A Criminal Magic
Author: Lee Kelly
Publication date: February 2nd, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, Young Adult
THE NIGHT CIRCUS meets THE PEAKY BLINDERS in Lee Kelly’s new crossover fantasy novel.
Magic is powerful, dangerous and addictive – and after passage of the 18th Amendment, it is finally illegal.
It’s 1926 in Washington, DC, and while Anti-Sorcery activists have achieved the Prohibition of sorcery, the city’s magic underworld is booming. Sorcerers cast illusions to aid mobsters’ crime sprees. Smugglers funnel magic contraband in from overseas. Gangs have established secret performance venues where patrons can lose themselves in magic, and take a mind-bending, intoxicating elixir known as the sorcerer’s shine.
Joan Kendrick, a young sorcerer from Norfolk County, Virginia accepts an offer to work for DC’s most notorious crime syndicate, the Shaw Gang, when her family’s home is repossessed. Alex Danfrey, a first-year Federal Prohibition Unit trainee with a complicated past and talents of his own, becomes tapped to go undercover and infiltrate the Shaws.
Through different paths, Joan and Alex tread deep into the violent, dangerous world of criminal magic – and when their paths cross at the Shaws’ performance venue, despite their orders, and despite themselves, Joan and Alex become enchanted with one another. But when gang alliances begin to shift, the two sorcerers are forced to question their ultimate allegiances and motivations. And soon, Joan and Alex find themselves pitted against each other in a treacherous, heady game of cat-and-mouse.
A CRIMINAL MAGIC casts a spell of magic, high stakes and intrigue against the backdrop of a very different Roaring Twenties.
A CRIMINAL MAGIC is a historical fantasy that takes place in Prohibition-era America, but magic instead of alcohol has been prohibited. It follows sorcerer Joan and undercover agent Alex as they become entangled in the magic underworld. Here’s Joan during her first magic audition for the criminal Shaw Gang:
“As always, I think actions speak louder than words. If you’ll entertain a demonstration.” Gunn pauses. “Will the two strongest sorcerers please step forward?”
No one moves. Eyes begin to turn on one another.
Gunn clears his throat. “Come now, the two strongest in the lot,” he says, louder. “Whose magic is so astounding that I have to witness it today? Here’s your chance to stand out from the crowd.”
I share a look with Grace. I’m more likely to go running and screaming for the nearest bus than I am to raise my hand right now, but if I was crazy enough to try it, Grace’s small, solemn head shake tells me NO. I look around, sure as hell that that jerk-off Stock is going to step forward, but two other men beat him to it.
“Mark Saunders, from Blue Ridge,” a large, middle-aged man says as he steps forward. “I believe I can out-trick and outperform any sorcerer in this lot, Mr. Gunn.”
“Beg to differ,” says someone else behind him. “Peter Curtin, from Charlotte. No one can rival my magic manipulations, Mr. Gunn. And my shine is like something you can’t believe.”
“Thank you, Mark, Peter.” Gunn extends his hand, gesturing to the wide, flat stretch of clearing in front of the trees, on the left side of our crowd. “Why don’t we begin?”
Mark and Peter glance at each other, once, before they follow Gunn to their makeshift performance stage.
“What do you think they’re going to do?” I whisper to Grace, as Gunn guides Mark and Peter to either side of the long stretch of grass, so now they’re standing face-to-face, about fifteen feet apart, like they’re about to begin a magic duel.
Grace whispers back slowly, “Show Gunn what he wants to see.”
Mark begins. He stretches his arms out wide, stage-whispers the words of power, “Grow. Bloom,” and almost immediately, the grass underneath him begins to rumble. Out of the shifting green blanket, a tangle of roots emerges, like a monster’s hands pushing out from the ground. As the crowd gasps, the thick roots fold open, grow longer, and wider, and then the center root erupts skyward, twists into a trunk, thick and textured and now twenty feet high. It throws a long shadow over our crowd, before it splits into limbs that race to fill out the tree. The limbs divide, splinter into branches, which bloom into a tapestry of leaves.
Uncle Jed stopped sorcering manipulations around the time he lost himself to shine, but I remember this same awed feeling creeping over me and settling in, as I watched him conjure a lemon tree or shady oak in our yard. Creating something real from nothing, or protecting something with magic, or linking and binding things that have no business being linked: pure magic might only last a day, but its hold on you lasts far longer.
Lee Kelly has wanted to write since she was old enough to hold a pencil, but it wasn’t until she began studying for the California Bar Exam that she conveniently started putting pen to paper. An entertainment lawyer by trade, Lee has practiced law in Los Angeles and New York. She lives with her husband and children in Millburn, New Jersey, though after a decade in Manhattan, she can’t help but still call herself a New Yorker. She is the author of A Criminal Magic and City of Savages. Visit her at www.NewWriteCity.com.
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