Sunday, October 16, 2011

Magic At The Gate - Devon Monk

Magic At The Gate
An Allie Beckstrom Novel
Devon Monk
Urban Fantasy
There’s no way to write this review without spoilers, so read at your own risk.  And don’t miss the previous novels:  MAGIC TO THE BONE, MAGIC IN THE BLOOD, MAGIC IN THE SHADOWS, and MAGIC ON THE STORM.

The last installment in this fantastic series ended with a cliffhanger: Allie Beckstrom, strolling into the realm of death to rescue the soul of her lover and Soul Complement magic user, Zayvion Jones.  Almost as soon as she crosses the border into death, Allie realizes that her time is severely limited.  Even with the ghost of her dead father in her head (I told you, you need to read the previous novels) giving her advice, she’s at serious risk.  The truth is that no living person has ever walked out of death’s realm alive.  Allie, though, is determined to find Zay’s soul, carry it back to the living world, and reunite it with his still-living body.  No problem at all.

I will not spoil how things go in the death realm.  I will say that the author, as usual, does a great job of creating a unique landscape.  In Allie’s view, death looks like “some twisted version of Portland.”  Each building or street is just slightly wrong, except when it’s really, terribly wrong.  The journey through the realm of death takes up the first several chapters, and the whole thing is riveting.  Ms. Monk really knows how to write fantasy sequences and keep the reader glued to the pages.
Once Allie returns, the problems really begin.  The previous novel ended with a huge free-for-all battle among magic users during a wild-magic storm.  The cracks and unspoken differences among members of the magical Authority blew apart in a fairly spectacular fashion, with magic used against former friends and students.  One of the Death magic users (Death magic, here, is simply an exchange of energy, and not necessarily a negative thing) stole a large quantity of experimental disks that were developed by Allie’s dad.  The disks would make magic portable and usable by anyone without paying a price. 
In the wrong hands, these are weapons.  Clearly, they’re in the wrong hands now, because Allie is seeing the Veiled all over the city again.  The Veiled are like ghosts, or echoes, of dead magic users.  The Veiled want to absorb more magic to become more real.  The problem is that, with the disks, the Veiled are now solid and look as real as anyone else.  So there are a lot of pissed-off, solid, magic-using, magic-absorbing ghosts running around.  And there are gates between realms popping open all over the city.  This is bad, because things can come through the gates, and those members of the Authority left standing after the wild-magic storm are needed to continually close these gates.

There’s a lot going on in this installment, but the action sequence at the end seemed somewhat truncated for some reason.  That could just be in comparison to the last few novels in the series, which were really amazing.  Most urban fantasy series have some system of magic.  You learn the rules, you move along.  This time, though, the magic users themselves are constantly learning and growing within the system of magic.  It’s possible that even those at the top don’t know everything there is to know about how magic works.  It gives the author a lot of latitude, and makes it that much more exciting for the reader.  There’s a lot of ‘bridge’ material presented here in service of the overall story arc, but it’s laid out in a way that continually moves the story forward.  This just may be the best urban fantasy series out there right now.  I know I’m on board for as long as the author continues.
Rating: 8
November 2010
ISBN# 978-0-451-46362-3 (paperback)


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