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Monday, December 9, 2013


Author:  Devon Monk
Series:  BROKEN MAGIC   
Plot Type:  Urban Fantasy (UF)     
Ratings:  Violence4; Sensuality3; Humor2
Publisher and Titles:  ROC (Penguin Group)
          Hell Bent (11/2013 )
          Stone Cold (4/2014) (FINAL)  

     This post was revised and updated on 5/1/14 to include a review of Stone Cold, the second and FINAL book in this duology. That review appears first, followed by an overview of the world-building and a review of the first novel.      

             NOVEL 2:  Stone Cold            
     Shamus (Shame) Flynn is having a terrible time keeping his Death magic under control. He lives in constant fear that he will let it slip and accidentally kill an innocent person: "I'd been a damn fine Death magic user back in the day. And now? Well, now I was death…..I carried death, but if I didn't let it loose, didn't let the Death magic in me consume and kill people, plants, or things, then it simply consumed and killed me…I was never going to live to be an old man." (p. 3) In the same way that Shame is consumed by Death magic, his Soul Complement (SC), Terric Conley, is consumed by Life magic. (NOTE: If this is your first time reading this series, please read the overview of the world-building below for an explanation of Soul Complements.) The most effective way of dealing with their magic would be for Shame to consume some of Terric's Life magic and for Terric to consume some of Shame's Death magicwhich would provide a balance for both. The problem is that the two don't get along all that well and besides, magic-sharing would soon become addictive and would most likely lead to insanity for both of them. Shame believes that his life is a lose-lose situation. He loses if he uses his magic because someone will die, but he loses if he doesn't use his magic because it drives him closer and closer to losing his humanity.   

     In the first chapter, Shame and Terric attend a baby shower for Allie and Zayvion (the hard-hitting stars of the ALLIE BECKSTROM series). Shame muses, "It used to be all bullets and battles with these two. Now it was babies and balloons." (p. 23) During the party, they learn that progress has been made in the search for Davy Silvers, a Hound who was captured by the rogue magic user Eli Collins and his government sponsor, Krogher. (A Hound is a magic user who can trace a spell back to its caster.) In this new world of gentle magic, the only magic users with real power are the SCs, and Krogher is using Eli to track down and eliminate all of them. He is also kidnapping people who were infected with tainted magic back before the magic apocalypse (which took place in the final book in the ALLIE series). In Hell Bent, Eli killed Shame's mentor and his girlfriend, so Shame wants to be in on Eli's capture and execution.

     As usual, the plot is extremely well constructed, but quite complex. In chapters 4 through 21, the plot follows two separate but connected story linesone for Shame and one for Terric. Shame narrates most of the chapters in the first-person voice, except for five chapters narrated (also in the first person) by Terric. I can't explain why Terric and Shame's story lines are separate because that would be a spoiler. What I can say is that at a certain point, something happens to set each one on a separate path. Both paths are filled with uncertainty, danger, pain, and heartbreak, and even when they converge later in the book, things don't get much betterat least not at first.

     Shame has company on his adventures: Dash (his former assistant, who would love to date Terric); Cody (a damaged former magic user who played a major role in the ALLIE series); and Sunny (Davy Silver's girlfriend, a former user of Blood magic and now head of the Hounds). He is also accompanied by the ghost of a woman he accidentally killedEleanor, whose spirit has been tied to him for almost four years. (It's a long story!) As the story progresses, both Shame and Terric suffer horrific injuriesboth mental and physicaland at times it's hard to imagine how Monk will get both of them through this alive.

     I won't spoil the novel for you by revealing any more of the plot, but since this is the final novel, you can imagine that mostbut not allof the cast of characters makes it through to the end. Naturally, with a book that begins with a baby shower, you can expect it to end with a birththat's about the only thing that is predictable about the plot. The resolution, which takes place in the requisite slam-bang showdown scene, is quite satisfying. It's been a long, wild ride through the nine ALLIE novels and the two BROKEN MAGIC novels, but it's been well worth every minute of reading. Monk has constructed a remarkable world, and she has always done a terrific job with plot construction and characterization. Both main and supporting characters are well-developed, with distinctive personalities and in-depth back stories. I'm sad to see the end of this world, but I'm looking forward to enjoying Monk's future works.       

      Let me begin by saying that this duo logy is a spin-off of Monk's ALLIE BECKSTROM (AB) series, and if you haven't read that series, you will probably be lost in this one because it relies very heavily on events that took place in those books. To read an overview of the world-building and my reviews of the AB novels, click HERE.  

     In the apocalyptic finale of Magic for a Price, the ninth and final AB novel, magic was muted forever. In the past, magic users could do violent things with their magic, but that is no longer the casewith one rare exception: Soul Complements (SCs). SCs are two magic users who are magically bonded so that they can use their magic together, breaking it into its light and dark forms and casting it once again with full force and effectjust as before the apocalypse. Here, the series hero (or anti-hero) explains what happened: "Magic…didn't have the delightfully dangerous 'use it hard and it will use you back harder' kick like the days before the apocalypse. We'd forced dark and light magic to join and mingle together, diluting the strength of both. Magic had gone soft. Limp. Light spells were a dim glow. Illusions were thin as glass, and a knock-you-senseless Impact spell was no worse than a polite pat….And while I found it hilarious that people who used to do very bad things with magic were now raging to find the magical equivalent to Viagra, I was simultaneously just a little terrified about what magic could do in my hands. Well, in my hands and Terric's hands. Magic might be neutered, or 'healed' as Terric likes to remind me, for other magic users...But not for us. Soul Complements, or Breakers, as some people like to call us, could make magic do all those powerful things. As long as we used it together." (Hell Bent, p. 6)

     This series takes place about three years after the magic apocalypse and is narrated in the first person voice of Shamus (Shame) Flynn, one of the primary characters in the AB series. Shame is one half of a SC, the other half being his long-time friend Terric Conley. The friendship between the two men has waxed and waned over the years, and both have suffered through horrible magical injuries and even death. It's a long story…and you really need to read the other series to understand their past history. One element that complicates their relationship is that Terric is gay, while Shame is straight. Also: Shame has always been a bad-boy characterdrinking heavily, partying every night, falling into bed with any woman who catches his fancy, and generally avoiding anything to do with work. Terric, on the other hand, is a hard-working, sober, neat and tidy man who keeps his sexual relationships monogamous. At the end of the AB series, Terric and Shame were appointed as co-directors of the Authority in Portland, and Terric has been doing all the work while Shame has lost himself in an alcohol-fueled haze.

     Shame's magic is death magic, while Terric's is life magic. Shame needs life to exist; he has a constant, driving hunger to pull life from any living thing, from plants to animals to humans. Terric, on the other hand, exudes life. He can make plants grow and he can heal people—even bring them back from death. Neither is particularly happy about his magic. Here, Terric explains his feelings about life magic: "Life magic infiltrates, overtakes, possesses. Makes everything grow: plants, people…Disases, sickness … everything I touch I change. Everything that I touch I force to change…When I let go. When I relax, when I just let go and breathe…I become the monster. The magic. I become the hunger. And I don't want to stop." (Hell Bent, p. 73) Shame hates his magic even more passionately, and he believes he and Terric will eventually cause one another's deaths. Shame is also afraid that he will kill someone while he is in the grip of his hunger for life:"the constant hunger to kill, to consume, that made me count the pulse beat of every living thing around me….that had gotten so bad I salivated whenever I was in a closed room with people, plants, or combustibles. I needed life.  Needed to drink it down, lap it up…consume it, burn it out, extinguish it. Grim-damn-Reaper style."  (p. 2) Shame sees himself as a monster and can't bear to be around his friends, most of whom are heartily sick of his rude and arrogant behavior even though they are sympathetic to his problematic magical situation. Here's how Shame sees his future: "I would become a killing monstrosity like Jingo Jingo [an AB super-villain] or other Death magic users before me, or I would die, consumed by my own hunger. Since the whole monstrosity thing was just too cliche and would make my mum cry, I'd made my choice. There was no need to drag Terric down with me." (Hell Bent, p. 7)

             BOOK 1:  Hell Bent             

     It's difficult to have much sympathy for Shame during the first half of this book. His horrible treatment of his friendsespecially Terric—is hard to take, and if you don't understand his history, you will probably never like him very much. As the story opens, Terric forces Shame to attend a meeting with the Authority's Overseerthe first time in almost a year that Shame has deigned to attend to any matters connected to his position as co-director of the Authority in Portland. The Overseer has some bad news for the four sets of SCs who attend the meeting. Apparently, the U.S. government has discovered that SCs are not affected by the newly muted magic, and they are hunting them down and kidnapping them. The Overseer warns the SCs that they should either leave the country or set up heavy warding around their homes. At the end of the meeting, the Overseer fires Terric and Shame and replaces them with a single magic user: Clyde Turner, who has been their friend for a long time. The firing is a blow to Terric, who has been carrying the full workload for the past year, but to Shame it's a blessing because he never wanted or accepted the job in the first place.

     The plot is somewhat complicated (as were the plots in AB). One story line involves the fact that someone is kidnapping magic users in Portland. Some of them are missing, while others are found murdered in a city park. Another story line involves the deaths of several former Closers (magic users whoin the AB seriescould wipe the memories of other magic users judged to be threats to society). These deaths have been caused by magic and the magical signature indicates that the murderer is Eli Collins, a bad guy from the AB series. The third major story line involves Terric's current boyfriend, who is mixed up with a drug-dealing mobster who wants to mix Terric's magic with drugs to create a powerful magical drug that will then be sold on the black market. An additional story linethe weakest of the fourinvolves Dessa Leeds, a beautiful woman who comes to Shame for help in tracking down and killing the murderer of her brother, one of the murdered Closers. 

     Monk weaves the story lines together to form a plot that is full of interconnections and references to past events. If you enjoyed AB, you'll love this bookexcept for the romance. If the romance element had been stronger, better connected with the rest of the plotor eliminated entirelythis would have been a stronger novel. I found it difficult to believe that Shame, in his anguished, depressed, drunken state, would fall instantly into deep love with Dessa, a woman he has never met before and with whom he has little contact before he gets all mushy over her. Dessa's role in this book isn't really necessary; this is, after all, an urban fantasy, not a paranormal romance. If Shame gets to have a female lover, why not make their relationship a strong one that builds up over timelike the romance between Allie and Zayvion in AB. Of course, there is always the possibility in this mythology that Dessa may be back in the next book. If that's the case, then perhaps their relationship will develop more depth.

    With the exception of the romance, though, this looks to be a solid start to Monk's new series. Shame and Terric have always been complicated characters, and it will be interesting to watch them as they deal with their SC connection in this new post-apocalyptic magical world. Another nice part of this series is that Allie (now pregnant) and Zayvion turn up in several scenes along with other familiar AB characters. Click HERE for two links to excerpts from Hell Bent.

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