Friday, June 18, 2010

Magic to the Bone, by Devon Monk

Magic to the Bone (Allie Beckstrom)
Magic to the Bone is the debut novel in an urban fantasy series by Devon Monk. The heroine, Allie Beckstrom, lives in a world where magic has been harnessed and controlled for use in many ways in which electricity is used to power our lives. Although it's not explicity stated, it seems that magic tends to pool in places where many people congregate, like the big cities, and there are "dead zones" in less populated areas. Most of the action in this novel takes place in Seattle, but Allie does get away a couple of times to her friend Nola's farm near Bend, Oregon, where the magic is thin, at best.

Allie is the daughter of a powerful businessman who has made his fortune in the technology that harnesses the magic for everyday use. She's also a Hound - a person who has the talent to track magical effects back to their originator, which comes in handy when someone misuses magic. When an acquaintance of hers is attacked by magical means, she traces the signature of the magic back to her father, who of course denies any involvement. The next day, her father is murdered by magic, which a number of other Hounds track back to Allie, and the mystery begins.

This book is a little confusing. It jumps right in, and explanations of the fantasy world, its history, and Allie's place in it seem to fall a little haphazardly amongst the events of the novel. To further add to the confusion, one of the prices Allie pays for using her own magic is amnesia, which she attempts to control by writing important things down in a notebook. But, when things get hot and heavy - in the plot and in her personal life - she forgets to write them down, and it causes some odd situations.

For example, her memories of her college days studying magic are pretty sparse, and she believes that she really wasn't very good at learning how to do complex magic. But her friend, Nola, has a totally different slant on those days. Incidentally, one of the things Allie has apparently forgotten is how she came to know Nola, or at least Ms. Monk has failed to inform the reader in this book. Nola mentions in passing that Allie was better at magic than her memories indicate, but it's left as a throwaway comment of sorts, and never thoroughly explored.

Allie seems to have a problem with impulsive behavior where romantic relationships are concerned. In the course of the story, she begins a new one with Zayvion, a rather mysterious fellow who her father hired to follow her around (we don't ever find out why), and who had a previous business relationship with Allie's stepmother, and who may or may not be part of a super secret group of magic policemen. This new love affair yoyos through most of the story, and might continue as the series does.

Interesting premise, interesting characters, and plenty of potential for further adventures. There are several more books in the series already published, which I intend, cautiously, to read.

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