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Sunday, December 5, 2010


Author:  Devon Monk
Plot Type:  Urban Fantasy (UF)
Publisher and Titles:  Roc
      Magic to the Bone (2008)
      Magic in the Blood (2009)
      Magic in the Shadows (2009)
      Magic on the Storm (2010)
      Magic at the Gate (2010)    
      Magic on the Hunt (2011) 
      Magic on the Line (2011)   
      Magic without Mercy (2012)  
      Magic for a Price (2012) (FINAL)

This post was revised and updated on 12/21/12 to include a review of the ninth and FINAL ALLIE BECKSTROM novel: Magic for a Price. That review appears at the end of this post and is preceded by an overview of the world-building and a review of novels 6, 7, and 8.

     If you enjoy this series, you might want to read the two novels that make up the BROKEN MAGIC series, which is set in the ALLIE BECKSTROM world: Hell Bent and Stone Cold. These books tell the stories of Allie's friends Shamus (Shame) Flynn and Terric Conley.  Click HERE to read my reviews of these two novels.   

      Magic is all-important to the characters in this series. Monk has created a complex mythology in which she has obviously thought hard about how magic works. Her descriptions of the spells cast by various characters are incredibly detailed. We get the colors, the scents, the electrical crackles, and the bone-crunching, pain-filled feedback—all of which makes it easy to conjure up mental images of the magical action.

     The series heroine, Allison Angel Beckstrom ("Allie"), is a Hound—a wizard-like person who can analyze a magical spell and trace it back to its caster. In Allie's world, magic is available to the general public through a series of grids laid across the city, and Hounds help keep people from using dark magic to harm others. Every act of magic exacts a price from its user—generally in the form of physical pain—so most Hounds rely on narcotics or alcohol. Allie uses just aspirin, but her heavy use of magic causes migraines and bruising, as well as spotty memory loss, so she has to keep a daily journal to jog her memory of day-to-day events.

     Magic users are governed by the Authority, an elite, secretive group of magic users who protect wells of magic around the city. If a magic user abuses magic or if a human gets too close to knowledge of the Authority, that person is closed—which means that his or her memories of certain events or periods of time are erased.

     Allie’s love interest is Zayvion ("Zay") Jones, a handsome but mysterious man who comes to her rescue time and time again, and she thinks she loves him—if she could just remember! Several books into the series, Allie learns that Zayvion has an extremely important position with the Authority—he is the Guardian of the Gates (portals used to travel through space) and he is the Authority's primary closer.

     Allie’s adventures include solving cases of corporate espionage, black magic, ghostly apparitions, and dead spirits who want to come back to life. She becomes involved both with the Portland Police Department’s Magic Enforcement Response Corps and with the Authority.

     Allie's father, Daniel, becomes a more important character in later books, mostly after his death. Daniel is a technological genius and a powerful magic user who is responsible for creating the magic grids that allow wide use of magic across Portland. He also invented magic-holding discs that are important to the plots of some of the later books. Dad wants to go back to the days when black and white magic could be used together, and he wants to be the immortal mage who will control all magic. Beginning with Magic in the Shadows, dear old dead Dad channels himself into Allie's mind, so she spends later books trying either to fight off or use his power as he tries to get her to help him achieve his nefarious goals.

     This is definitely a series that you should start reading at the very beginning with Magic to the Bone. As the series progresses, Allie's relationships change, her magical powers get stronger, and her role in Portland's magical community becomes more and more important. Here's how Zay summarizes the events of recent months in Magic on the Hunt: "For starters, we've had betrayal, battle, and kidnapping within our group. We've had to lock down two [magic] wells and have had an unprecedented string of gate [portal] openings in the area. Plus, we have one of the only known living Necromorphs locked up, several solid Veiled [apparitions of dead mages] behind bars, and have had two members die, one via murder, the other during a magical battle among our own people. Rogue magic users out here with unsanctioned magic-holding disk technology are looking to take over, and there's been dark magic used to try to resurrect your dad." (p. 109) Whew! Life in an urban fantasy is really rough

     ALLIE BECKSTROM is a great urban fantasy (UFseries, with action-filled plots and a feisty and talented heroine who defeats villains and solves complicated magical problems through sheer grit and determination, not to mention very effective use of her magical talents. The supporting characters are very well developed and each plays an integral role in Allie's adventurous life. The romance between Allie and Zay is definitely one of the most rocky relationships I've come across in UF, but no matter what kind of obstacles are placed in their way—and believe me, some of them are HUGE—the couple manages to look out for one another and eventually wind up together.

                 BOOK 6:  Magic on the Hunt                 
     As the title suggests, Allie, Zayvion, and their friends Shamus (Shame) and Terric spend most of their time in this book tracking down a series of evildoers, or evil-want-to-doers. As the story opens, Allie and Zay are relaxing after the apocalyptic battle that ended the previous book. Both were badly injured; in fact Zay has just come out of a long-term coma. When they are attacked in Allie's apartment by Dane, the bodyguard of Sedra, the missing head of the Portland Authority, the hunt is on. First, the team searches for Dane and his magical thugs. Then, the hunt broadens to include Leander, the shade that followed Allie back from her hellish trip to the underworld in a previous book. Leander wants to gather in all the magic in Allie's father's magical discs, and then he wants to rule the world. What is it with these power hungry guys always wanting to rule the world? The injury count is astronomical for everyonegood guys and bad guys. Although a few issues are resolved, many more are left hanging. The only situation that is absolutely actualized is the end of Violet's pregnancy. She FINALLY has the babyAllie's little brotherand Mom and Baby Daniel are both just fine. Yay!

                      NOVEL 7:  Magic on the Line                      
     As the story opens, Bartholomew Wray, the new head of Portland's Authority has taken over, and he doesn't much care for Allie and her friends. Some of them get closed (aka memory-wiped), some get demoted, and some get reassignedall unwillingly. Meanwhile, on the streets of Portland, a mysterious flu-like illness is swiftly cutting down innocent, non-magical humans. When Allie and Zay figure out that the Veiled are somehow involved, they try to solve the problem but run headlong into opposition from Wray and his magical thugs. The Veiled are transparent, ghostly figures who are actually the echoes of dead magic users. Ordinarily, the Veiled are harmless, but now they've grown sharp fang-like teeth and they are attacking people and spreading a magical disease. 

     Early on in the story, Allie realizes that using magic is making her very ill, and she eventually gets to the point that she can't use it at all. This means that she is working with a crippling handicap as she and Zay investigate the problem with the Veiled. Allie's late father, Daniel, (who resides inside her mind) suggests that they check out one of the cisterns that holds magic for the city. When they discover that the magic in the cisterns has definitely been poisoned, they must try to figure out a way cleanse it. Daniel is very cooperative and helpful in this bookmuch more than in the past, which only makes Allie (and the reader) suspicious that he's up to something. Before it's all over, both Allie and Zay have crossed a line that puts them on the run from the Authority and the Portland police along with a small group of their closest friends. They still haven't discovered how to stop the Veiled and clean up the magic, but that's a task for book 8.

     There are a three important secondary story lines woven through this main plot, all unresolved in this book: Shamus (Shame) and Terric go though a rough patch but finally appear to be on the verge of friendship. Allie's Hound friend Davy Silvers is bitten by a Veiled, falls victim to the tainted magic, and lies at the edge of death. Allie brings in Eli Collins, a renegade magical "doctor" to take care of Davy and then has a dream that implies that she knew him earlier in her life. So...we must wait until the next book to learn whether Davy recovers, whether the Shame-Terri relationship will get better or worse, and exactly what role Eli Collins will play in Allie's life.

                    NOVEL 8:  Magic Without Mercy                      
     As the story opens, Portland's magic is still tainted; the Veiled are still spreading a poisonous plague among the human population; and Allie continues to be unable to use her magic. Throughout this book, Allie and her friends, all of whom have now broken with the Authority, are on the run, both from the Authority and from the Portland police. As Shame sums it up, they must "unpoison magic, stop the plague that's killing everyone, and convince the Authority that we got screwed by Bartholomew" (p. 72)

     Jingo Jingo, a villain from previous books, has replaced the late Bartholomew Wray as head of the Authority, and he's out to destroy all of his old enemies. Because Allie's father, Daniel, has some knowledge about how to clean up the tainted magic, Allie assumes a leadership role in planning the group's strategies. They decide to take samples from each of the city's four wells of magic and then test them to determine exactly what is poisoning the magic. The plot follows their efforts as they gather their samples, always just one step ahead of their pursuers.

     Playing critical roles in the sample collecting are Stone (Allie's pet gargoyle) and Cody (a mentally and emotionally damaged magic savant who lives with Alllie's BFF, Nola). Both have life-changing experiences. The secondary story lines from the previous book are resolved in this one. Collins saves Davy's life, but, in the process, turns him into a being that is less-than- (or more-than-) human. In what has become one of the most important and heart-rending relationships in the series, Shame and Terric finally accept their Soul Complement relationship as they combine their magical powers in the horrific battle scene that ends the book. But is it too late?

     Just as in past books, Daniel's motives are hard to readboth for Allie and for the reader. Although through most of the book, he seems to be helping Allie, there is a scene at the end in which Allie gets a very different version of the events of the past few weeks. Which one should she believe?

     This book is filled with continuous action, from beginning to end. The supporting cast is very important to the story, with each of those characters going through life-altering changes, either physically, mentally, or both. The ending is another cliff hanger that presents Allie and her allies with a whole new challengeand they still haven't gotten the poison out of the magic. 

     This is another great addition to the series. It moves the series story arc closer to its resolution while allowing all of the characters to grow and change. This is one of the few UF series in which the reader gets to delve deeply into the lives of the supporting cast, which adds complexity and intensity to the series. In fact, in this book, the story lines for Davy and for Shame and Terric are given more space than the Allie-Zay relationshipand that feels exactly right. The next book will be the final one in the series. I'll be sad to see it come to an end, but I also can't wait to see how Monk resolves things once and for all.      

                      NOVEL 9:  Magic for a Price                      

     In this final book in a long and dramatic series, Allie assumes temporary leadership of the magical inhabitants of Portland when Leander and Isabelle (two power-mad, dead Soul Complements) possess the body of the Overseer of the Authority and lead the magic users of Seattle on an attack on Portland. Allie decides that they must close down Portland's four magic wells so that the Seattle invaders won't have any magic to draw on as they attack. Allie, Zayvion, Shame, Terric, and Stone the gargoyle spend most of the book going from one well to the next, battling their way through to get the wells purified and closed, but at great cost to themselves. Allie's father, Daniel, is the only one who knows the spells needed to cleanse the poisoned wells, so he works through Allie's increasingly exhausted and damaged body to complete that task at each of the wells. In the meantime, Shame and Terric are forced to work together as Soul Complements for the first time since their near-death experience in the previous book, and that doesn't always go well. 

     Throughout the book, Allie and Daniel work together rather than against each other, and that is definitely is a new experience for Allie. As Allie's physical body gets more and more damaged, she has some near-death experiences that provide her with more questions for Daniel. By the end, Allie and her crew finally learn all the details of Daniel's grand scheme for blending the use of light and dark magic.

     I'm not going to try to summarize the action because it's much too complex, and because I don't want to spoil it for you. Needless to say, this book needs to be read after you have read the first eight, because the conflict and resolution of Magic for a Price has been a long time coming, and knowledge of the events that have gone before is critical to understanding what's going on. By the end, a new magical age has dawned on Portland and the world, and Allie and her father have finally made peace with each other. It's not a spoiler to tell you that Shame and Terric survive Leander and Isabelle's magical holocaust because Monk's new series will be based on their lives, beginning at the end of this book.

     By the time you finish the epilogue, all of the questions raised in the first books are answered. The few weaknesses in the plot involve the too-similar well-closing scenes, the manner in which Allie gets the answers to some of her big questions, and the fact that we don't really get a sense of what's next for Allie and Zay—where they will go, what they will do. All in all, though, this is a fine finale for a great urban fantasy series.

     We've seen Allie come a long way in these nine books, from a memory-challenged hound to a mature magic user who handles her power responsibly and who lays her life on the line for her city and her magical community. Allie's relationship with Zayvion has deepened and changed over the course of the series, and as it ends, they learn the true power and challenge of being Soul Complements. Here, Zay responds to Allie when she has a depressed moment and tells him that she is nothing: "You are not nothing....You saved Cody when he was just a stranger to you. You killed Lon Tragger and stood up to a death magic user who was killing girls to use magic. You fought a Necromorph, and walked through a gate into death to bargain with my captor to bring me back to life. No matter what has been thrown at  you, you have found a way forward, found a way to fight for innocent people to stay alive, for the Hounds to find pride in their work and each other, and for Portland to remain safe." (p. 132) That passage gives you a nice review of Allie's danger-filled life up to this point.

     Some have criticized the series because Allie, the heroine, is not the total focus of each book, but for me, that is one of its strongest points. In the beginning, the series centered on Allie, who was mostly alone as she dealt with the ups and downs of her difficult life. Gradually, Allie became closer and closer to her comrades in the Hounds and then to the leaders of the Portland Authority, gathering strength and support from more and more people. All in all, the series really tells the story of a magical community, with each one of the supporting characters having an interesting back-story and a strong personality and facing challenges that force him or her to adapt to difficult circumstances. Even Stone the gargoyle has a history. What makes this such a strong series is this combination of characters who work together and support each other even though they bicker all the time and disagree frequently about the best way to move forward. I've enjoyed all of the books in the series, and I really hate to see it come to an end. What makes the ending bearable, though, is the fact that I'm sure we'll see Allie and Zay as supporting characters in the new Shame and Terric series. The relationship between the two male mages has been an emotional roller-coaster so far, and I'm dying to see what the future holds for them.


  1. Book 7, "Magic on the Line" is scheduled to be released 11/01/2011.

    Book 8, "Magic Without Mercy" is scheduled to be released 04/03/2012.

    Book 9 and final book is not scheduled yet.

  2. Magic Without Mercy is BOOK 8 not 7.

  3. Book 9 will be release in November 2012. :O)