Review: Dirty Magic by Jaye Wells

DMTitle: Dirty Magic

Author: Jaye Wells

Publisher: Orbit

Format: electronic ARC

Where I Received the Title: NetGalley


Dirty Magic has caused a lot of problems in Babylon. These addicting potions can help you lose weight in some places or help you gain weight in others. They can make you stronger or can relieve depression. But one of these magical narcotics is more dangerous than any before it — Grey Wolf. This shapeshifting formula transforms the best of souls into a bloodthirsty werewolf of sorts within minutes.

The Magic Enforcement Agency (MEA) is after the makers of this drug and commissions policewoman, Kate Prospero to help with the case. She’s tough in a Stephanie Plum sort of way, but is loath to use the greatest skill in her arsenal — dirty magic. There are skeletons in Prospero’s closet, but to defeat the formidable forces behind Grey Wolfe, she must revisit her past. Unfortunately, sometimes the only way to fight magic is with magic.

I admit that I don’t read a lot of urban fantasy, so if I were to compare this book to The Dresden Files, it may very well be a poor comparison. The novel starts out with a strong voice and great action right out of the shoot, but for a bit I worried that everything was just a clever corollary to the real world without actually needing magic. The MEA is essentially the DEA and dirty magic is a creative form of illegal drugs. It wasn’t until midway through the book that I began to see that the magic in this book is definitely crucial to the plot as well as to Prospero’s character.

Prospero lives with her younger brother and takes responsibility for him, careful to avoid his exposure to the world of magic. She sees how it has destroyed lives, particularly the lives of those close to her. Her wealthy ex-boyfriend, John Volos, becomes involved in the case, for good and for bad, bringing Prospero’s traumatic past to a front.

I like the way Wells writes, with a voice that is very active and present in the situation. It kept me in the text. Prospero’s character was well-thought out, although I must admit that I found some of the other characters to feel a little hollow. Volos, in particular, seemed to lack true motivation to do the things he did throughout the novel.

I suspect that many urban fantasy fans will find this novel to be a complete delight. The overall plot is a little predictable, but is satisfying nonetheless and the hero of the story is well-equipped with likable traits and motivation to make the reader want to cheer for her. This novel is the first book in a series and even though it was a complete story arc, it set the series up nicely for future installments. You can expect more magic and even greater struggles for our streetwise MEA agent, Kate Prospero, in the future.

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