REVIEW: Minimum Wage Magic (DFZ#1) by Rachel Aaron
The DFZ, the metropolis formerly known as Detroit, is the world’s most magical city with a population of nine million and zero public safety laws. That’s a lot of mages, cybernetically enhanced chrome heads, and mythical beasties who die, get into debt, and otherwise fail to pay their rent. When they can’t pay their bills, their stuff gets sold to the highest bidder to cover the tab.
That’s when they call me. My name is Opal Yong-ae, and I’m a Cleaner: a freelance mage with an art history degree who’s employed by the DFZ to sort through the mountains of magical junk people leave behind. It’s not a pretty job, or a safe one—there’s a reason I wear bite-proof gloves—but when you’re deep in debt in a lawless city where gods are real, dragons are traffic hazards, and buildings move around on their own, you don’t get to be picky about where your money comes from. You just have to make it work, even when the only thing of value in your latest repossessed apartment is the dead body of the mage who used to live there.
This is the first in a new series set in the same universe as my Heartstrikers books, but you don’t need to have read those stories to enjoy this one. MINIMUM WAGE MAGIC was written to stand by itself, so if you haven’t read the others, don’t worry! I wrote this book with you in mind. I hope you’ll give it a try, and thank you so much for reading!
I read the book on Kindle Unlimited.
Dear Rachel Aaron,
I am pretty sure I have read “Nice Dragons Finish Last” – the first book in the Heartstrickers’ universe where this book is set – and I liked it just fine, but did not feel compelled to continue. You state in the author’s note that this book is meant to be a stand alone, so I figured why not try it .
I have read a lot of urban fantasy to the point that I cannot read much of it without switching genres, but this is true for any genre I like: the more I read the more the tropes become familiar and you start wonder whether the next author will be able to offer you a fresh twist on the familiar plot lines. This book actually offered a very nice twist for me – the magical work our main character Opal Yong-ae does is very unglamorous. Of course non glamorous magic is not unique in urban fantasy, but off the top of my head I do not remember reading about a character who is engaged in work even remotely close to what she does.
I really loved Opal’s voice. I found her to be very no-nonsense and to the point. This is very early in the book and you can get a feel for her narration :
“‘This is Opal Yong-ae,’ I told the almost certainly empty apartment. ‘Subcontractor for Detroit Free Zone Habitation Management. You’re thirty days behind on your rent and have not responded to multiple contact attempts from Collections. Therefore, by the terms of your rental agreement with the city, this apartment and all possessions therein are now property of the DFZ.’ By which I meant property of me.”
“When people skip town without paying their rent, the city takes their stuff to pay the bill. No bureaucrat wants to deal with sorting through someone else’s abandoned junk, though, so they send the unit to auction, where it’s bought by someone like me. I’m a Cleaner. I buy delinquent apartments in the hopes of selling what’s inside for a profit. Sometimes I scored big. Other times—almost every time, recently—I paid for the privilege of shoveling trash.”
The unit which Opal obtains in the very beginning, and which she tries to enter, brings her a whole lot of surprises and sends her on an adventure with quite unpredictable results. I grew to admire her grit and determination and desire to fight against some bad circumstances in her life. The plot moved very fast and the author managed to surprise me a bit even when I knew what Opal was facing in terms of her family life (as in the identity of the person she was facing off with).
The main weakness of the book for me was the fact that despite a fast-moving storyline and very engaging voice of the narrator, I never fully connected with Opal emotionally and I cannot even explain why. I should have read it through without putting the book down (I did put it down couple of times).
And as the last thought allow me to say this: the book does not end with a cliffhanger, thank goodness, but nothing is fully resolved in Opal’s life.
Grade : B-