This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“The Magical Enforcement Agency keeps dirty magic off the streets, but there’s a new blend out there that’s as deadly as it is elusive. When patrol cop Kate Prospero shoots the lead snitch in this crucial case, she’s brought in to explain herself. But the more she learns about the investigation, the more she realizes she must secure a spot on the MEA task force.
Especially when she discovers that their lead suspect is the man she walked away from ten years earlier – on the same day she swore she’d given up dirty magic for good. Kate Prospero’s about to learn the hard way that crossing a wizard will always get you burned, and that when it comes to magic, you should never say never.”
I’m always on the lookout for creative magic systems in the books that I read, because there’s so much fantasy out there that it’s hard to find new ideas. I really enjoyed how Wells structured magic in this world. People don’t throw powerful spells around or wave a wand to make things happen. Instead, magic happens through the intermediary of potions created from normal ingredients. It’s only when a mage powers the potion with arcane energy that it gains potency.
There’s also a differentiation between clean magic and dirty magic. It’s quite similar to the way drugs are managed in real life: there are certain types of drugs that are legal, such as alcohol; there are drugs that are legal with prescription, like painkillers; and there are illegal drugs such as cocaine and heroin. Potions exist that fit all of these categories, and so you get something like a drug task force that attempts to run down the ones who create dirty magic potions.
One of the things that I enjoyed most about this book was the humor. Kate is smart-alecky in the best way, and she’s the source of most of the snarky quips in this story. For example, early in the book she’s offered a swig of booze from a flask that the other character, an older woman, was hiding in her bra. Kate’s response? “I definitely drew the line at drinking another woman’s bra hooch.” The story has plenty of these giggle-worthy lines, and I often found myself smiling as I read.
Wells is great at creating secondary characters that are just as interesting as the main characters. My favorite in this book is Baba, Kate’s next door neighbor and a rather colorful old lady. She loves plotting to get Kate a boyfriend, and her dialogue is peppered with suggestive comments that are deliciously raunchy. A close second in my list of favorites is Kate’s informant, Little Man, who looks like an infant but who is streetwise and cocky.
As the first novel in a new series, there’s a lot of set-up that goes on. The magic system is set down, Kate’s background is sketched out, the structure of the United States and its government is touched on, and the legal system as regards to magic is explored. It’s a lot of info, but I think that the author handled it very well. She wraps all of this worldbuilding in the case that Kate is working on, and a good foundation is laid for future books.
This book is funny, has a unique method of magic, and has some wonderful characters. I’m glad that Wells moved away from vampires and werewolves, because she’s showing her creative chops to great effect with Kate Prospero. Dirty Magic is the start of a series that I’ll definitely be following long-term.