There is a dark secret that is hiding at the heart of New York City and diminishing the city’s magicians’ power in this fantasy thriller by acclaimed author Kat Howard.
In New York City, magic controls everything. But the power of magic is fading. No one knows what is happening, except for Sydney—a new, rare magician with incredible power that has been unmatched in decades, and she may be the only person who is able to stop the darkness that is weakening the magic. But Sydney doesn’t want to help the system, she wants to destroy it.
Sydney comes from the House of Shadows, which controls the magic with the help of sacrifices from magicians.
Magic, at its heart, starts with sacrifice. You have to give up something to get something, and because magic is big, with all that it allows you access to, what you give up has to be big. It has to be meaningful.
I loved An Unkindness of Magicians. This was another one of those “surprise, I have no idea what I just signed up to read because I didn’t look!” books, and I’m so glad I randomly chose it from the library. I loved the journey the main character, Sydney, went through. And I loved the world. This was a quick the read, despite a ton happening.
Magic requires sacrifice and pain, and Sydney knows pain. And she knows sacrifice. She grew up in the House of Shadows, whose pain is used to fuel the magic of others. And she escaped. One of only two to escape in the history of the House of Shadows. And she is being used again, now, because just because she escaped doesn’t mean she is free.
Sydney is being used because a tournament to the death has been called, named the Turning. The magical elite use to jockey for position and power. The winner is declared the most powerful and becomes the leader, even if they do all use proxies. The elite can’t be expected to risk their own lives, can they? They instead look towards people who need something, and then tell them they’ll get it if only they’ll participate. It doesn’t start deadly, but it quickly turns that way. And Sydney has been contracted by one these magical elite to participate for them, because she has been told to do so, or else.
But something more sinister is happening. There is something wrong with magic. It is getting weaker. Spells are going awry. Catastrophically awry. And there are the myriad of young woman who are being murdered. Their finger bones, the most magically soaked part of the body, are being taken and presumably used for nefarious deeds. And no one knows what is happening. And doesn’t really seem to care, either.
Except for their magic backfiring. Which people are blaming Sydney for. Sydney came from nowhere, she doesn’t really owe anyone allegiance, and no one knows what she is capable of. And her magic doesn’t seem to be weaker – it seems stronger. And anyone sent to the House of Shadows had to have deserved it, right? She shouldn’t have escaped. The nerve of her.
And Sydney absolutely hates them. She hates them because of what they do. She hates them because they don’t care about anything but themselves. She hates them because they blame her, the victim. And she will not lose. Not to one of them.
What a good book. Had I known it was a tournament book, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up, because that isn’t my favourite type of story. Yet I’m so glad I did read it, because Kat Howard wrote an amazing story with some great characters. There is going to be a sequel to this, though this is a wonderful standalone.