Saturday, February 20, 2016

ARC Review: Criminal Magic by Lee Kelly

Title: Criminal Magic
Author: Lee Kelly
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, Saga Press
Publication date: February 2nd 2016
Buy the book: Amazon / Barnes and Noble

THE NIGHT CIRCUS meets PEAKY BLINDERS in Lee Kelly's new magical realism, crossover novel.

Magic is powerful, dangerous and addictive - and after passage of the 18th Amendment, it is finally illegal.

It's 1926 in Washington, DC, and while Anti-Sorcery activists have achieved the Prohibition of sorcery, the city's magic underworld is booming. Sorcerers cast illusions to aid mobsters' crime sprees. Smugglers funnel magic contraband in from overseas. Gangs have established secret performance venues where patrons can lose themselves in magic, and take a mind-bending, intoxicating elixir known as the sorcerer's shine.

Joan Kendrick, a young sorcerer from Norfolk County, Virginia accepts an offer to work for DC's most notorious crime syndicate, the Shaw Gang, when her family's home is repossessed. Alex Danfrey, a first-year Federal Prohibition Unit trainee with a complicated past and talents of his own, becomes tapped to go undercover and infiltrate the Shaws.

Through different paths, Joan and Alex tread deep into the violent, dangerous world of criminal magic - and when their paths cross at the Shaws' performance venue, despite their orders, and despite themselves, Joan and Alex become enchanted with one another. But when gang alliances begin to shift, the two sorcerers are forced to question their ultimate allegiances and motivations. And soon, Joan and Alex find themselves pitted against each other in a treacherous, heady game of cat-and-mouse.

A CRIMINAL MAGIC casts a spell of magic, high stakes and intrigue against the backdrop of a very different Roaring Twenties.
(Image and summary taken from Goodreads)

My thoughts:

Criminal Magic is everything I've ever wanted in a book and more. There were not enough hours in the day for me to read this book and in a way, I was glad for it. I was able to savor every line, paragraph, page and chapter. There were so many pieces and moments that were meant to really be absorbed and appreciated and I was able to do those things. If there's one thing that I was able to take home from reading Criminal Magic, it's that Lee Kelly writes like a dream. Her different uses of imagery were overwhelming in the best way possible.

I have to applaud Lee Kelly for the expert and impressive execution of the alternating POVs. I am always taken aback by authors who can do multiple POVs justice and that's exactly what she did, Lee Kelly smashed it. There was great characterisation in both Alex and Joan's parts, they both had unique and distinct voices and what's great is that they both contributed a piece to the puzzle, so by the end of the book, everything was complete and wrapped up nicely.

Alex and Joan, I would say, are two sides of the same coin, they're essentially the same person but with certain aspects that stop them from being one. They have the same goals (more or less, for their family) and they're doing things that they aren't quite sure of. Lee Kelly paints a very good picture of two souls with good intentions but with a shady path ahead. (I think their moral compass needs a little tweaking.) And the things they had to go through for them to get to where they are now? My heart goes out to Alex and Joan.

I don't even know how to tackle the magic bits of this book but holy crap, the detail and vividness of magic in Criminal Magic blew my mind. Illegal shine bars, performance magic and mafia that use magic?! Oh my god. It was such a wild and amazing ride. I felt like I was an audience member in the Red Den, experiencing magic for the very first time. And the whole book literally felt like I was under a shine high, everything was so vivid and dark and overwhelming but I never wanted it to stop. Every page was a hit for me and when the novel hit the end with its explosive (and completely unexpected conclusion) all I could do was beg for more.

For me to say that I am looking forward to Lee Kelly's future novels would be an understatement. I am so excited for whatever she writes next it's almost obsession. And might I say that the ending of Criminal Magic was so shocking but actually so perfect for the book. It is easily one of my most favourite literally endings of all time, it just made so much sense. I can't wait, I can't wait for more.


  1. Great post! :)

    Airish xx

  2. I love books about magic! I can't believe that I haven't noticed this book before! Will definitely add it to my wishlist. Thanks for the review, L.

    Precious @ Fragments of Life

  3. So excited to read A Criminal Magic! I was super intrigued by the premise when I first heard of it, and I picked up an ARC from ALA Midwinter, so I definitely plan on getting to it soon. Thanks for sharing your review - it's gotten me even more excited to give this one a shot!