Monday, October 31, 2016

Review: A Criminal Magic by Lee Kelly with Giveaway


by Lee Kelly

YA Historical/Fantasy

February 2nd, 2016!!!

THE NIGHT CIRCUS meets THE PEAKY BLINDERS in Lee Kelly’s new crossover fantasy novel.
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 established secret performance venues where patrons can lose themselves in magic, and take a mind-bending, intoxicating elixir known as the sorcerer’s shine.
Joan Kendrick, a young sorcerer from Norfolk County, Virginia accepts an offer to work for DC’s most notorious crime syndicate, the Shaw Gang, when her family’s home is repossessed. Alex Danfrey, a first-year Federal Prohibition Unit trainee with a complicated past and talents of his own, becomes tapped to go undercover and infiltrate the Shaws.
Through different paths, Joan and Alex tread deep into the violent, dangerous world of criminal magic – and when their paths cross at the Shaws’ performance venue, despite their orders, and despite themselves, Joan and Alex become enchanted with one another. But when gang alliances begin to shift, the two sorcerers are forced to question their ultimate allegiances and motivations. And soon, Joan and Alex find themselves pitted against each other in a treacherous, heady game of cat-and-mouse.
A CRIMINAL MAGIC casts a spell of magic, high stakes and intrigue against the backdrop of a very different Roaring Twenties.


Placed in the roaring twenties, this alternate historical story uses magic and intrigue to create a tense adventure.

In the 1920's, magic is illegal. Those who ignore the law are forced to hide their practices in so called 'Shine Rooms', where they put on small performances for audiences. Of course, crime bosses are more than ready to use this to their advantage. Joan, a teenage girl who recently lost her mother, helps her uncle to run one of the Shine Rooms. When a crime boss threatens to ruin her uncle's business, she agrees to go with him to save her uncle and sister, allowing her the magic she'd held back to come forth again. 

The first scene lured in right away. The characters, Joan and Alex, hit a nerve from the moment they're introduced. It was these two, which made the book hard to put down. Joan and Alex don't meet right away, but have their very own stories and problems. This gave the story nice twist, allowing each one to gain depth and personality before the romance began. The side characters, unfortunately, felt a bit two dimensional in comparison.

The magic world is amazingly well layered and laid out. The author makes sure that the explanations are clear, while covering a broad base. It gave this aspect of the story a world all of its own, one which feels grounded and pulled out of the air. By taking this and weaving it into the realm of organized crime, the story gained an intriguing flair. 

My only disappointment was in the world building. Although the time frame is mentioned, the culture from this period doesn't really come across well. Seeing that this is an alternate history, that isn't completely surprising. But it still would have been nice to see a bit more of the twenty's flair. Still, the scenes draw in, creating a lovely read to get lost in.

And here she is. . .
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 children in Millburn, New Jersey, though after a decade in Manhattan, she can’t help but still call herself a New Yorker. She is the author of A Criminal Magic and City of Savages. Visit her at



Giselle said...

Great review! This sounds like a great read and the whole magic aspect sounds very well crafted! Glad you liked it! :)

cleemckenzie said...

This is one of my favorite eras for a setting!