In Lee Kelly’s newest fantasy novel, two young sorcerers experiment with magic and mobsters in 1920s Prohibition when a new elixir is created that turns their lives upside down.Washington, DC, 1926. Sorcery opponents have succeeded in passing the 18th Amendment, but the Prohibition of magic has only invigorated the city’s underworld. Smuggling rings carry magic contraband in from the coast. Sorcerers cast illusions to aid mobsters’ crime sprees. Gangs have even established “magic havens,” secret venues where the public can lose themselves in immersive magic and consume a mind-bending, highly addictive elixir known as “the sorcerer’s shine.” Joan Kendrick, a young sorcerer from the backwoods of Norfolk County, accepts an offer to work for DC’s most notorious crime syndicate, The Shaw Gang, when her family’s home is repossessed. Alex Danfrey, first-year Federal Prohibition Unit trainee with a complicated past and talents of his own, becomes tapped to go undercover and infiltrate the Shaws. When Joan meets Alex at the Shaws’ magic haven, she discovers a confidante in her fellow partner and he begins to fall under her spell. But when a new breed of the addictive sorcerer’s shine is created within the walls of the magic haven, Joan and Alex are forced to question their allegiances as they become pitted against one another in a dangerous, heady game of cat-and-mouse.
THE STORY: It’s 1926 in Washington, DC, and while Anti-Sorcery activists have achieved the Prohibition of sorcery, the city’s magic underworld is booming. Sorcerers cast illusions to aid mobsters’ crime sprees. Smugglers funnel magic contraband in from overseas. Gangs have established secret performance venues where patrons can lose themselves in magic, and take a mind-bending, intoxicating elixir known as the sorcerer’s shine.
MY REVIEW: The story in this book takes place in the mid 1920s following an Anti-Sorcery Amendment effective on January 16, 1919. In Criminal Magic, sorcery and magic is compared similarly to the moonshining period when alcohol was illegal and bootlegged. The “prohibition” on sorcery is full blown in Washington, DC. Of course, the lure of the forbidden “sorcery” has driven the magic underground and into the hands of mobsters, gangsters and other miscellaneous “bad guys” and those controlling the profits from the sorcerer’s shine. Joan Kendrick, a young independent sorcerer from Virginia, is offered a chance to escape her family’s failing shining room and work for a man who promises rich rewards if she can perform, but Joan soon finds herself playing a dangerous game with the notorious Shaw Gang.
Alex is the son of a convicted sorcerer, and he claims he is innocent. He attempts to put the past behind him, but the Feds discover he is not innocent at all. Alex is then forced to work undercover for the Feds and finds himself right in the middle of the Shaw Gang holding secrets that could easily get him killed. Joan and Alex are each drawn into this underworld for their own reasons and find the humanity in each other.
The elements of a crime underworld are displayed in this book, both in the characters being ruthless and violent.. The story is told from the alternating points of view of Alex and Joan as they fight for survival in a dark and strange world where the most important things are power and financial gain. The story was engaging, the characters were very interesting, and the plot had plenty of twists to keep you turning page after page. In fact, the story moves along so well that I actually read the book in two days and I work full time! I’m sure if your preferred book genre falls under the categories of Crossover/Science Fiction/ Fantasy/ Alternate History, then this book will be right up your alley!
Lee Kelly has wanted to write since she was old enough to hold a pencil, but it wasn’t until she began studying for the California Bar Exam that she conveniently started putting pen to paper.
An entertainment lawyer by trade, lee has practiced in Los Angeles and New York. She lives with her husband and son in Millburn, New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter at @LeeYKelly and on her website at NewWriteCity.com.
I received a complimentary paperback copy of this book from the publishers and BookSparks in exchange for this post, which is my honest review and unbiased opinion.