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REVIEW: Magic to the Bone by Devon Monk

Dear Ms. Monk:

You are a new author edited by Anne Soward who happens to edit two of my favorite urban fantasy cross over writers, Patricia Briggs and Ilona Andrews. I’m always interested in new authors and their debut books. I do wonder if I would have enjoyed your book more had I read it at the beginning of my UF reading period.

Allie Beckstrom is a Hound, finder of magic makers who discovers that her father left a death spell on a young boy. She decides to confront him, and then, turn him into the police. When her father dies, Allie becomes the chief suspect. She must find out who killed her father, clear her name, and discover who set the death spell on the young boy, all while combatting memory loss, no money and few helpers.

Allie is a familiar UF character. She is a rebel, one who has forsook the easy lifestyle of her rich family to seek her own way because of what she perceived to be a lack of ethics on the part of her father. She is a loner, one whose best friends lives over 300 miles away, who is totally broken from her family (her mother long ago abandoned her) and who has no one to trust when the chips are down but herself. It should be noted that Allie’s friendship with Nola, the chick that lives far away, does play a role in the story but ultimately, Allie is on her own. She’s impulsive, casting magic without thinking through the consequences and protecting herself; spending her last dollars when she has so few. She’s a do gooder, offering up magic services to even those who wouldn’t have the resources to pay.

Most of the story is told from her first person point of view and because Allie’s gift isn’t necessarily being intuitive, this is used to shroud much of the story in mystery. It also worked to create a barrier of attachment between the reader and the characters. Some of the story (just a bit) is told from the POV of a victim of magic, one who got addicted and now, like a drug addict, is basically a slave to someone who holds more power than he.

The best example of this was at it related to the love story which was introduced very early on with little fanfare or preparation. Allie has been seeing a gorgeous man around Portland from time to time. She doesn’t recognize him, nor has she heard much about him (although she seems so closed off that even if there were gossip, she wouldn’t seem to have a source from which to hear it). She finds out right away that he, Zayvion Jones, was hired by her father to do certain tasks, the most recent of which is to follow her around. Allie is inexplicably attracted to Zay to the point of kissing him directly after finding out he is in her corrupt father’s employ. It’s fairly bizarre and the way that their relationship developed was along the lines of that initial meet which is to say that they come together without much clues to the reader as to why (other than Allie is the protagonist and Zay is really hot).

The way that the magic is used in the story is refreshing in that it has consequences (which is not to say that its refreshing because the magic having consequences is a trope deeply rooted in fantasy but is often not articulated well in more of the modern stories). The expenditure of magic will lead to physical illness from slight headache to more extreme repercussion. Allie can store magic within herself thus rendering her more powerful. Using that power, however, means longer recovery times and occasional losses of memory.

The world building is the best part of the story. Each aspect seems to be carefully thought out such as how individuals are seeking new ways to expend magic without suffering the repercussions. Much of the story was well plotted, with details or clues given out early on in the story that were picked up at the end. The biggest problem I had was with characterization. Allie is a very standard UF character without much nuance. The romance seemed forced. I know that loonigrrl says she’ll read the next Monk book. I’ll probably wait for Loonigrrl’s recommendation. C+

Best regards,

Jane

This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or Powells or ebook format.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

16 Comments

  1. Kim
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 15:19:25

    Interesting review, Jane. I’m on the fence with this one now. Is the “voice” interesting? That might sway me. :D

    Also, what’s with the covers with overly tattooed women? Is that a new thing? I hope not. I don’t object to tattoos but completely body covered or a significant piece of the body like these arms, is a turn off for my interest in reading the book. Unless, they slide off her body and morph into little demon’s which I loved in Marjorie Liu’s first book in her new series (can’t think of the name right now). Maybe others would think this is a spoiler and if you don’t want to answer, I’ll understand, but do they have a signficance?

    Thanks!

  2. karmelrio
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 16:29:19

    Kim, you might want to check out a month-old blog entry at Smart Bitches Trashy Books called Tramp Stamp – The Round-Up, which posed the same question you ask about tattooed women in Urban Fantasy books.

  3. Jia
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 16:43:14

    This one wasn’t able to hold my interest and I put it down after a couple chapters. I think it’s because, as you said, Allie is a very standard UF heroine. I would likely have been more receptive had I read this book a few years ago when the UF boom was just taking off, rather than now when the market is so crowded and there are so many books to choose from.

    The way that the magic is used in the story is refreshing in that it has consequences (which is not to say that its refreshing because the magic having consequences is a trope deeply rooted in fantasy but is often not articulated well in more of the modern stories).

    I think this was another reason. It’s a trope I’m very familiar with, in various books and in various incarnations, so it didn’t help with my “I’ve read this book before, haven’t I?” reaction.

  4. ME
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 18:18:01

    Ok…can someone tell me what DNF stands for? Pretty please?

  5. Maura
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 18:32:10

    DNF = Did Not Finish.

  6. ME
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 19:30:02

    LOL…seems so simple! thanks for the info!

  7. Jane
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 19:57:54

    the tattoos do have meaning in the story. It is kind of a spoiler.

  8. loonigrrl
    Nov 21, 2008 @ 03:33:56

    I did have trouble getting through the middle of it, and the romance just didn’t work for the most part, but . . . I’m really curious what she’ll write next.

  9. Kim
    Nov 21, 2008 @ 10:37:06

    Thanks Jane! That might push me over to reading it but I’m still afraid. :D I’m buying books but I’ve been trying to be more selective since my budget can’t handle buying books I don’t finish.

    And thanks karmelrio for the link to Smart Bitches. Very illuminating – not just the tattoos but to see so many with the same pose.

    Love this site! Thanks!

  10. Jane
    Nov 21, 2008 @ 11:35:33

    @Kim: I think it depends on what you are looking for. If you are a big fan of UF, then I think you’d enjoy this. If you are looking for something with a stronger romance component, I felt this kind of glossed over what readers enjoy about romance.

  11. KMont
    Nov 21, 2008 @ 16:17:04

    The tattoos on the cover are misleading. All I’ll say is I have no idea why the cover artist chose to portray Allie with tons of leafy tatts. It’s silly, especially in light of how Allie gets some strange and significant marks on her bod.

    I’d say more, but it’d venture into spoiler territory.

    I think it’s true that she is somewhat of a standard UF protagonist, but I did find the author’s voice different enough and pleasant enough. Looking forward to the next.

  12. Jackie Kessler
    Nov 24, 2008 @ 13:16:37

    I’ve heard terrific things about this book. It’s on my TBR pile.

  13. Kelly
    Dec 01, 2008 @ 11:43:55

    I thought it was a good book. But I didn’t think the end sumed it up. Is there a sequel?

  14. JD
    Aug 18, 2009 @ 13:48:31

    I have read the two released “Magic” books by Devon Monk and have liked them. I have not read a substantial amount of UF stories. I picked up “Magic” as a change of pace from the Anita Blakes stores when Anita started becoming more nympho. I am ordering Devon’s third installment.

    I found the magic consequences new. Have read many fantasy books over the years and can’t recall magic taking a toll on the user.
    Characterization is fair. Have read better and worse. Devon’s writing, first person Allie, does a lot of repeating but I kind of figured that is the way a lot of us think and so the stories kind of added a
    familiarization, at least in my way of thinking.

    The romance part, guess I don’t know what to say. Have not been a reader of romance novels and don’t like a lot of graphic sexual activity in what I read. I thought Devon sparked an interest, did a tease but maybe didn’t satisfy many readers with the culmination of her romantic/sexual scenes but again, I found it OK. The second book had virtually no sexual activity.

  15. Magic to the Bone by Devon Monk – Review
    Nov 12, 2010 @ 18:59:35

    [...] Dear Author says: [...]

  16. Marion Athorne
    Dec 26, 2011 @ 06:37:07

    Have just come across this book – and am hooked. It’s a great new way of looking at magic and right down to earth. Looking forward to finding the next …

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