I have been craving adult fantasy for the longest time and An Unkindness of Magicians hits the sweet spot. Not only do I want to live in this magical world, but the characters within are not only complex, but they are alluring, powerful, and feel lifelike underneath our fingertips.
New York City has an Unseen magical world beneath its surface. You’d never see it, unless something went disastrously wrong, but it’s there lurking. But the magic in the world is fading and only Sydney knows why. New to the Unseen World Sydney is an incredibly powerful magician who has the capacity to stop the forces that are weakening the magic and the fabric of their world. However, Sydney doesn’t want to save the System, she wants to take it apart piece by piece.
Written in multiple perspectives, An Unkindness of Magicians delivers us a whole cast of characters with absolutely sinister and human motivations. Whether it be a desire for revenge, love, or power, each of these chess pieces are put on the board for a reason. Sydney is my heroine for life, from now on. She is compassionate, powerful, and unapologetic. Incredibly talented, and aware of it, Sydney walks through the world as one who was not only unseen, but exploited. And she is amazing.
The characters weave in and out like snakes in a pile, getting tangled, slithering together, but moving in one intoxicating heap that you cannot look away from. The plot is consistently surprising in a “the floor is lava” sense. Entire situations, worldviews, and people can change in blink of an instant. Not only do I want to live in this magical Unseen World in NYC, I want to be friends with most of these characters.
This reminded me of an even more adult Fantastic Beasts feel to it, because there is a positively dangerous feeling to the entire premise of the story. There are parts of thriller, mystery, and murder all wrapped into one awesome (in all sense of the word) display of magical power. The world is heedy, steeped in magic, power, and privilege, like a strong cup of Earl Grey. (And the upper echelon of these magical houses would be drinking something like that). There is an intense class system within the magical world, based on lineage and privilege, looking down on those who are not part of any magical house.
So not only does this take part in a setting dripping with details, combined with characters that are almost so bad that they’re good, there are also incredibly fascinating discussions about the nature of power and sacrifice. In a society where magic comes with a cost, who’s fronting the bill? The answer is downright frightening because it seems so familiar. Howard excels in every aspect, delivering on this captivating synopsis to enchant us both with a desire to keep reading and also to hide under our covers.
When magic demands sacrifice, it’s no surprise that a world like this exists. But if you’re at all a fan of magic and adult fantasy, this book is a must read for you. I knew I would want to read it, but I never knew how much I needed it. I would fight for each of these characters, except a few, not only because of their purpose within the story, but also because of their liveliness. They feel a touch away from being real, like that moment of breath you hold in waiting for a statue to come alive. Please come alive and whisk me into your world. I’ll be waiting.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from the publisher.
Would you live in a magical NYC?
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