds.  Since his recent death, Allie has inherited his title and responsibilities.  And all she really wants to do right now is act like a normal girl – whatever that is - and go on a date and see what’s what with Zayvion.

Up to this point, Allie’s memory loss not only illustrates that magic giveth and magic taketh away; it’s an ingenious way to keep new readers up to speed.  There’s a lot Allie doesn’t remember, and getting filled in on prior events because of her memory loss seems completely natural and not at all intrusive to the narrative.  It probably goes without saying that the whole Date Night With Zayvion goes a bit haywire.  Before they even get to his car, Allie finds a creature lurking in the alley, killing an animal.  With Allie’s Hound senses, she can tell the creature is something different.  She can also smell the scent of one of her Hounds.  Since she’s responsible for all the Hounds, this is her problem in more ways than one.

The system of magic in this series is fresh and original and makes a lot of sense.  In this world, the magic pools beneath the ground and was just waiting for someone to tap into it.  Of course, as with any natural resource, there are those who will use it responsibly and well, and those who are in it only for monetary profit or personal gain.  All of that seems completely realistic.  Allie is a bit prickly as a character, but I’d say she has more than ample reason for her attitudes. 

This installment starts quickly, introduces some great new characters (and re-introduces some who are already familiar) and ends with a scene that will make any fantasy reader sit up and take notice.  As with all of the books so far, this one is a complete story, but it’s very clear that there’s more to come.  That’s good news for fans of fantasy and urban fantasy.

Rating: 8
November 2009
ISBN# 978-0-451-46287-9 (paperback)


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