Dirty Magic: Prospero's War: Book One by Jaye Wells

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Dirty Magic: Prospero's War: Book One by Jaye Wells

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Buy Dirty Magic: Prospero's War: Book One by Jaye Wells at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Fantasy
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: The author describes her new series as The Wire meets Breaking Bad mixed with urban fantasy. I'm not going to disagree at all, I just hope that dirty-magic-fighting-cop Kate Prospero is around for quite a while as it's all rather excellent.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 416 Date: January 2014
Publisher: Orbit
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0356502977

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Gray Wolf is the new magic drug in town but it's a mite more evil than the usual sex potions and enchanted uppers and downers. Gray Wolf ensures that the user becomes a craven devourer of flesh - human flesh. Kate Prospero, cop seconded to the MEA (the government agency charged with clearing the streets of dirty, illegal magic) has her work cut out. Unfortunately this work includes having to go into the Cauldron, the dangerous underbelly of a town called Babylon. However Kate has a lot to prove, having been born an adept in that very underbelly and now having to face the forces that helped create the tragedy still haunting her. Also, if she didn't have enough to worry about, her ex-lover is implicated in Gray Wolf's manufacture and her kid brother is choosing his own way in life; not a good thing, not a good thing at all.

American writer Jaye Wells researched hard before writing this novel. She spent time on a police training course, did some ride-alongs and spoke to the right people to ensure procedural accuracy. There are things in this book that are all Jaye though, such as talent and imagination. Ok, perhaps names like 'Cauldron' and 'Babylon' may cause a slight wince among read-it-all fantasy fans but they summon up immediate images that put us right where Jaye wants us to be - in the centre of the action from the start.

Perhaps I should also allay any thoughts you may have about Kate Prospero being a Harry Dresden rip off. She has a voice all of her own and, to be honest, magic aside is engaged in more Scarpetta-esque gore than Dresden. (No disrespect intended, in fact I'm a Dresden/Butcher fan.)

Kate's world is indeed dirty and dangerous; one from which she thought she'd escaped when she stepped over the line to legality. There is no escape, though, as she runs straight into the past both professionally and personally via the life choices of her 16 year-old brother Danny.

As with most fantasy, this is an ensemble piece, Jaye picking Kate's companions and foils carefully. Baba the Polish witch/babysitter flits along in the background but I'm betting from plot hints that she'll eventually be given the greater prominence she deserves. Meanwhile we're more than content with Kate's colleagues: Gardner the hard-bitten boss (more a reflection of life than central casting), Mez the team wizard who makes forensics redundant, Shadi the surveillance expert and Gonzales, the one who hates her to begin with but finishes with a burgeoning respect. (Ok, all fantasy writers are allowed at least one stereotype!). There's also a wonderfully Men in Black snitch and the deliciously morally ambiguous John Volos. (I should say nothing but. ok - nothing.)

The twists are there and used to ramp up the story when required, even playing with our perceptions. There's one scene that more or less tells us, by Hollywood conventions, that the day won't end without danger and mayhem. Aha, we see through it and predict, aren't we clever? However, what we don't grasp is the level of reader-gasp and cast dilemma that danger brings, not to mention the literary stomach punch right at the very end of the novel.

By the way, those who like to look for the topical moments in fantasy novels will not be disappointed. Jaye cleverly slides in a piece of real-world social commentary raising a smile of agreement from where I was sitting.

All said and done, Kate is a flawed hero whose popularity will cross the gender divide. If Prospero's War #2 came out tomorrow, it wouldn't be too soon for me but unfortunately I may have to wait until at least some of you have read #1 first.

We'd like to thank Orbit for providing us with a copy for review.

Further Reading: If this appeals then you may also enjoy Kate Griffin's Matthew Swift books, starting with A Madness of Angels. If you want to stick to the detective working with and against magic theme, then the aforementioned Harry Dresden in Turn Coat is equally highly commended.

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Buy Dirty Magic: Prospero's War: Book One by Jaye Wells at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Dirty Magic: Prospero's War: Book One by Jaye Wells at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Dirty Magic: Prospero's War: Book One by Jaye Wells at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Dirty Magic: Prospero's War: Book One by Jaye Wells at Amazon.com.

Booklists.jpg Dirty Magic: Prospero's War: Book One by Jaye Wells is in the Top Ten Fantasy Novels of 2014.


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Carole Nott said:

Good review, just the right length