Magic to the Bone by Devon Monk

Devon Monk has been recommended to me by friends, and even by Amazon based on some purchases I made, but I have an extensive to-be-read pile. Though I picked up a copy some time ago, I hadn’t gotten to it yet. Then, a friend was visiting and looked at the pile. She picked out Magic to the Bone as the “must read next.”

Now I know why.

This novel plays with all the traditions of strong narrative. The main character is beaten about left and right, never really understanding what’s going on but just struggling to stay on her feet long enough to figure it out. If I had to characterize the action, I’d say it’s mostly “done to” rather than “done by” her. That said, the way Allie responds to things, her own personal code mixed with a heavy dose of distrust that, despite everything, is stirred with loyalty even in the face of strong evidence to the contrary makes for a strong novel that pulled me in and kept me reading through to the end.

I started this novel just as a nasty cold was claiming the space I call my own. My focus on everything else went flying out the window, but I found whenever I started reading this book, I didn’t want to stop. I didn’t want to put it down to struggle for an inch of progress on all the other things that I needed to do. I think that says more for the novel than most reactions just because it created focus out of thin air when I had none.

The story begins with a loner who has abandoned her father, with good cause, and sets herself apart from almost everything. At the same time, she’s at the beck and call of people who she considers downtrodden but good at heart, often providing her services for free when she can’t even make her rent. As the story develops, we learn not only can she manipulate magic, though that always comes with a price in both pain and lost memories, but that she has a somewhat unique ability everyone has assured her is impossible–she carries her own supply of magic.

This book is an eye-opener for Allie, knowledge which, like magic, comes with its own price, but at the same time she’s not left hanging out in darkness as she gains much in her quest to uncover the truth.

Devon Monk slips sideways on the first person narrative tradition for urban fantasy by bringing in a second, 3rd person, narrator so that the reader knows a smidge more than Allie, but that smidge isn’t enough to spoil the unfolding mystery. Rather, it adds to the picture.

Her other odd choice is the main character’s memory loss as a penalty. It certainly creates trouble for Allie, but I have to wonder if it won’t have even more significance in the books to come.

Anyway, I’m trying to avoid spoilers, but I can tell you it’s much like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride in that the story careens along its path, dragging you with it at a terrifying rate with glimpses here and there to build a tale. I never felt left behind. I never sat back and wondered if there was a greater story. I was right in the muck with Allie trying to figure things out, and it was a happy place to be.

My list of “always buy” authors has increased by one, and I predict that my to-be-read pile is going to swell up a bit the next time I’m at the book store.

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2 Responses to Magic to the Bone by Devon Monk

  1. John McMullen says:

    Hmm. I received this for Christmas and it hasn’t made it to the top of the TBR pile yet–it wasn’t going to be there soon, either; I have Boneshaker to finish, and John McWhorter’s book, and an anthology, and and and. I had dismissed this as an urban fantasy like too many others–but I’ll look at it with fresh eyes now.


  2. MarFisk says:

    Well, drop a line back here when you’ve finished it just out of curiosity :). I never know if my reaction is shared.

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