Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Audiobook Spotlight: Magic in the Shadows casts its spell on readers

Image courtesy of Tantor Media, Inc.

Since the dawn of the Harry Potter craze, many of us out there have started to get a sense of “wizarding fatigue” as I like to call it. There’s got to be other intriguing magic plotlines that don’t revolve around high school characters waving magic wands, right?

The author Devon Monk has found a cure for readers looking to sink their teeth into something a little different, and boy to we get it with a shot of adrenaline in her Allie Beckstrom series, revolving around the adventures of a very funny and true spitfire character (Allie) who can sling magic like a cowboy can sling a Colt revolver.

This type of magic is grittier and more complicated than traditional wizard stuff, and Allie has the unusual condition of actually having magic INSIDE of her – it comes to her naturally and flows through her, so much so that it becomes a detriment to her having a “normal” life. The upside is, it gives Allie some highly evolved senses, especially smell. Taking place in the city of Portland, Oregon, we are set in a world where the use of magic comes with a price – and people are paid good money to be the “proxies” (that is, the recipients of the pain associated with the use of a significant amount of magic) and it is a part of everyday life. Allie's job (when she's not dealing with other out-of-control supernatural elements) is to to be a Hound, a person who can track down people who abuse their power in magic and keep them from causing harm to innocent non-magic users.

Magic in the Shadows is the third installment in Monk’s series, but it is written in such a way that it could be read as a stand-alone without readers being too lost. Monk does a wonderful job in giving readers enough background to get grounded before the plot takes off at a breakneck speed. Engaging and funny, the book is filled with numerous wonderful characters, including Shamus, a death magic user who dresses gothy, drinks like a true Irishman, and has a smart mouth to match. This book lends itself well to audio because the characters play off each other so well, and the chemistry between Allie and her budding romance with Zayvion Jones, (affectionately known as “Zay”) a member of the Authority – an elite group in the city whose job it is to keep magic in check – practically sparks and dances off the pages. They are worthy of one another as allies and lovers.

Another character that gets introduced in this book is Stone, a gargoyle that Allie accidentally releases into life through an accidental surge of magic during an attempt to have a quiet dinner out with Zayvion. He becomes an unforgettable and important character in this book as well as the subsequent volumes in the series later. And honestly, people that know me well know I have a thing for gargoyles, and Stone is just flat-out adorable!

Despite all the magical properties in the world that Monk has created for us, the characters are very real and relatable. Allie gets tired. She gets stressed. And she’s really tired of having to deal with the spirit of her dead father in her head. Okay, so thankfully we in the real world don’t have to deal with that, but there’s a very human element that runs through Monk’s writing, that there are consequences to people’s actions; there is a price to pay for the magic that is used.

Perhaps it is that human element that makes for such a great audiobook. Emily Durante brings attitude and flair to Allie, as well as embodying the cool straight-man aura that Zayvion embues. She does a fantastic job with Shamus’s Irish accent, giving him just the right amount of snark his character requires without going over the edge and making him totally obnoxious. Her voice makes the book come alive in the way a truly well-done audiobook should, and makes the reader hungry for more. And thankfully there IS more: there are three more volumes awaiting after Magic in the Shadows, the most recent volume, Magic on the Hunt available through Tantor Media through CD or download as of Aug. 29.

A truly compelling listen, anyone who is looking for a fresh voice in the genre of urban magic should check out this series. You can listen to an audio clip from Magic in the Shadows here.

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