Colleen's Reviews > Magic in the Shadows

Magic in the Shadows by Devon Monk
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's review
Nov 05, 2009

really liked it
Read in November, 2009

If you liked Magic In the Blood and Magic to the Bone, you'll definitely want to read Magic in the Shadows. This is the third book in the "Allie Beckstrom" series and it takes place immediately after "Magic in the Blood". I recommend starting with Book 1, but if you're new to the series, there is enough back-story so won't be too confused. The back-story does cause the first part of the book to be a little bit slow, but the rest of the book is fast paced and packed full of action.

"Magic in the Shadows" is a fun read with a wonderful mix of intrigue and magic. Allie begins to realize that she knows very little about magic, even though she went to school for Business Magic, works as a Hound, and is skilled at identifying a spell's caster. It's nice to see a heroine who is still a neophyte in Book 3 rather than Ms. Invincible.

I love the idea that magic is available to everyone. Some may be more proficient, but you don't have to be born a witch/mage/fairy to cast spells... you just have to be willing to pay the price. I love the idea that magic exacts a price from the user beyond karma, black smut, or the Three Fold Law.

There are a number of exciting new characters in the book. Shamus (Shame), Maggie (Shame's mother), Chase, and the Gargoyle. Shame and the Gargoyle both add a good measure of comic relief to the story. I loved Shame... unique, fun, dark, suffering, hottie... what's not to like?!?

There were a couple things that I thought could have been improved. There wasn't enough focus and resolution to some of the sub-plots. There were several areas where conflict and questions were quickly brushed over, not fully developed, and never really resolved. If the number of sub-plots had been reduced, the other aspects of the story could have been more fully developed.

Daniel & Violet Beckstrom
Allie has her father's soul inside her head. She can hear his voice and, at times, he can take control of her body. You'd think that would put a crimp on Allie's love life and result in some possibly awkward situations. Fortunately for Allie, her father never seems around when Zay is there. Why? No clue. There are some indications that her father may not be as bad as she believed. So, was he protecting her or is he the power-hungry dirt-bag she always believed?

In book 2, Allie seemed to be developing a good relationship with Violet, her latest step-mother. In book 3, Allie seems to become more disconnected with Violet. Allie offers Violet the CEO position at her father's company, which fits with Allie's desire to have nothing to do with her father. When the question is raised regarding who could have provided the disks, some doubt is brought into question regarding Violet since she did have access to the secret and restricted technology. In the first two books, Allie was portrayed as standing against the misuse of magic. So, it is slightly out of character that Allie is so eager to have Violet run the company. This could have been a good possible opportunity to add conflict from several different angles - internal conflict since Allie liked her in the previous books and she had thought Violet seemed trustworthy (self-doubt regarding her instincts), conflict between her and her father in her head, conflict between Allie and Violet, conflict between Allie and The Authority(since Violet's body guard is in the Authority), and conflict between Allie and Zay (since Zay used to work for Violet). I look forward to seeing how both of these plots develops in future books.

Allie and Zayvion
Allie and Zayvion are trying to re-establish their relationship after Allie's memory loss in "Magic in the Blood". Maybe her loosing those memories is a sign that they aren't really meant to be. I'm not positive that I like Allie and Zayvion together. There's something missing in the relationship - a lack of fire.

We've been told that Allie and Zayvion are "soul complement". In "Magic in the Shadows", we learn a little more about what a "soul complement" is. However, for something supposedly so rare, there seem to be a lot of them. Zayvion & Allie, Shamus passed up his, and Chase has one. So, out of 3 members of the Authority, 3 have soul complements (officially recognized or not). Some of the events in the story also make me wonder if "soul complement" is something quite different than "soul mate".

Some of the conflicts in the relationship between Allie & Zayvion were not fully developed and the resolution of the conflict seemed to be "Whatever, he's my 'soul complement'". There wasn't a feeling that Allie forgave Zay, the issues just vanishes with no resolution. The setup for the conflict is there. Maybe it will be developed in future books and add that spark that seems to be missing between Allie and Zay.

The Authority
This is just one messed up organization. They're all over the place and it's hard to feel that there is any reason that they should even exist. They are supposed govern and control the use of magic, punish those who misuse (wipe knowledge of magic), and maintain secrecy of their organization. Even if the underlying goal of some members is to be the strongest magic user, there are several times that they act against their own principals. Their actions should follow their goals and principals. Since the internal conflict and splitting within the organization is still somewhat covert, their actions should appear to follow the organizations primary goals. But it doesn't.

The Authorities' reaction (or lack of) to Chase's betrayal of duty is a good example. Chase is a closer and is supposed to uphold the ideals of the Authority. Chase doesn't seem that high up in the organization so you wouldn't think she could get away with making her own rules. She isn't reprimanded for her actions, she is rewarded and given the power to influence and dictate that Allie's magical test be conducted immediately. Chase blames Allie's father for the bad things that happened in her life and she displaces that aggression onto Allie. If Chase had been reprimanded for her actions, she would have had a more personal reason to dislike Allie. There was good opportunity to escalate and personalize the conflict that was lost.

Another example actions that don't match the overt or covert goals of the Authority can be seen by comparing their actions toward Chase and Cody. Nothing is stated that leads you to believe that Chase has any ties to historical power within the Authority. Chase misuses magic and is rewarded. Cody was tortured, broken, and others misused his magic. As far as we know, he didn't do anything on his own to misuse his magic. Cody may be a danger since he his personality is split and he was already used once, but couldn't they try to mend it? If they can try to help Tomi recover, why couldn't they help Cody? Why does Chase receive preferential treatment? Why wouldn't Chase be facing possible erasure for misusing magic?

The Hounds, Nola, & Sotts
Even though this book focuses more on Allie's introduction to The Authority, the Hounds receive quite a bit of attention. Through Allie's interaction with the Hounds, we see how she is growing and adapting to the changes she has recently endured. We see her maturing and starting to care about the well-being of others. Allie's desire to protect Davy and Tomi motivates her to pursue the evil that has entered the city. I like the concept of the Hounds. The physical and emotional sacrifices they make paying the cost of magic in order to help police it's misuse. I would definitely want to see them focused on in one of the books, but this might not have been the right one. Nola could have easily replaced the Hounds in this story without sacrificing any of the main story.

Nola has come to the city to visit Allie and fight for custody of Cody. In "Magic to the Bone", Cody was used by someone for his magic abilities. Nola provided the connection that allowed Cody to be part of the storyline, but she could have stayed on her farm and still been the bridge. Allie never spent any time with Nola and their relationship was not developed.

So, how was the story improved by Nola being in the City rather than staying on the farm? The possible relationship between Nola and Detective Sotts was mentioned a few times but it wasn't developed further. Monk could probably write a spin-off series from this subplot, but it didn't really add anything to this book. The only other thing Nola seemed to be there for was to make Allie food and answer her phone.

I would have liked to see Nola more directly involved in the action of the story. The bad guys didn't seem to have a problem using the Hounds to get to Allie. If they wanted Allie, they could have taken Nola instead. That would still have provided us with the opportunity to see how Allie has grown and changed over time. It also would have given the author the opportunity to show us Allie's feelings toward Nola instead of telling us via monologue.

Even though I felt there were some areas of the story that could have been further developed, Monk did a good job of weaving the plot threads together. She successfully links the Hounds to Sotts, Sotts to Nola, Nola to Cody, and Cody to the Authority. Monk carefully interweaves the characters connections to each other and sets the stage for alternate connections. She even provides a link for to the Gargoyle rather than just sticking him in there as as just a source for comic relief.

I really enjoyed the story. It held my attention and it was hard to put down. I look forward to "Magic on the Storm" (May 2010). I can't wait to see how things turn out!
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message 1: by Lola (new)

Lola Whoa - I like the breakdowns in your review. This series sounds tempting, more UF in my pile.

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