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Historical Fantasy Pick, review by Sophie Meinen

Posted by on in Teen Zone Blog
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A Criminal Magic
Lee Kelly
A Criminal Magic takes the idea of Prohibition then adds magic. In this world a drug similar to alcohol called shine is made through magic. Its strength depends on that of the sorcerer who created. Like our Prohibition in the 1920s the sale and creation of shine is outlawed. Similarly to real life, many people choose to sell it illegally. Enter Joan and Alex. Joan is struggling to keep her family afloat, after the death of her mother a talented sorceress when she meets Harrison Gunn, a crime boss, who offers her an opportunity to make the money she needs as long as she make shine. Alex’s father was arrested for running a shine ring. What the police didn’t know is that Alex himself was involved. Or at least that’s what he thought until they offer him a deal. If he infiltrates a crime ring run and helps the cops shut it down, they’ll leave him alone and so he reluctantly agrees. As the story continues, Alex and Joan’s stories start to intertwine, leading to a conclusion that no one will see coming.
I liked the multiple POVs in this story. If only one of two told the story, it wouldn’t as much sense and the characters themselves would be more one-dimensional. This way we got to know both Joan and Alex and find out what they hid from each other and eventually what they hide from the reader. Both speak in the 1st person but there’s never any chance of the reader confusing their perspectives.
In terms of world building I thought the author did a good job of balancing between making a distinct world that was different from our world but at the same time keeping enough the same so that the reader isn’t overwhelmed. I liked the descriptions of magic and hearing about all the different things it could do based on who was wielding.
At times the plot moved a little slowly but overall I enjoyed this book and would recommend to fans of fantasy and/or historical fiction
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