Into the Crooked Place by Alexandra Christo
|Into the Crooked Place by Alexandra Christo|
|Reviewer: Alex Mitchell|
|Summary: Dark magic and organised crime meet in this darkly fantastical tale of friendship, love and loss.|
|Buy? yes||Borrow? maybe|
|Pages: 384||Date: October 2019|
|Publisher: Hot Key Books|
In the city of Creije, Tavia, a magical con-artist, specialises in wowing gullible tourists with cheap charms and trickery. However, when a new and powerful form of magic unlike anything seen in decades begins trickling onto the streets, nearly killing her close friend Saxony, Tavia begins to worry. At the same time, her childhood best friend Wesley, the youngest underboss in the city, discovers that Dante Ashwood, kingpin of the Creijen criminal underworld, has his sights set on world domination. It's now up to the four unlikely allies to bring down his plans...
The characters are probably the best thing about the book. Each of their viewpoint chapters does a good job of examining their psyches, their motivations, and how the other characters fit together. Wesley, being the youngest underboss of Dante Ashwood, is by far the most brutally pragmatic of the protagonists, and yet at the same time is filled with self-loathing due to the methods he used to ascend up the Kingpin’s hierarchy. His childhood friend Tavia, a busker (basically a magical street artist), is harbouring some resentment towards him and desperately longs for the days when they were still friends. Her other friends are Saxony, a Rishiyan crafter who is searching for her sister Zekia, and Karam, the descendant of a tribe of warriors sworn to protect Saxony’s kind. There is significant romantic tension between the latter two and it is heavily implied that they were in a relationship previously. Also, the banter between the four characters adds the occasional moment of levity in an otherwise dark book.
Although this is very much a character-driven story, Christo does a passable job at building the world. The story starts in Creije, one of the largest cities in Uskhanya, and is the current home of all four of the protagonists. The new Doyen of Uskhanya, Fenna Schulze, was elected on the promise of cracking down on the black magic trade. However, the Kingpin of Creije, Dante Ashwood, has other ideas – he plans to take over the entire world by building an army using vials of black magic. Rishiya, the birthplace of the other two protagonists Saxony and Karam, is a realm that seems to take a lot of inspiration from the Indian subcontinent and is home to a Crafter ‘Kin’. Other realms, such as Volo, are mentioned but not expanded upon. Perhaps the setting will get expanded upon in later stories.
The magic in the setting is well-thought out and shows how a world where it is commonplace might look. There are charms, or “tricks”, which are a fairly weak, commonplace form of magic which allow you to do basic things like make you hover or give you good luck or things of that nature. The realms are linked by the Floating Railways, which appear to be a cross between rail travel and air travel, and the hover magic put to an industrial use. Magic is also used as a cheap-and-dirty method of sanitation, however this is extremely risky because high doses of magic are toxic. And then there is True Magic, which is extremely rare and can only be produced by a race of people known as Crafters, most of whom were either wiped out or went into hiding in a war sixty years prior to the start of the story. This is why the magic produced by Ashwood is so concerning, since it is far more potent than any charm they’ve seen before, suggesting that he’s somehow managed to get his hands on a Crafter.
Overall, this is an interesting dark fantasy story packed with well-written characters who fit together nicely and a thoroughly fleshed-out magic system.
Similar books by other authors: The Barnaby Grimes series by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell – a similar, but no less dark, set of stories for younger readers, this time with illustrations.
You can read more book reviews or buy Into the Crooked Place by Alexandra Christo at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Into the Crooked Place by Alexandra Christo at Amazon.com.
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