Magic to the Bone
by Devon Monk
Review by Drew Bittner
Roc Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780451462404
Date: 04 November 2008 List Price $6.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /
In Magic to the Bone, Allie is drawn into a web of supernatural danger as victims of magical malpractice start turning up. Magic always carries a price--but the caster isn't always the one who pays. The price can be offloaded onto another; that is what Allie is finding. As a freelance Hound (or someone who investigates this type of malicious magic-working), Allie's interest starts as professional... but quickly turns personal, when it seems her own father may be implicated.
Her only allies (no pun intended) include a mystery man named Zayvion who's worked for her father, an old woman and her collection of adopted sons, and colleagues who suspect she's involved in what's going on. Her enemies, meanwhile, are manipulating a simpleton toward some nefarious end, while magical impossibilities multiply.
With magic use tearing holes in her memory, Allie struggles to solve the mystery around this offloading--what it means and why it's being done--as well as a secondary problem that's struck closer to home. If she can figure out who to trust, things might settle in place... but that's an awfully big if and the obstacles between her and the truth are only growing.
Devon Monk has created a cool new heroine in Allie Beckstrom. Handicapped by a capricious magical "price" that is never consistent or predictable, as well as living in a place where magical energy ebbs and flows (partly according to human engineering), she has developed a system of magic that is intriguing and distinct from those filling urban fantasies by the score; Allie knows the ins and outs of that system, but cannot escape its demands.
Like most urban fantasy protagonists, Allie is an outsider with her own code of honor, involved in the supernatural but trying to find a normal life for all that. Her connection with the enigmatic Zayvion hints at the life magical folk lead in Monk's world, one filled with uncertainty and flashes of distrust even in the most intimate moments. His role in the story is ambiguous, leading one to believe he is alternately hero or villain or neither. What he is, in the end, is an interesting character who deserves to appear again.
Lastly, Monk's version of Portland is vibrant and well-constructed, with its seedy neighborhoods lying alongside its wealthiest precincts. Allie's travels provide a long view of this unusual city, making a place one wants to revisit.
With a strong heroine, a great setting and an interesting new system of magic, Magic to the Bone is likely to give urban fantasy readers more of what they want: a worthy read.