Thursday, February 4, 2016

A Criminal Magic by Lee Kelly

A Criminal Magic by Lee Kelly
Release Date - February 2, 2016
Publisher Website - Simon and Schuster
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 384 pages
My Rating - 5/5
**received for honest review**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
THE NIGHT CIRCUS meets PEAKY BLINDERS in Lee Kelly's new magical realism, crossover 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.
When a novel promises you a reading experience that is The Night Circus meets The Peaky Blinders you pretty much have to read it. When a novel follows up on that promise? You fall in deep book love. Lee Kelly's novel of 1920's gangsters meets magic is everything the synopsis promises, and more. It creates a stunningly vibrant world that will leave you desperate for a sequel.

The world is pure magic. It's vivid, bright, and one that you can easily lose yourself in. I wanted to step into the pages of this book and get lost within it's shining rooms, this world's version of speakeasies. Lee Kelly has crafted a world that doesn't just come to life, it casts a spell on you. The world becomes another character, and one that is the heartbeat of the novel. As a result of it's mesmerizing setting it is the kind of novel that begs to be turned into a movie or television show. The world, it's characters, and the storyline all pulse with a fierce light under Lee Kelly's talented prose and all of them are easily imagined.

Told in dual narrative, both Alex and Joan come to life. Each has a distinct voice, and the dual narration compliments the story narrative. Both are vital the overarching plot. They allow us a glimpse of two individuals who might be in over their heads with the situations they find themselves in. Both of them have their reasons for the choices they make, and Lee Kelly makes you understand those choices, even if you might not agree with them. The use of the dual narrative allows us to see a full picture of the magic underground and the criminals who inhabit it. Each narrative fleshes out the world  and brings an added texture to the other.

The magic system that these characters use is complex, but not overly detailed. It works because Lee Kelly has presented it in a logical, straight forward way that feels cohesive. She also show rather than tells. There is no info dumping. Instead we learn about the magic through the characters, and the plot in an organic way. As a result, everything about it clicks for the reader, and you instantly feel comfortable with the limitations, rules, and laws of this world's magic. The 'shine' that the sorcerers brew is an obvious stand in for alcohol, but it's the other things magic is used for that makes this world dangerous. Both the positive and negative elements of this world's magic are embraced within these pages, and it's used to shine a light on the characters themselves.

The romance quickly became one of my favourites. Swoon worthy interactions, a touch of magic, and a hint of danger added a delicious allure to every glance and touch. The fact that Alex is undercover, and that Joan is part of what he is there to take down, is never far from your mind. This creates an unbelievable tension that only heightens the sparks and sexual tension. Chemistry is hard to capture on the page, but Lee Kelly has done it here.

A Criminal Magic is filled with enchantment, wonder, romance, and 1920's goodness right from the very first page. It also manages to keep you entranced until it's delectable final pages. It's unique twist on the prohibition era is fresh and entirely alluring. This is an unmissable read for those who love historically influenced novels, and for those who love being swept away into magical worlds.


  1. Wow, this book sounds absolutely amazing and beautiful! I don't know how I haven't heard of this book before now, but I need to find it. I love the historical books and it makes it even better that the magical aspect is added into this as well. Thank you for putting this book on my radar! <3

  2. This book sounds really good! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I'll have to look out for it.


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