Author: K.J. Charles
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Rating: 5 stars
Received from Publisher
Blurb: It’s amazing what people throw away…
Crispin Tredarloe never meant to become a warlock. Freed from his treacherous master, he’s learning how to use his magical powers the right way. But it’s brutally hard work. Not everyone believes he’s a reformed character, and the strain is putting unbearable pressure on his secret relationship with waste-man Ned Hall.
Ned’s sick of magic. Sick of the trouble it brings, sick of its dangerous grip on Crispin and the miserable look it puts in his eyes, and sick of being afraid that a gentleman magician won’t want a street paper-seller forever—or even for much longer.
But something is stirring among London’s forgotten discards. An ancient evil is waking up and seeking its freedom. And when wild magic hits the rag-and-bottle shop where Ned lives, a panicked Crispin falls back onto bad habits. The embattled lovers must find a way to work together—or London could go up in flames.
This story is set in the world of the Charm of Magpies series.
Review: “Words have power.” Boy, do they ever, and in more ways than one. This is broadly demonstrated by KJ Charles’ amazing writing. More specifically: Crispin’s talent, and Ned and Crispin’s words to each other.
This book is classic KJ Charles brilliance. Wicked imagination coupled with vibrant characters, spectacular wit, and loads of action. It picks up following the events of A Queer Trade, which appeared in the Charmed & Dangerous anthology, and it coincides with events in Jackdaw.
When the story starts out, Crispin and Ned are an established couple, or as established as they can be in a fledgling relationship in which they are coming to grips with one man being a warlock. The Justiciary is trying to figure out how to best train Crispin to control his magick powers. Early attempts are not fruitful! Crispin needed someone to trust, he had been betrayed by his former mentor and was feeling threatened, inferior, misunderstood, and generally like a misfit. The Justiciars jump at the chance to hand Crispin over to a visiting practitioner, who seems to fully understand Crispin’s frustrations.
Crispin Tredarloe – what a fantastic name, as is the man who answers to it. Thing is, he doesn’t think he’s all that. He feels frustrated and unworthy, as well as scared– for his talent is quite infamously negative. He’s a Graphomancer you see – he can cause anything he writes or draws to transpire – and the last one of their kind to be seen in London wrought death and destruction. Something the Justiciary will not soon forget. Crispin’s ultimate show of strength amid his struggles has made him one of my favorite KJ Charles characters.
Ned Hall – this man is amazingly strong and no nonsense, with a definite sway and talent for cheeky retorts. He tends to run a bit to the defensive, with good reason, but he also guards himself – even from Crispin to a degree. Crispin is the perfect fit for Ned – something I wasn’t so sure of until this story played out. Ned rocks.
Crispin and Ned grapple over whether Crispin should keep his silver blood pen – you remember, the one made from his finger bone. Crispin was having a hard time giving up the pen, as it felt like such a part of him. Well it was a part of him, but rather, he used it as a crutch. Though the two men quarrel over this, and use of magick power in general, there is never any doubt of their affection for each other. Ned is trying to protect Crispin, Crispin is trying to establish his worth. In fact each man felt unworthy of the other, stemming from their own self- doubts. This was an unspoken conflict for them until circumstances forced them to buck up and speak their hearts. It was a point driven home perhaps a bit more than necessary to me. There is also a strong are we better with or without the magic vibe going on throughout the story, which is something the men had to ultimately take a stand on. I appreciated the sexual dynamic in this story being different – but certainly no less intimate — from standard fare. In fact Crispin and Ned together resounded with intimacy such as burning touches, promising glances, and soul searing kisses. These men couldn’t have gotten emotionally closer than they did. There is never a doubt as to each man’s inner thoughts and turmoil. The author does a phenomenal job of fleshing them out, delivering clear as a bell characters.
I won’t spoil the identity of the evil the two come up against in the story. I will say the evil is something that lands at Ned’s doorstep. It is something wildly clever and imaginative, scary as hell, and entirely unnerving. He and Crispin end up taking on the mystery surrounding it as well as its actual manifestation. It falls on them largely because the Justiciary seemed to be busy chasing a certain somebody – ahem..Jonah – who has harmed one of their own. Crispin discovers he is much more powerful than his silver pen and Ned discovers he has talents he is not particularly thrilled with. I was delighted with the magick elements in this story, and can’t wait to see how the powers of the two men evolve in future installments.
I love a story with more than one climax – no I’m not talking sex this time – I’m talking resolutions to key issues. We see Crispin and Ned confronting the evil power and then there is the Justiciars confronting Crispin and Ned about what they have done to be rid of it. The Justiciars, yes, the incomparable Stephen Day and crew gets lots of page time in this book, much to my delight. Great witty humor, which is a hallmark of KJ Charles, abounds in this story, and provides great respite amidst all the hair- raising goodness. Crispin and Ned end up validated, assured, solid, and ready to tackle whatever course the pen – the pen of KJ Charles that is – sets them on. Bring it!!