A Criminal Magic by Lee Kelly
Rating: 4 / 5 stars
Think 1920s Prohibition, except alcohol is not what is illegal. Magic is. Enough damage was done by past magic users that any and all evidence of magic is shunned and banned. But not all traces of magic are gone. With anything that is prohibited, the lure is just all that more enticing. Shine rooms attract customers who gladly pay to experience the intoxicating effects in the form of magic-infused water.
And so, this is where we find Joan Kendrick, working alongside her shine-addicted uncle to make ends meet for their struggling family. Joan’s mother died the same night that Joan discovered her own powerful magic, causing Joan to swear off using it ever again. But when an enigmatic stranger comes looking for an exceptional sorcerer to build up his team of formidable magic users, Joan finds herself with no choice but to step up in order to save the family from destitution.
Harrison Gunn has plans. World-changing plans that promise to give Joan everything she and her family needs and more. All her months of torment since losing her mother may finally come to an end, only if she is willing to give up the one secret her mother swore her to keep. She is her family’s only hope of survival now, and Joan will do anything to save them, including give up her chance at love. Besides, you don’t say no to a man like Gunn.
Alex Danfrey finds himself in over his head. Again. After his father, the head of a prestigious drug company, gets convicted and loses everything, Alex vows to make his own way, never to be under anyone’s thumb again. Going undercover to gather evidence against one of the largest crime syndicates, he meets Joan and realizes that the game has changed. Save the day or get the girl? Is there enough magic for both?
This debut novel by Ms. Kelly is pretty impressive. Nothing in particular stands out but all the elements come together to create an enticing world of forbidden magic, real-life struggles, and ultimately, redemption. The story is told through alternating points of view between Joan and Alex which provides a well-rounded picture. That said, besides Joan and Alex, the other characters in the story could have been fleshed out a bit more. A strong supporting cast always strengthens the story, but here, they merely form the backdrop. Characters like Gunn with such complex histories need more page time to make the plot twists resound that much more.
Overall, a very enjoyable read with enough familiar world elements to ground you and a light blanket of magic to keep you cozy and coming back for more. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for future stories from Lee Kelly.
Guest review contributed by Facets of Fantasy. From book reviews to editing services, this book blogger loves, among others, the fantasy genre.