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A Criminal Magic

3.53  ·  Rating details ·  1,801 ratings  ·  375 reviews
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 esta
Hardcover, 422 pages
Published February 2nd 2016 by Gallery / Saga Press
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George I too would say straight SF&F, not YA. Those who avoid YA for its differences would find no markers here--not even character ages, because despite wha…moreI too would say straight SF&F, not YA. Those who avoid YA for its differences would find no markers here--not even character ages, because despite what the online descriptions I'm finding say, college/post-high-school is too old for any YA I've encountered. In any case, the feel isn't YA.(less)

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Average rating 3.53  · 
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Darth J

Criminally Dull

It was yet another book that's described as " The Night Circus meets [insert something else]" and unsurprisingly it didn't live up to the high expectations it set for itself. [Deadpan:] "Imagine that."

I'm really tired of these amateurish books comparing themselves like that; all that does is disappoint. And this time is no different. The characters are flat, the world is depressing and uninteresting. I just couldn't finish it.

Verdict: Save yourself the time and skip this forget
Mogsy (MMOGC)
4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum

The year is 1926. In our real world, America would have been in the throes of the “Prohibition era”, a time in the twenties to early-thirties marked by a nationwide ban on the sale, production and importation of alcohol. But in the world of A Criminal Magic, it is sorcery and its related activities and products that are ruled illegal by the passing of the 18th Amendment.

However, the attempt to clamp down on the “evils” of
Lee Kelly
Oct 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
A Criminal Magic is my second novel, and takes place in an alternative version of my favorite time period, the Roaring Twenties. It involves gangsters, undercover cops, family spells and magic elixirs, and at least in my head, looks something like this:

(I clearly had fun writing this :)

Buddy read with my fellow magicians Katerina & Vera. Girls, we survived!

Actual rating: 2.5

You know the feeling when you eat something that is not sour or sweet, but indistinguishable. You can't decide whether you like it or if it's just strange and confusing, and you never want to taste it again. That is how I feel about this book. Indecisive. I don't even have much to tell about it, because it was too average, too insipid. All I feel is a shattering relief that I finally finished reading it. F

Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
Magical fantasy meets Prohibition, Roaring Twenties-era gangsters and bootlegging schemes. The basic concept is a cool one: magic, not alcohol, has been outlawed, specifically because sorcerers have the ability to create a magical, addictive brew called moonshine, which literally shines with a ruby glow and has an unbelievable kick. Luckily for the forces of law, shine, like all magic, only lasts 24 hours--but the shine-running gangs are trying to figure out a way to overcome that limitation.

Katerina  Kondrenko
4.5 out of 10

Ревью в моем блоге/This review on my blog
Living A Thousand Lives
(please use Chrome/Yandex browser or Android/IOS to see the page; otherwise, spoiler-tags I use to make my post compact may not work)

Funk Off – Magic Touch
Caro Emerald – The Wonderful In You
Mits Jazz Band – Magic Mirror

Genre: magic-realism, historical-fantasy, YA
Stuff: illegal magic, Roaring Twenties
Fail: boring story
WOW: the ending
POV: 3rd-person, she/he
Love-Geometry: zero with seeming elements

Jul 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thank you to Saga Press and Simon & Schuster for the ARC! ^_^

Ok, so this book is: if Martin Scorsese adapted THE NIGHT CIRCUS and set it in an alternate-1920s America where magic has been outlawed. GANGSTERS. MAGIC DRUGS. MAGICAL SPEAKEASIES. UNDERCOVER GOVERNMENT AGENTS. ROGUE SORCERERS. DOUBLE CROSSING. TRIPLE CROSSING.

First of all, I LOVED READING ABOUT THE MECHANICS OF THE MAGIC. I found myself re-reading most of the explanations of spells and rituals and whispering "WOW" a lot. The magic s
It's been almost 24 hours since I read the book and there's still a bad aftertaste torturing my read-sensible receptors. What a disappointment, ladies and gentlemen!

I never really wanted anything grand from this book - just mix some high-quality criminal with a generous amount of magic and I'll be fine. And I've got to tell you, the first sip was rather intriguing - freshly made sorceress, discovering her true powers in a magic competition combined with the handsome young man, also touched with
Nov 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Just below 4 stars. I really enjoyed this magical take on gangsters and Prohibition. Very good magical alternative history and worth reading for that alone. The main characters were interesting because I started off thinking Joan had a good moral compass while Alex was lost. And in the end it was the other way round. I'm glad the romance worked out the way it did...It would have felt out of keeping with the noir style otherwise..
Fancy something different in magical worlds? This might be it... re
Oct 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

The nitty-gritty: A gritty and magical story with plenty of danger, romance and a very special drink called sorcerer's shine.

Magic can achieve a lot of things, but it can't undo the past. I've sworn off sorcery, buried my magic with earth, blood, and tears below the ground, but I'd gladly sell my soul to use it just once more, if sorcery could find a way to bring me back in time. If it could bring me right to the edge of where I once stood and shattered my world into tiny shards, and make

Whitley Birks
Jan 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
See more reviews on my blog.

I had so much fun with this book. The premise was something you just can't go wrong with (Prohibition era outlawing addictive magic instead of alcohol? YES PLEASE) and then on top of that we got some extremely engaging characters, solid worldbuilding, and a plot that just won't stop.

There is nothing about this book that I wouldn't recommend, though I will throw out one caveat: this isn't a YA book. I have no idea why it was ever billed as a YA book. This is I thought
Barb (Boxermommyreads)
Dec 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
This is magic for grownups. I love the world Kelly created an her writing style made it easy to imagine actually being a part of this glamorous underworld. This book has it all, action, great characters, an interesting and unique magical system and a near-perfect ending.

The story is told from duel perspectives of Joan, who travels to DC in hopes of becoming part of an elite, yet still illegal, magical troupe and Alex, a law enforcement agent who has his own personal grudge to bear with the crimi
Nov 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing

This is adult fantasy. A CRIMINAL MAGIC is such a fun story full of magic and danger. This story follows Joan and Alex in a world where magic is illegal. Whenever a sorcerer performs magic, that magic can be placed into water and it turns into Shine. Shine is a very addictive drug. Since magic is all but illegal, families keep their magic to themselves. Joan is part of a family in trouble. An accident took her mother and left her and her cousin running a front for her Shine addicted sorcerer unc
Actual Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Mobsters, smugglers, and enchanted elixirs as potent as drugs - this is the wild, hypnotic world of Lee Kelly's A Criminal Magic. Set in an alternate Prohibition era where magic is banned instead of alcohol, this edge-of-your-seat thriller thrusts two budding sorcerers into Washington, D.C.'s criminal underworld. Joan Kendrick is hired by the Shaw Gang to perform at their "shining room" (think magical speakeasy) so she can provide for her family; while Alex Danfrey, so
Jul 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Holy hell...this was amazing! My mind is still trying to recover from this book's brilliance. Everything was perfect: the characters, magic, levels of betrayal. So so good! I demand an epilogue

Full review to come
Jan 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Holy shit

I don't know what I just read, my heart's still racing because of how intense this was. Sure magic is powerful and dangerous, but you know what else is? THIS BOOK. For my HEART.

Joan and Alex are on the opposite sides of the field, in a way that Joan is convinced that her magic is being used for a good thing (like getting high!), while Alex is posing as a double agent in order to stop people like his father, who distributed the drugs and profited from it. Both lead incredibly dangerous l
This is an interesting alternative history. What would have happened if instead of alcohol being prohibited by the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution, instead it is the drink called "Shine" which is the residue produced by sorcerers when they do magic. The liquid is hallucinogenic and addictive, but the drink has to be made locally as it only lasts a day.

And of course, like Prohibition, in the US, the Mafia is involved in getting shine to those that still want to drink and enjoy it, despite
Hafsah Faizal
Sep 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars.

Terribly good. Painful. Beautiful. WILD.

Review coming soon.
nick (the infinite limits of love)

This is one of the most underrated/under promoted books of the year. Seriously, if you’re a fan of historical books with a little bit of fantasy, I can’t recommend A Criminal Magic enough. From the very first page, this was a book that entirely enthralled me and that feeling of being hooked never dissolved. How could it not? It’s got illegal sorcery, clubs, mobsters and crime – a fabulous combo, in my opinion! Joan, one of the two protagonists of this book, is a young sorcerer is offered a job b
Nov 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
A Criminal Magic was a novel I wanted to read after everything I had heard about it. There were so many positive reviews and it sounded so promising. The novel did not disappoint in the slightest. I was immersed in this book from the beginning to the end.

What initially captivated me was the voice of the main characters. This novel is told from two alternating points of view – that of Alex and also Joan’s too. The best thing about both these characters was their development. I feel like we reall
Finally got this from the library and dove into a world where the Volstead Act, which created Prohibition, bans magic instead of intoxicants. The setting seems to be trying for a real 1920's into which magic is inserted which would've been nice, had it worked. Unfortunately it just didn't, neither as a fantasy nor an historical novel.

The author isn't able to convey a real sense of the 1920s; there's a little bit of 1920's slang tossed in along with far more slang from decades later which jarred
Fantasy Literature
Feb 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
In A Criminal Magic, Lee Kelly creates a world in which the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution, ratified in 1919, banned sorcery rather than alcohol. Kelly combines remarkable creativity, imagination, and insight into the human condition, blending fantasy with history and ending up with a complex, entertaining, compelling novel.

Naturally, the passage of A Criminal Magic’s fictional amendment results in the same response as its historical analogue: sorcerers are thrust into the criminal underw
Lori Goldstein
Jun 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
As in her first book, City of Savages, Lee Kelly's prose shines. A Criminal Magic is an alternate 1920s world where instead of alcohol being banned, magic is. Vivid description of the world and the magical spells make this book a must for those who love all things fantastical and yet the gangsters and the underworld make it appeal to those who love a good mystery/detective story. With a slow build of a love story between the two main characters, fans of a touch of romance in their books will als ...more
Jan 25, 2016 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
You had me at "THE NIGHT CIRCUS." ...more
colleen the convivial curmudgeon

Just finished this. I liked it, but didn't love it. Gave it 3.5 stars, downgraded to 3.

The first issue I noticed was that while the chapters switch between Alex and Joan's perspectives, the voices were too similar. This issue had started to go away as the story progressed, but then when they started to be in the same place it became an issue again. I would be reading a chapter and literally forget which "I" was speaking from time to time. (Would've been better in third person, maybe, as then
Terri Wino
Mar 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
3.75 stars
I really enjoyed this book! However, for me, this seemed more like a book about gangsters and rival mobs that happened to have magic as the central theme. That's to say that the magic almost could have been removed entirely from the book and it still would have been just as interesting.

I loved both Alex and Joan. Great characters who are each involved with these gangsters for their own secret reasons, unbeknownst to the other. The relationship between them seems like a natural progress
Lit Coven
Dec 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Overall, we as a Coven enjoyed this light quick read and agreed it had a great take on magical realism. The story was well aligned with the time period, and was the highlight of this novel. It was set in the Prohibition Era, and featured gangsters and magic--the perfect combination. We would have enjoyed to see more world building, but all in all agreed that it really fit the 1920's vibe. Given a choice between the main characters Alex and Joan, Alex was by far our winner. He was dynamic and bro ...more
Kara Babcock
A Criminal Magic hooked me from the start. A friend gave this to me for my birthday (apparently it was on my to-read list, not that I’d remember). I started it on Saturday, and 25 pages in I texted her to let her know she had picked well. Lee Kelly’s story of sorcerers labouring under a magic Prohibition in an alternative 1926 is just captivating. From parallel plot-lines to a careful, judicious use of magic, Kelly tells a story that is about love but isn’t necessarily a romance, a story that is ...more
THIS WAS BEYOND EPIC. Gangsters, you guys. The cool kind. What more could you want? Oh, there's also epic magic. ...more
Nov 14, 2015 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
*finds out that this book exists*
10 seconds later: *downloads*

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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 son in Millburn, New Jersey, though after a decade in Manhattan, she can’t help but still ca

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“Our turn,” Joan whispers.
She sparks to life a small sphere of light, maybe the size of a globe, right above the audience’s heads. And then she breathes life into it, slowly expanding it, like she’s blowing up the world’s most brilliant, glimmering balloon.
I whisper beside her, “Incredible.” Because despite how dangerous magic can be—how it’s been used to hide murders, cover up robberies, send people spiraling into the throes of addiction—there’s just no denying that it is.”
“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.” 2 likes
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