Book Review: Magic to the Bone by Devon Monk

Posted February 21, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Book Review: Magic to the Bone by  Devon MonkMagic to the Bone by Devon Monk
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Published by Roc on November 4, 2008
Pages: 355
Format: Paperback
Source: the library


Using magic meant it used you back. Forget the fairy-tale, hocus-pocus, wave a wand and bling-o, sparkles and pixie dust crap. Magic, like booze, sex, and drugs, gave as good as it got.

Everything has a cost. And every act of magic exacts a price from its user - maybe a two-day migraine, or losing the memory of your first kiss. But some people want to use magic without paying, and they Offload the cost onto innocents. When that happens, it falls to a Hound to identify the spell's caster - and Allison Beckstrom's the best there is.

Daughter of a prominent Portland businessman, Allie would rather moonlight as a Hound than accept the family fortune - and the strings that come with it. But when she discovers a little boy dying from a magic Offload that has her father's signature all over it, Allie is thrown into the high-stakes world of corporate espionage and black magic.

Now Allie's out for the truth - and must call upon forces that will challenge everything she knows, change her in ways she could never imagine ... and make her capable of things that powerful people will do anything to control.

Also by this author: Hell Bent, Magic at the Gate, Magic on the Line, Magic Without Mercy, Magic for a Price, House Immortal, Dirty Deeds

First in the Allie Beckstrom urban fantasy series and revolving around Allie and Zayvion Jones and based in Portland, Oregon.

My Take
It’s an intriguing start, and I suspect I’m partially inclined to like it for Allie’s sarcasm and the noir-ish feel—I keep thinking Sam Spade as I read. There’s also a steampunkish quality to this magic as Allie talks of lead and glass conduits interlacing the city to access, store, and channel magic.

I do like the twist that Monk has put on our concept of magic. It’s difficult, though, to understand why people are so willing to use magic when it’s so detrimental. It’s weird too because I’ve started this backwards. I hadn’t realized when I read Monk’s Hell Bent, 1, in her new Broken Magic series, that it was a spin-off from her Allie Beckstrom series. So I already know how Allie’s series ends, at least up to the ninth book, Magic for a Price. I’d had the impression from Hell Bent that magic had been around for a lot longer than what I’m hearing in Magic to the Bone.

Cody’s case is interesting. Partly, again, because I started this series from the wrong end. But I do like Monk’s description of a prison cell as she writes it from Cody’s “autistic” perspective. No, I’m not trying to be rude about kids who truly have autism, rather it’s a very convenient adjective which quickly explains Cody’s thoughts and behaviors from what little I know of autism. Monk certainly does evoke a sympathetic response from me, even as I know Cody is guilty of the things he did. But Monk leaves enough room for doubt as to whether Cody was in his right mind when the Snake man manipulated him into it.

Nice trick. Monk is very clever in not doing info dumps, but working the information into the storyline so she informs in a natural way. I do hate it when I feel as though I’m being given an aside to read. Info dumps always feel like the author is either too eager or too lazy. It’s like some salesman shoving extra reading material onto me when I’m simply trying to read the story. Ugh.

Gotta hand it to Zayvion for persistence. He just keeps showing up and tagging along.

If being in St. John’s makes Allie feel so good, why doesn’t she move there? Lord, Allie does hate her dad, and I can’t blame her. Never manipulate your kids. It never turns out well.

Oh, brother. I really hate stupid moves, and while in retrospect Allie’s decision to leave while still so weak and helpless was a good one, her initial reasoning was soooo flawed. A major turn-off.

Monk did well in the tension department. Even knowing the outcome, nine books later, I found myself questioning everyone around Allie as well.

I’m curious. Allie keeps that notebook so she can retrieve her memories. How is that she always remembers the notebook?

Oh, I did like those last three paragraphs! Such a practical and yet romantic ending, LOL.

The Story
It’s Allie’s twenty-fifth birthday, and all she wants is some time out of her stinking magic-infused building and a hot breakfast, including coffee. It’ll be a small breakfast as she’s down to her last $10, in spite of being the daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Portland.

But when Mama calls, Allie feels compelled to respond. If only because this time it might be real.

But what she learns is all too real until it’s not.

The Characters
Allie Beckstrom is a claustrophobic Hound with an ability to Influence, but the price she pays are her memories. Nola is her best friend who recently lost her husband, John. Now she works their chicken and nonmagic alfalfa farm in Burns, Oregon. Jupe is Nola’s very protective part Lab, part Great Dane dog.

The father Allie hates is Daniel Beckstrom, owner of Beckstrom Enterprises, and very good at using magic. He also has the ability to Influence, and he has no compunctions about using it. On everyone. Violet is Daniel’s latest wife. Kevin is her bodyguard. Peter Hoskil was the partner Daniel Beckstrom cheated out of his share of the patent.

Zayvion Jones is new in town, as far as Allie knows, and he keeps turning up where Allie is.

Mama Rossitto runs a great restaurant in the St. John’s neighborhood of North Portland, a part of the city with no magic.a She has a slew of sons, all called Boy, half of whom are actually hers. There’s a 30-year-old one who seems to hold up the counter and a shotgun whenever Allie shows up. The 5-year-old one is the key to the problem that raises Allie’s ire. There’s Boy with a beard. James is one of her true sons, cold and smooth.

Cody is an anomaly: he’s both autistic-like child and grown man with a conviction for forgery, for Cody is a Hand. A weak man from a character point of view as it seems his weaknesses are what got him into this situation, and a broken one, to be sure. I wonder if the Snake man is the one who broke him. He’s evil enough with his manipulations and blackmail.

Bonnie Sherman is another freelance Hound who clashed with Allie on a case about a year ago. And she drives me mad with that ‘kay of hers! Dane Lanister is a hit man. Pike is another Hound, an ex-marine who works for the cops.

Magic was discovered 30 years ago and demands a price for its use. Offloads are one way to push that price off onto another, mostly penitentiaries and prisons. Disbursement spells are intended to spread out the cost of using magic, allow the caster to choose how they’ll pay for it. A Siphon bleeds off the strength of a magic spell. Grounding is a very high level skill that requires the user act as a lightning rod for someone else. It’s usually done when the other person is using a lot more magic than usual and allows them to pay a smaller price. Blood magic is a powerful branch of spell casting, and outlawed for almost everything but Truth spells. Death magic is completely illegal.

A Hand can forge a caster’s signature, make you believe that someone else did the magic. A Hound can sniff out magic, who cast it, and trace it back to them. I think the Beckstrom Storm Rod harvests magic? Magic users can find Complements to each of them and their Gift; a Soul Complement is the highest joining.

The Cover
The cover is a busy collage of a bridge in Seattle with a flaming magic circle superimposed on it. In front of that is a crop tank top-clad Allie with an intricate tracery of tattoos encasing her right arm and low-slung jeans hanging on her hips.

The title is what Cody does to Allie, when he fuses the Magic to the Bone.

Reviewed by Kathy Davie, who is fast gaining followers in Goodreads and Amazon for her honest book reviews. Passionate about reading, writing, and editing, she searches the Internet for tips, tricks, and warnings with a keen interest in ideas that will foster reading in children as well as adults while aiding writers in their craft. Kathy blogs daily at KD Did It Takes on Books.

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