Magic in the Blood: Ouch!

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fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsurban fantasy book review Devon Monk Allie Beckstrom 2. Magic in the BloodMagic in the Blood by Devon Monk

I complain sometimes about urban fantasy heroines who keep racking up more and more improbable powers over the course of a series, eventually becoming such spectacular demigoddesses that it would take a small army to give them so much as a black eye.

That’s one problem Allie Beckstrom doesn’t have. I’m beginning to think Allie needs more powers to deal with everything Devon Monk is throwing at her. Monk is great — maybe a little too great — at describing the agony of trekking all over Portland in the rain with a blinding migraine, and by the time I’d followed Allie through this ordeal a couple of times, I found myself wishing she’d start trusting Zayvion again just so he could Ground her.

Magic in the Blood begins as Allie is recovering from the events that took place in Magic to the Bone. The reader remembers everything that happened, but as a result of a magical backlash, Allie doesn’t. Specifically, she doesn’t remember much about her relationship with Zayvion. The fragile trust that had just been developing between Allie and Zayvion is in a shambles now, and she’s back at square one, trying to figure out whether to let him back into her life. She also doesn’t remember meeting her stepmother, Violet.
(An aside: I’m beginning to think Violet is my favorite character in this series. I’d love to see more of her. If Devon Monk were to write a spin-off book telling Violet’s story, I’d be in bookworm heaven. I’d love to get inside her head.)

Further complicating Allie’s life, she is being threatened by a crime boss just released from prison, haunted by the ghost of her dead father, and stalked by a horde of terrifying beings who are drawn to the magic she carries in her body. Every time Allie uses magic, she attracts these creatures, and has to use more magic to fight them off. As a result, she spends most of Magic in the Blood suffering from one magic-induced ailment after another.

The principal villain of Magic in the Blood is truly creepy. This character has mastered a horrific magical art, and to make things worse, it’s such an obscure skill that everyone thinks Allie is hallucinating when she describes what’s going on. I did figure out pretty quickly that this character was bad news, but I wasn’t able to put all the pieces together until Allie did.

I’m giving Magic in the Blood 3.5 stars, since I gave Magic to the Bone 4 stars. Magic in the Blood didn’t grab me quite as insistently as Magic to the Bone did. When I try to put my finger on why, I think maybe it’s just that it feels like Blood is treading some of the same ground again, both in terms of the romantic subplot and in terms of the sequences in which Allie travels around the city while feeling ill. I think this “retread” feeling was probably inevitable, though, given Allie’s amnesia and the way magic works in Monk’s world.

I look forward to seeing what happens in the next Allie Beckstrom novel. Allie’s growing alliances with other Hounds promise to be interesting (as long as she writes them down and makes sure to remember them!), and I always enjoy an urban fantasy heroine who develops more friendships as her story progresses rather than becoming more standoffish. And the cliffhanger ending! I can’t wait to find out where this is going.

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KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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