Author: Devon Monk
Series: Allie Beckstrom #1
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Age Group: Adult
Publisher: Berkley UK
Published: 2008 US/2011 UK
Source: Review copy from publisher
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First sentence:It was the morning of my twenty-fifth birthday, and all I wanted was a decent cup of coffee, a hot breakfast, and a couple hours away from the stink of used magic that seeped through the walls of my apartment building every time it rained.
Using magic means it uses you back – and every spell exacts a price from the user. Some people, however, get out of it by Offloading the cost of magic onto an innocent, then Allison Beckstrom’s job is to identify the spell-caster. Allie would rather live a hand-to-mouth existence than accept the family fortune and the strings that come with it, but when she finds a boy dying from a magical Offload that has her father’s signature all over it she is thrown back into the world of his black magic.
This book prompted me into remembering how much I love urban fantasy, to the point that I will definitely be calling it my favourite genre from now on. It includes many of the usual tropes you find in urban fantasy, such as a strong-willed heroine with a fast-paced story to keep you on the edge of your seat, but the thing that I particularly enjoyed was the magic system. As an occasional epic fantasy fan, I can really appreciate the nuances of a good magic system and Devon Monk has weaved something phenomenal here. Magic runs through pipes below the city and through buildings for easy access. It can also be harvested from magical storms but these are not overly frequent. It is an every day convenience, just like electricity, only it can do so much more.. if you’re willing to pay the price. And the price is pain. As you might be able to imagine, you can use a ‘proxy’ to avoid this, another human being. And this is, of course, illegal. It is Allie Beckstrom’s job as a Hound to sniff out the perpetrators of such magical attacks and this isn’t always the safest of jobs.
The story is told from a close first person perspective and as such we have to deal with an unreliable narrator. Whatever Allie believes to be true, tends to come across as true, although there is the odd time when we have the benefit of being on the outside and seeing things a little differently because we are unbiased whereas Allie isn’t. It makes it more fun to follow because it is much more difficult to work out who to trust and it’s so much more intimate. The narrative is also interspersed with Cody chapters, who I shan’t tell you anything about. However, the contrast between Allie and Cody is so big that the variety keeps the narrative feeling fresh and interesting.
As for Allie herself, she thinks of herself as a loner. She’s stubborn, untrusting, and a bit of a badass. Her idiosyncrasies pull us deeply into Allie’s mind and it feels much more personal following her thought processes so much more closely than you usually would in a first person narrative novel. You feel much more as though you are Allie. The other characters are full and multi-faceted, though Zayvion’s mysteriousness really, really bugs me, they all feel so real.
If you enjoy urban fantasy with a bit of magic and a crime to be solved with much mystery, you may love Magic to the Bone. Whilst there are a few loose ends, I figure they’ll be picked up later in the series.
The Allie Beckstrom series:
1. Magic to the Bone
2. Magic in the Blood
3. Magic in the Shadows
4. Magic on the Storm
5. Magic at the Gate
6. Magic on the Hunt
7. Magic on the Line
8. Magic Without Mercy