In this hefty and insistently entertaining novel, Somers (Chum, 2013, etc.) creates a world of seedy urban crime that develops into a violent epic with the help of an intriguingly bloody magic system.
Lem Vonnegan is a Trickster, a small-time con man who uses magic to scrape out a living for himself and his large, endearingly childish sidekick, Pitr Mags. Magic, in this world, is not a pleasant thing. It relies on the spilling of blood, and while Lem chooses to limit himself to the power he can get from cutting into his own skin, other magicians are less scrupulous and use the blood of others on a scale that ranges from murder to the secret engineering of the biggest disasters in human history. When Lem and Mags stumble across a dead girl in a bathtub, her skin marked with the symbols of a mysterious and frighteningly powerful spell, they find themselves caught in a plot that would destroy the world for one impossible spell. Though the book has an exaggerated air of toughness and a tendency toward graphic violence that might be more effective on film, the characters are engaging and just odd enough to be easily imagined. The plot moves from one tense and dangerous moment to another, piling on high-stakes incidents so thickly that it's forced to break into distinct sections that almost feel like smaller, separate novels under the umbrella of a single title. The writing is clear and goes down easily, though a reliance on stock tough-guy vernacular and predictably imagined female characters sometimes trips up its believability. At its best, the story races along with an appealing balance of grimness and likability.
An action-filled urban fantasy that offers absorbing storytelling in a gritty atmosphere of crime and a merciless, often ugly, magic built on violence.