Friday, December 19, 2008

Review – “Magic to the Bone” by Devon Monk

Everything has a cost. And every act of magic exacts a price from its user--maybe a two-day migraine, or losing the memory of your first kiss. But some people want to use magic without paying, and they offload the cost onto an innocent. When that happens, it falls to a Hound to identify the spell's caster--and Allison Beckstrom's the best there is.

Daughter of a prominent Portland businessman, Allie would rather moonlight as a Hound than accept the family fortune--and the many strings that come with it. But when she discovers a little boy dying from a magical offload that has her father's signature all over it, Allie is thrown back into the high-stakes world of corporate espionage and black magic.

Now, Allie's out for the truth--and the forces she finds herself calling on will overturn everything she knows, change her in ways she could never imagine...and make her capable of things that powerful people will do anything to control.
Magic to the Bone is the beginning of a new urban fantasy series and a debut novel for author Devon Monk. There is some very unique and impressive world-building happening here. This is an alternate earth where magic has been discovered and harnessed in the past thirty years, resting uncomfortably beside technology. Natural magic is accumulated and distributed throughout the cities and buildings using specially constructed conduits of iron and glass. Everyone has access to the magic, some more adept then others according to their aptitude and training. As a result society has changed, becoming harsher - darker - people using and misusing magic often for their own selfish ends.

Magic also comes at a cost. Even with proper training, it exacts a physical price on one’s health and well-being. These effects can be off-loaded to others legally willing to take on the debt, or illegally with criminal intent. Allie is a magical bounty hunter, otherwise known as a Hound, dedicated to apprehending magical abusers. She is strong-willed and altruistic. Estranged from her powerful father, she barely makes ends meet, but willingly pays the price for her independence.

A solid and pleasing mystery story is at the heart of Magic to the Bone. Allie takes on the case of a young boy almost killed by an illegal magical dump. She believes the magical signature to be her fathers. So she confronts her father. Later he is found murdered. Allie is accused and ends up on the run from other Hounds and the police while trying to clear her name and find the culprit. But a deeper intrigue runs below the surface involving forged magical signatures and new magical technology under development by her fathers company that unknown enemies will stop at nothing to acquire.

Allie finds an ally in Zayvion (Zay), an ex-employee of her fathers. He has a mysterious history and unknown agenda. Allie’s and Zay’s magical abilities strongly complement one another and Allie discovers she has hidden talents. An attraction develops between them but Allie remains leery of any kind of commitment because of Zay’s history with her father.

Engaging as Magic to the Bone is I did find that the pacing of the story to be a trifle slow at times and I sometimes wanted things to move along more quickly. POV is first person and we get to know and understand Allie through her inner dialogue, however I found her frequent internal discussions of the effects of using magic to be a bit repetitive. Hopefully now that Monk has established the parameters for her characters and world this will fade more into the general back ground.

Overall I found Magic to the Bone to be an impressive debut. This first book introduced enough interesting concepts and potential story arcs to propel the series for some time to come. I expect big things from the next installment Magic in the Blood coming in May 2009.

AUTHOR AND BOOK SHOWCASEOfficial Devon Monk Website

No excerpt available.

Penguin Group (USA)
Published: November 2008
ISBN #: 9780451462404
Format: Paperback
Pages: 368

Magic Series

  1. Magic to the Bone (2008)
  2. Magic in the Blood (May 2009)
  3. Magic in the Shadows (November 2009)


  1. I have been hearing great things about this book. Sounds a bit like Ilona Andrew's Kate Daniels series.

  2. I agree - this does sound like Ilona Andrews' series. Which is one of my current favs. I have this on my TBR pile, and have to practice patience till 2009! Aargh!

  3. KB I had meant to make that comparison myself and completely forgot to mention it. If i had to compare that is exactly it. There is something more baroque or steampunkish about Monk's story.

    Hey Drey looks like we all agree. Andrews is one of my favs too.

  4. I liked Magic as well and look forward to the sequel.

    There are similarities to the Kate Daniels series - magic and city destruction - but the characters are quite different.

    Anyway I love Kate and can't wait for the next book. March seems so far away.

  5. I've wanted to read book for months ago. It sounds like something I would like, especially being compared to the Daniels series which is one of my favorites.

  6. Patricia Kate Daniels is a great character and I think Allie can grow into a memorable one as well.

    Hey Wendy yeah it is a good debut novel and comparing it to the Daniels series sets the bar pretty high. The sequel should be the proof.

  7. I was excited about this book before it hit shelves, and wasn't disappointed. I think the world is unique and Zay and Allie's characters are very relatable. I agree on the pacing, and thought that at one point in time (when she left Z's house after he told her to stay put) she seemed a little too stubbornly independant. I also thought that backstory could have been deeper, especially Zay's. But, on the whole - I'm with you. I enjoyed it, and am looking forward to the next installment. :)

  8. Gwen definitely one of the stronger debuts in 2008. The sequel will tell the tale.

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