Thursday, March 27, 2014

Dirty Magic (Prospero's War, #1) by Jaye Wells

Title: Dirty Magic (Prospero's War)
Series: Prospero's War
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Format: Paperback; 416 pages
Publisher: Orbit (January 21, 2014)
ISBN-10: 0316228435
ISBN-13: 978-0316228435
Author's Website:
Notes: I bought this one.

Kate Prospero is a cop whose beat includes the slum portion of Babylon, Ohio known as the Cauldron. Once upon a time she'd been the heir to one of the biggest magical crime syndicates in the city. Ten years ago something happened she's not willing to talk about and she turned her back on magic, joined Acrane Anonymous (the equivalent of AA for those addicted to magic) and went to school to become a cop. For the past five years she's been trying to move her way up the ranks to detective, but her past has held her back. In Kate's world magic rules, but is governed very closely. In the past couple of weeks a new potion has hit the streets. It's been nicknamed Grey Wolf and it's turning regular people into wolf like monsters who crave human flesh and have an immunity to defensive magic. As she starts uncovering clues as to where the potion originated her brother becomes one of Grey Wolf's latest victims and her hunt for a cure and the person responsible for the substance intensifies as her brother's life hangs in the balance.

"Despite what movies suggest, magic isn’t a flamboyant process. It’s not flying lasers from fingertips or flashes of lightning or wands waved and chants shouted. Instead, it’s a subtle art. Adepts don’t force magic on items, we coax and harness their inherent energies."


Let me just say this was one of the best examples of world building I've seen. Jaye does a phenomenal job of creating a world that the reader can relate to and clearly see. I always say little things mean a lot and Jaye must take this to heart because she add quirky little details that bring the world to life within the pages giving the illusion the reader is able to walk right into the story.

In Babylon, magic is categorized into two types--illegal 'dirty magic' and legal or clean 'big' magic which is regulated and created in corporate labs. If you ask anyone who cooks potions, however, they'd say "there is a fine line between the two with little vapor between." There are three major covens in Babylon each of which practice a different form of magic.The Votary specialize in an alchemical form of dirty magic and are the most powerful of the covens.  The Mystical Coven of the Sacred Orgasm, aka the Os, who specialize in sex magic are the next in the magical hierarchy.  The Sanguinarians, aka Sangs, are the lowest wizards on the magical totem poll and deal in dirty blood potions.

Five years ago Abraxas Prospero, Kate's uncle Abe, was the grand wizard of the Votary Coven and the self appointed leader who made sure all the other covens stayed in line. Since his imprisonment, no one has dared to step forward and declare themselves the head of the covens which has resulted in turf wars and the splintering of covens. The introduction of Grey Wolf to the streets brings about many theories as to why it's made an appearance. Someone may be looking to consolidate power among the Votary or a new wizard may be looking to make his mark. What's scary about the potion is that there is currently no cure for the condition and no one knows if it can be reversed.

While Kate is a good cop, she's been handicapped because she's an Adept--a person with a predisposition to magic and was one of the Cauldron's best wizards before she left the life behind. Many on the force don’t trust Adepts because they believe magic will corrupted those who wield it. Plus, evidence gathered through arcane means are inadmissible in court and many don't trust Adepts to do things by the book. They also don't wish to take the chance that the evidence collected will come into question at a later date because of an Adept's involvement. This is rather ironic because many times Adepts are their best chance finding the evidence needed to lock away the bad guys.

This book had me had me under its spell from the very first page. It was fast paced and while it had a lot to take in, the information was gradually doled out without the use of a massive info dump. The characters were believable and reminiscent of people (personality wise) one would meet in real life. I loved Kate's inner struggle about her decision not to practice magic and the potential she had to hold back. Her brother's inability to understand her strict stance on magic made things interesting as she finally confides in him and we get the full disclosure of what happened 10 years ago. I felt Kate needs to let him figure things out on his own, but her experience has left her a little jaded where magic is concerned. While her heart is in the right place, her real reason for not practicing magic is unsound. While magic, like drugs, has the potential to harm or even kill others, it also has the potential to help and save people too. What she seems to be forgetting is that there are places which can legally use potions in a controlled environment. Magical powers like she and her brother possess could be used for the greater good.  

Overall, I gave this one 4 out of 5 roses. This series has huge potential, but the ending, at least for me, left much to be desired. Kate started out smart and strong, but found herself in a position at the end that just seemed to be out of character for her. She makes a decision that I thought from the moment she gave her compliance was totally wrong. The situation could have been used as a mechanism to see her grow in regards to her feelings about magic, but instead led to her being manipulated. I wish the author had instead left off with a more dramatic ending perhaps of either Volos or Jace on the cusp of confronting uncle Abe in prison. Perhaps with uncle Abe saying something along the lines of, "Long time no see."  Not a bad ending overall, just one that didn't seem to live up to the expectations I'd come to expect from the rest of the book. Granted, the author could have something awesome cooking up for the next book and have me eating my words later. I sure hope that's the case.

Notes to keep you in the know:
According to wikipedia, "Homunculus (masculine, Latin for "little man", plural: "homunculi"; from the diminutive of homo) is a term used, generally, in various fields of study to refer to any representation of a small human being. Popularized in sixteenth century alchemy and nineteenth century fiction, it has historically referred to the creation of a miniature, fully formed human. The concept has roots in preformationism as well as earlier folklore and alchemic traditions. Currently, in scientific fields, a homunculus may refer to any scale model of the human body that, in some way, illustrates physiological, psychological, or other abstract human characteristics or functions." ( )

For the record, conjoined twins are always the same sex, but the dual sex makes LM all the more creepy.

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