BOOK REPORT for A Criminal Magic by Lee Kelly

Cover Story: Cheers!
BFF Charm: Caution
Swoonworthy Scale: 7
Talky Talk: He Said, She Said
Bonus Factors: Magic, Alternate Universe
Relationship Status: Under Your Spell


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Cover Story: Cheers!

Does thinking that this cover was designed specifically with me in mind make me self-absorbed or self-aware? Because that martini glass = SOLD. Plus, it's not just a cover gimmick—magical booze plays a prominent role in the story. (And in my dreams.)

The Deal:

It's 1926, and Joan Kendrick lives in a Prohibition era where something far more dangerous than alcohol is banned—sorcery. If you want to see any magic performed or experience a taste of shine, an enchanted druglike potion, you've got to find an illegal shining room, which can range from a small town dive like the one Joan runs with her uncle to a big city lounge controlled by the Mob.

Desperate to get away from her addict uncle and find a better life for her sister and cousin, Joan accepts an offer from Harrison Gunn, a gangster looking for the top sorcerers in the country to create the greatest show (and greatest shine) the country has ever seen. Meanwhile, Alex Danfrey, a member of the Prohibition Unit, accepts an offer of a different kind when he agrees to go undercover to infiltrate the notorious Shaw Gang and take down their operation...which includes Joan and her team of sorcerers.

BFF Charm: Caution

It's not that I don't dig Joan, because I do. She's crazy intelligent and incredibly resourceful, and she never stops trying to do right by the people she loves. But she's packing some serious emotional baggage that causes her to make some terrible decisions, and as much as I would like to help get her head on straight, I'm worried about getting too close, partly because she's dealing with some heavy shizz, and partly because I'm a liiiiiitle freaked out by her powers. I mean, the girl uses blood magic. That's not something you wanna mess with.

Swoonworthy Scale: 7

Alex and Joan are in similar positions when it comes to not being in control of their own lives, and so when they meet, the connection is instant and palpable. Building from the sparks of flirtation into something deeper, their chemistry is made all the more sizzling by the tension between the agenda of Alex's Unit and the agenda of his heart.

Talky Talk:
He Said, She Said

Each chapter alternates between the perspectives of Joan and Alex, and I found their voices to be distinctive and immediately engaging. Being privy to both of their secrets drove up the stakes and left me heavily invested in every page, while Lee Kelly's worldbuilding enhanced the story without every slowing down the momentum. It might seem contradictory to relish something as you devour it, but that's exactly what I did with A Criminal Magic.

Bonus Factor: Magic

Writing about magic requires an immense depth of imagination, and Kelly is certainly not lacking in that department. She must've had a ball coming up with playful tricks and stunning feats, because I had a blast in my front row seat to Joan's spectacular performance.

Bonus Factor: Alternate Universe

I'm happy to report that this book is more than just a clever premise, but damn, what a clever premise! The concept of the mob controlling a vastly different (but just as addictive) type of drug is fascinating, especially when the power of that drug doesn't just mean money, it means making things like hideouts appear from nothing and things like bodies disappear into nothing. Already a fascinating topic, the 1920s mafia becomes all the more dangerous when literally anything is possible.

Casting Call:

Poppy Drayton as Joan

Austin Butler as Alex

Freddie Stroma as Harrison Gunn

Gunn is a really bad person, but the fact that I'm casting Freddie Stroma should tell you something. (And that something is that I'm also a bad person, because there were a few times when I was actually shipping him and Joan.)

Relationship Status: Under Your Spell

Thanks to compelling characters and a thrilling plot, this book kept me entranced from start to finish. I was dazzled by its creativity and swept up in its intrigue, and while the effects may not last for long, the magic of this story is no illusion.

A Criminal Magic will be available on February 2.