A city ruled by a large number of powerful magical guilds is nearly torn apart from within due to the actions of a corrupt mayor in Benaroch’s (A Guide to Getting the Best Health Care for Your Child, 2007, etc.) debut work of fiction.
Not simply the title, “Flow” is also the word the characters in Benaroch’s story use to define magic itself. Not unlike the concept of “The Force” in Star Wars, Flow refers to invisible strings of power that ripple throughout the world and bind it together. Representatives of the magical academies test all young children for the ability to interact with and manipulate Flow. Those who test positive are taken from their parents to be trained in sorcery, which is known as “woodcraft.” After years of arduous training, those who don’t flunk out must choose a Guild that best complements their particular strengths. Meanwhile, the mayor is trying to secretly consolidate power into her own hands by setting the Guilds against one another. Her plan is threatened by the unprecedented emergence of a number of people who discover that they can work magic on their own, outside of the Guilds. Benaroch’s fantasy is rich with imaginative detail and strong prose, and a number of creative characteristics (such as magical, anthropomorphized boxes known as “kitties,” and the mayor’s imposing security force, the Tinies) distinguish this novel from other similar tales. The author makes liberal use of satire and dark comedy, as the absurdities of this fictional society humorously comment on our own world’s impenetrable bureaucracies. Unfortunately, the characters aren’t nearly as well developed as the world they inhabit. The villain’s motivations remain murky at best. Benaroch does, however, manage to capture the alienation the magical characters experience quite beautifully, instilling the narrative with a thoughtful and much-needed human touch.
Benaroch’s tightly plotted novel presents an expertly crafted world that avid fantasy readers should find rewarding, and its blend of suspense and humor will attract neophytes, as well.