Magic to the Bone by Devon Monk is a guest review submitted by Scarlett Moore who reviews urban fantasy books at her site BestFantasyStories.com. She has agreed to contribute urban fantasy reviews at avidbookreader.com from time to time.
Allie Beckstrom is a Hound – a person capable of tracing illegal spells back to their source. Although she’s good at her job the work has taken a toll on her. She’s living in near poverty, suffers from migraines and often experiences lengthy and permanent memory lapses after completing a trace.
In Allie’s world using magic is not without its problems. Although magic use is allowed the mage is required to choose a method of “Disbursement” or payback for casting the spell. Since the mage can choose the nature of the disbursement most of them elect to let the payback manifest itself in the form of a physical impairment (i.e., a migraine, a high fever, or bruises). However some mages cheat and offload their magical payback on innocent people. Offloading is illegal and that’s where Allie comes in. She’s responsible for tracing offloaded spells back to their originator. The irony of her job is that she’s required to use magic in order to perform the trace which in turn means she’s often in pain from disbursements.
In Magic to the Bone Allie investigates a case in which a magic user offloads black magic onto a little boy. At first the case seems fairly straightforward – Allie is able to trace the source of the offload. But when the alleged guilty party turns out to be someone close to Allie and later ends up murdered (with Allie being the prime suspect) she soon realizes that this case is anything but simple and she finds herself in direct conflict with extremely powerful users of blood magic that will stop at nothing to preserve their way of life. Blood magic is highly addictive to magic users. It’s also a lucrative money making industry.
Allie also comes into contact with an insane criminal who manages to steal some of her blood, a key component in working blood magic.
In the midst of this turmoil is Zayvion, a man Allie is rumored to have loved at one time. Allie can’t substantiate those claims because of her memory loss but she definitely feels a certain closeness when she’s around him. Zayvion has a tendency to mysteriously appear when Allie’s in trouble. Allie, accustomed to independently solving her own problems, is at first resentful of Zayvion’s assistance and somewhat suspicious of his motives but she eventually realizes that his intentions are sincere. As a matter of fact Allie and Zayvion work well as a couple both personally and professionally: Allie tends to be headstrong, a bit reckless, and stubborn whereas Zayvion prefers to tackle problems with more methodical and structured methods. This makes for some great scenes between them as they work together to solve the crime.
The storyline in the book is tightly drawn and fast paced. Monk does a superb job with realistic character building for Allie, Zayvion and the main supporting cast, in particular Allie’s new stepmother and a new rival Hound named Bonnie. Additionally, the bleak and dreary magic world of Portland is aptly described and serves as an appropriate backdrop for the storyline.
Magic to the Bone is a great read with just the right mixture of action, mystery, and suspense. You’ll definitely want to add it to your fantasy book collection.