From debut author Shannon Fay comes the first novel in the enchanting Marrowbone Spells series featuring Paul Gallagher, a lower-class magician who aspires to high society through spells, wits, and irresistible charm.
Delightfully cheeky, unquestionably charming, and sometimes maddeningly naive, cloth mage Paul Gallagher is desperately trying to make a name for himself in a reimagined postwar London. But in a world where magic is commonplace, sewing enchanted clothes is seen as little more than a frivolous distraction. Paul is hiding a secret, however: he possesses a powerful--and illegal--innate magic that could help him achieve his wildest dreams.
Unfortunately, Paul confides in the wrong person--his latest crush, Captain Hector Hollister--and is drawn into a sinister plot that risks reigniting the machinery of war. To make matters worse, the pretty American gossip reporter Paul just met reveals her personal quest to expose a government cover-up may be related to Hollister's magical goals. When Hollister threatens the life of Paul's dearest friend, he realizes that his poor judgement has put not only his family and friends in danger, but also the whole world.
The only way to set things right may be for Paul to undergo the dangerous ritual to become Court Magician--the most powerful magician in the country. But is becoming part of the institution the best way to enact change in a terribly unjust society?
I enjoyed this one quite a bit! The foundation of this book can be found on the character dialogue and that honestly worked well for me. I could've done with more descriptions in terms of the background, but the book takes place in London so it's not like I couldn't paint up everything on my own. There was a scene at the end of this one that was SO HARD TO READ because of how gruesome it was. There is a build up to this specific scene and it's not one that just comes out of nowhere, but man I could've never prepared for how uncomfortable it would make me feel. It wasn't necessarily a stand out book for me, but it was still an enjoyable read!
Okay, this one is gonna be messy. I apologize beforehand.
I’m always put off by stories that involve the loss of autonomy. The fact that Paul’s innate magic allows for anyone he meets to want to be his friend bugs me. Free will is a big deal, and that sort of manipulative ability would certainly creep me out if I had it: If someone didn’t have the choice whether to like me or not. So, that part of the story really put a damper on my reading experience. The magic could’ve been made to be ANYTHING! Why go with that? I know it’s described as a “first impressions only” sort of deal, but still…
From the get-go, I was a bit confused. The worldbuilding is fine; the idea of cloth magic is pretty cool, and the “book binding” and idea of innate magic interesting, but that’s about it. The characters were also just… fine. I liked Paul and Thom’s friendship the most (for the first 2/3rds, at least). However, I was irked by how much Paul played into the stereotypes of a bisexual (i.e. the incessant flirting and wanting to sleep with everyone and anyone). It was really unfortunate. . Another thing
My biggest gripe here, however, is with the plot. The story itself meanders. I wanted it to stick with one thread: innate magic, or the multitude of burgeoning relationships, or Verity’s mystery. Instead, the plot consists of too much all at once. Honestly, it was all over the place. If it didn’t jump around so much, I might’ve enjoyed it more. The whole time I was reading it, I wasn’t immersed. I was reading about the things that were happening, sure, but I wasn’t having any kind of reaction to it. There was this disconnect between my brain and the story. The book didn’t know whether to be a lighthearted romp with a diverse cast, or a graphic deep dive into magic. And when I say “graphic,” I mean graphic. Some of the passages are downright brutal.
One thing that seemed to bug a lot of readers (from what I’ve seen) is the multitude of religious tones. Is it really that awful to have a queer MC who is also Catholic? So what if they know about the Bible and speak of God? Reviewers have this adverse reaction to religion in this book, and it’s baffling. To me, it sounds like self-righteous, PC bandwagoning. The religious aspects were not preachy or exclusionary. So, give it a rest.
I can’t say whether or not I’m going to read the next installment. The ending here was such a, well, nonending, and all the cons right now outweigh the pros. But still, I’m a little curious. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
I was prepared to love this book, but I didn't. I do love the ideas, but not the execution. It's too flippant. It tried too hard to be LGBTQ friendly. I didn't buy the religious devotion of the main character. I didn't buy how the story was moved forward. I don't even really care to know the questions that the next book will answer.
What if Harry Potter came from the UK? Oh, wait he did. What if Harry went to school to use magic? Oh, he did that too. What if Harry had two sidekicks a boy and a girl. There’s quite a lot of similarity between Innate Magic and the more famous volume. No surprise that the protagonist get in and out of trouble. Solves mysteries and deals with dastardly villainous magicians. No muggles. Seems like anybody in this book can do some magic. Despite the more than obvious ripoff elements to our Harry, this is a fun read if a bit slow at times. We know there are going to be more books in the series but really who cares.
The narrator of this audiobook was not one that I enjoyed. Their voice was fine technically, but it just didn't work for me. I kept tuning it out and had a hard time following the book because of this. Which is more the audiobook's fault than the book itself. I'd be curious to see where the story goes. I enjoyed the magic systems and the worldbuilding in it.
Rep: white British bisexual cis male MC, white British gay cis male side character, white British cis male side character who uses a mobility aid (leg brace), Black side character, Chinese side character.
CWs: Imperialism/colonialism, injury/injury detail, discussions of war, homophobia/homomisia, body horror, gore, violence, blood. Moderate: Mention of eugenics, child abuse recounted, child death recounted, domestic abuse. Minor: Alcoholism, alcohol consumption, racism.
The blurb does not do this book justice. It is packed woth so many twists and turns it will keep you turning the page for more. Even when you know the twist is coming, you are still compelled onward. Just when I thought it was wrapped up, the epilogue set the stage for the next book. I will be tuning in!
When Paul finishes his degree as a cloth mage, he is one of the few of his class who don't have a next job lined up after, so the May Gala will be his big chance to impress people with his work. And, maybe, he'll even be able to settle some old scores.
This starts off pretty low, but before you know it, you're deep in the plot. Paul is a working class lad from Liverpool, and he and his best mate Thomas went to get a loan from unsavory sources to be able to do their degree. A cloth mage is a person who makes clothes with magical properties, and usually those people come from upper class backgrounds - you know, third sons who probably won't inherit the title, daughters who want to appear to be working but will retire when they marry. So Paul and Thom are the odd ones out right from the start.
It doesn't help that Paul is known to have had relationships both with men and women, though I am happy to say that queerphobia is not a topic in here. People may raise eyebrows, but that's about it. I tagged this as bi, but the term is never used in the book. I hope that further installments shed light on this, if he is indeed bi or maybe pan, and will change shelves accordingly.
There is quite a lot going on in this book and please check out the warnings.
For the first time in a long while, I felt myself wanting to start to read because the book was so fun - this is not to say that I did not read fun books in the last weeks, but that my mental health is not in a good place. But the interest in this book was stronger.
If you'll excuse me, now I need to find out when this series will be continued because I want to read on. Full recommendations. The arc was provided by the publisher.
A curious book - It’s not quite a mystery, not quite a revenge story and partly a romance. An alternate history world post World War II setting where magic is performed. While the main characters have cloth magic – making clothes to have other properties like blocking light, or illusions or being resistant to water, in a lot of ways, the novel is about beguilement and unmasking. About the power of Lords and how people try to get ahead.
The magic moves from the most intimate to the grotesque. The main character may be bisexual (and there is a side stop of passing a law to make homosexuality legal but it’s all in the background) for the most part the story has no such relationship. It’s a story of people trying to make it on a personal level, but also a story of others trying for world domination and using anything at hand to do so.
It once again shows that amazing quality of a novel – the author can put together a picture of a world, not quite our own and we go along for the ride.
Paul Gallagher is a newly graduated cloth magician. He and Thomas, his adopted younger brother, are barely squeaking by as struggling magicians trying to make a living. Paul and Thomas have borrowed money from a loan shark, a mobster, who has sent his bully boys out to harass them but has not hurt them too much. This may be due to Paul, who has a hidden talent. When he was young he saved a magician, who gave him “innate magic”, in this case a power to make others like him, but Paul’s power has also resulted in an inability to hurt others. It is not clear right away, Fay dispenses nuggets about Thomas slowly, but he was taken in by Paul’s family when he was a young lad, who learned early to survive on the mean streets of Liverpool.
As the story opens, Paul and Thomas are at the home of young Andrew, a lord, the son of Lady Fife, one of the most powerful magicians in England, who has the talent of foretelling. There, Paul meets and befriends Tonya, Andrew and Lady Fife’s maid, and Paul falls for her. At the same party, Paul and Thomas make a bet with another young lordling, Oberon, about designing magic clothes for Verity, a newspaper reporter that Oberon knows.
When Paul meets Verity, she and he also hit it off and she confides in him that she is investigating Oberon’s doctor father, who may be a murderer and scoundrel. Paul agrees to help her, much to Thomas’s dismay.
At the same time, Paul meets Captain Hector Hollister, a former soldier who has aspirations for power and world domination. Paul is beguiled by the promise of Hollister’s intro into the elite of England. While Hollister immediately senses that Paul can be used to get what Hollister needs. Paul, Thomas and Verity will be caught up in events and Hollister and Oberon’s father’s evilness will be challenged.
I found the story a little frustrating and slow to coalesce. The great magic was hinted at but not totally revealed. But sometimes a little magic goes a long way Too much magic can ruin a story. And Fay does show that Paul and Verity had a certain nativity about what they were trying to do, but I think Fay does a great job in showing the evilness of man and how power corrupts.
This had all the chances to be a truly incredible book. The world building was impressive, the magic system was one I have never read before, and while I could see where the author was influenced by other books, this one was really original.
Set in the 1940’s, in a world much like our own, Innate Magic (which serves as both our title and a form of actual magic in the book) is illegal in Great Britain. It is a form of spell work that needs no words to be performed. You need no lessons to learn it and no book to recite it. It is just created. If you are caught using innate magic, it’s punishable by death.
Now tell me that concept isn’t so perfect.
There are some bits that I did not love….. I went into this book under the impression that it was queer, which it is. There is a Bisexual MC, which made me so happy. Love that rep in books, we definitely don’t get enough…. But what I don’t love is religion and Christianity being dropped in like a bag of bricks.
Not only was I NOT warned about it, because I would have passed up the book, but it felt so unbelievably out of place and forced. Like, this character is performing magic, but takes the time to explain why he believes in God. 🤦🏻♂️ CoolCoolCool!! Thanks for that information, Diane!
What else do I need to say after that? I was invested enough to finish the book, but I won’t be searching for the sequel.
Innate Magic takes place in an alternate Great Britain after WWII. In this world, magic is commonplace. In order to practice magic, you need to visit the Court Magician who will break some bones and make you a mage. The Court Magician is the only one in the country who is allowed to practice this kind of magic, innate magic.
The magic system in this book is very cool and not one I've seen before. Paul is a cloth mage. In order to make waterproof clothing, he needs to get creative. How can he imbue fabric with this property? Well, why not by treating it as if it were a duck? Have the fabric dive down and pop back up from the lake just like a duck would, and then the water would roll right off it just like it would roll off a duck's back. I found this process to be really interesting and pretty fun.
Paul is a bisexual man. I've seen complaints that his main love interest in the book is a woman, but that didn't really bother me. It's very clear that he is also interested in men. At the very beginning of the book, Paul is a spurned lover and very bitter over the breakup with his male teacher. He later develops a crush on a man at a party. There are many references to his interest in men, so I didn't really feel like his main love interest in the book being a female took away from his bisexuality in any way. I mean, bisexual people are interested in men and women, so why is this a problem? I've also seen complaints that he was acting like a stereotypical bisexual, flirting with everyone and ready to sleep with everyone. I thought of it more as just part of who he was outside of his sexuality. He is overly charismatic. He wants to befriend everyone. He wants to flirt with everyone. He's also 22, and maybe I'm stereotyping 22-year-old men, but I'm pretty sure shagging is on the brain pretty strongly at that age, regardless of who you want to bone. I didn't feel his charisma was limited to sexual expression. Paul wants to be liked. We also need to remember that Paul can't defend himself physically, which I feel adds another layer to things.
I've also seen complaints about the religious tones of this book. This is not a preachy book at all. I'm an atheist, and it didn't bother me in the least. It creates a sense of inner tension, and it is actually quite interesting when you think about it. You have Paul, a bisexual man, which would be very much frowned upon in the faith, but still a very devout man. Paul is a morally grey character in a lot of ways, but he seems to want to generally do the right thing. I would call him a good person in a bad situation. All of the bad things he does are generally because he is destitute and starving. He bonds with Hector, a married hetero man with children, walking the right path as far as the faith is concerned, but he is also kind of a little bit evil and maybe a titch insane. Hector is well-off. He is not motivated to do questionable things because he needs to eat. I would not call him a good person.
This was a quick read for me. There are interesting twists in this book, though I saw them coming, and Paul and Thomas are always getting into some kind of trouble. I quite liked the writing. I felt it was done well, and it was pretty amusing at times.
"You are so courting trouble!" "You are sending trouble flowers! You are gingerly taking trouble's hand! You are sitting in trouble's living room, having tea with trouble's parents!"
There is a bit of gore, which I kind of skimmed because I'm not really down with gore, but it wasn't really excessive. I felt there was enough warning to skim/skip it.
My main complaint is that the story didn't really feel full. You have Paul, he has a goal in mind. He is otherwise generally trying to survive. He ends up in a situation where his hand is forced, but regardless, he is still just trying to survive in the long run. The romance was blah. The ending was kind of lackluster. I think this author has a lot of potential. The magic system and worldbuilding were excellent, but the plotting needs some work. I can't say I'm chomping at the bit to read the next one.
This had such a captivating fantasy premise—a fantasy set in 1950s London starring a bisexual protagonist, with a creative description of its various magic systems (cloth magic, Book Binding, innate magic) that carried the story for me when the plot didn't.
And yes, the plot had its flaws. I guess the main plot is Paul’s attempt to become Court Magician, but it takes quite a while to get there, between various other subplots and Paul interacting with a large cast of characters all over London; as best as I can tell, the inciting incident doesn't happen until about 25% through, which is pretty late. The book could have been edited to focus more on Paul’s proactive efforts to become Court Magician and streamline a lot of the side activities, especially Paul’s random tangents about religion and history. (Which, while interesting, rarely felt essential to the plot, and I kept wondering why there were had to be so many of them.)
All the same, the fascinating magic system and Paul's charming narrating voice would have carried me through the book...if not for an abrupt tonal shift.
I have a thing when it comes to graphic violence, especially graphic torture, in books. I can read this content if I'm prepared for it—and I don't mean a content warning, I mean the tone of the book itself has to prepare me for the fact that graphic violence/torture is going to happen.
So, when a lighthearted, whimsical, charming fantasy book suddenly includes a scene of graphic torture of a sympathetic character?
That's an automatic "put the book down" moment for me.
For one, I am a bit bored of fantasy books with a central male queer relationship all being set in some past era of England (no offense intended to the English or other Brits). On the other hand this has a bisexual main character who's religious and we don't see that very often these days.
Might pick up in the future, but am not in a hurry too.
This was a wild ride. World building is a solid 10/10. Characters are thoroughly fleshed out and interesting. The plot did feel a bit convoluted in the middle, but the ending was exciting and I am completely on board to read the next one!
In an alternate Great Britain, after WWII, magic is common and the aristocracy still pull the country's strings and abuse that power. There is a reporter trying to uncover evidence of their crimes. A group of friends who just graduated from the Cloth Mage school find their lives intersecting with both.
I love a book that grabs me from the get go. Well written and edited. Kept me interested throughout. Some interesting twists in the story line some of which I didn't see coming. I enjoyed the characters and their stories and backgrounds. I look forward to reading the next in the series and I will most likely read this again as I am sure there are details I missed on the first run through. Keep up the good work.
Every time I've said "pretty good so far" lately, I've ended up hating the book in the end, so let's just pretend that I didn't say it, shall we?
Only question/quibble after the first chapter is wondering why Andrew's candles were all melted by the time they got to eat when he blew them out as soon as he walked in and saw everyone's faces. (Not spoiling that because I don't think it's incredibly important.)
=5 Nov= I wish they'd explained Books early on rather than leaving us to figure out that they're magical ledgers. (At least in part.) That would also go a long way in making it clear that bookbinding (which seems rather mundane to the reader) is like a magical banker—or perhaps even slightly more than that.
=6 Nov= A tad too Christian for my liking—I prefer my magic users to follow the old gods or none at all.
...but he was a staunch supporter of primogeniture. He needed a son to whom he could leave his vast fortune.
You mean Salic primogeniture—distributing one's inheritance via birth order is still primogeniture, it's just called "absolute" instead. I would expect a citizen of the Commonwealth (like the author) to know that, given that Salic was finally abolished in favor of absolute ahead of the birth of Prince George.
=8 Nov= Disgusting, overdramatic bullshit. How did this even get published?
I'm conflicted - I didn't care for this book at all but I am sure people who like this sort of thing will like it and I did read the whole thing so... The main character is thick as shit. What I thought was a blazing plot hole turned out to just be him being incapable of thought when he eventually figures out something really fucking obvious. All the relationships are unpleasantly manipulative, there's a lot more gore than I am comfortable with and it needed a Brit-picker.
This book started out really interesting, with a unique magic system, sassy characters, some other things I'm sure were there but can't remember because of how everything that was good broke apart. I don't even know where to start. I feel so betrayed. The parts of the back-of-the-book-blurb that made me pick this book up in the first place - the secret magic, being forced into a dangerous ritual, and, yes, the hint of gayness - were hardly present.
First off, I want to say that the "bisexual disaster" trope can be taken too far. Just because someone is bi doesn't mean they ogle and flirt with every single person who's even remotely good-looking who comes into sight. It's ridiculous. That's our main character. And to add to it, he puts so much into these crushes of his. He latches onto them and acts like he has to solve all of their problems after meeting them like a day ago. The main "romance" (it's not romantic at all, they have zero chemistry) is a straight one too, which, sure, that's fine. But don't tease me with gay possibilities and then take them away please.
Then we come to the plot. I don't even know what that was. Again, starts off pretty neat. I was really into the whole "should he risk his life to become the most powerful magician despite possessing an illegal magic" thing. But that doesn't matter at all. No, the plot revolves around this random woman Paul, the MC, meets and thinks he has to help because it's the right thing to do or some drivel. He barely knows her and has to hurt and lie to his friends to give her the help she needs. And then things just keep getting darker and more depressing. The way Paul treated his best friend Thom by the end was abysmal.
In summary: not gay enough, bi disaster trope taken too far, plot was whack. I'm just kind of bummed out when I think about it now.
Well, I had already written my review but left it unfinished, and it was gone from my Kindle when I returned to finish it. I did enjoy most of the novel although it was slow going at times. It is an alternative history set in London during the early 1950's, and the author does very well at world building. I love stories about magic, and I wanted very badly to love it. However, the ending (or I should say non-ending) somewhat spoiled it for me. There was no real denouement, exciting or otherwise. It wasn't even a cliffhanger (which technique I always loathe anyway). It was more a "ho hum I guess we'll end this here" sort of thing. A disappointment and annoyance. I won't be reading number two of this series.
Aww, I thoroughly enjoyed this one! It was lighthearted, but serious when necessary - much like its protagonist, proverbial bisexual disaster Paul Gallagher. The relationships felt tangible, the moral conundrums painfully relatable. Worldbuilding and and magical systems worked really well imo and were fun to read about. And it's one of the rare cases where I liked the audiobook just as much as the written version, if not more. Fair warning, though: This looks like a romance from the blurb, but it isn't one. Genre-wise I'd put it under alternate history/ urban fantasy coming of age thriller, or something like that. There is some m/f romance happening, but the deepest relationship in the story is an intense friendship, which I very much hope to see more of in the next installment of this series.
Where to start with this. Every scene dragged out. Emphasis was put into all the wrong aspects. They story itself made no sense. Especially towards the end when the main character, after putting himself at risk for one girl.. randomly decides to hook up with another ?! (I’m not trying to spoil any thing for someone who may read it) and the ending itself completely went against everything Paul was saying about his relationship with both magic and Thom. As one of the many nonsense lines Paul has “Even if I could believe that I just can’t believe that,”
I'm already forgetting some aspects of this story, just a day later. I wouldn't say I disliked this story exactly, but it lacked oomph. Here we have Paul whatshisname (forgettable really) whose most memorable attribute is not his character or his magical talent, which honestly seems quite average among all the characters. I remember him for being mindlessly horny.
I try not to judge people for their sex drive but it is really the only thing memorable about a cloth magician of no notable skill and whose innate magic is hardly the glorious sort. I'm supposed to care about his sexual preferences I think but when Paul's dick seems to be a homing device for trouble, it's hard to note anything else.
Paul gets himself and his much more capable and interesting best friend Thomas into trouble by following his dick in the direction of Captain Hollister, a war hero who, for some indecipherable reason, decides this poverty-stricken mediocre magician in an unlauded profession is the key to accomplishing his dark and mysterious goals. At the same time, Paul's dick also leads him towards a house maid and a gossip journalist whose interest in him must surely be attributed to his innate magic rather than anything particularly noteworthy about him personally.
The one thing this story succeeds at is painting a fascinating picture of a world where magic use is as ordinary as technology. It retells familiar history in the post-war era as it might unfold if magic were a sought-after tool for war, business, and political maneuvering. For that reason alone, I might actually read another story in this series.
I found this to be a quite enjoyable and entertaining read. Not an incredible amount of depth to characters, but not every book needs that. The story definitely did not go the direction I thought it would from the early chapters, despite some of the smaller plot twists being easily foreshadowed. I definitely wouldn't mind continuing this series and seeing the world and characters develop further. Recommend for an entertaining read!
I started this a while back and couldn't get past even the first page...picked it up again and I love it soooo much. I mean the main character is flawed as shit and all the others are interesting as hell...and his best friend...I can only say I relate completely. Now I only have to wait for the next one.