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+