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Friday, January 24, 2014

Dirty Magic by Jaye Wells and Mini Q/A with the author (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website
Order "Dirty Magic" HERE
Read an excerpt HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Red-Headed Stepchild
Read Revisionist History: a guest post by Jaye Wells

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Jaye Wells is a USA Today-bestselling author of urban fantasy and speculative crime fiction. Raised by booksellers, she loved reading books from a very young age. That gateway drug eventually led to a full-blown writing addiction. When she’s not chasing the word dragon, she loves to travel, drink good bourbon and do things that scare her so she can put them in her books. For more about Jaye’s books, please visit her website

OFFICIAL BLURB: The last thing patrol cop Kate Prospero expected to find on her nightly rounds was a werewolf covered in the blood of his latest victim. But then, she also didn't expect that shooting him would land her in the crosshairs of a Magic Enforcement Agency task force, who wants to know why she killed their lead snitch.

The more Prospero learns about the dangerous new potion the MEA is investigating, the more she's convinced that earning a spot on their task force is the career break she's been wanting. But getting the assignment proves much easier than solving the case. Especially once the investigation reveals their lead suspect is the man she walked away from ten years earlier—on the same day she swore she'd never use dirty magic again.

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 be never say never.

FORMAT/INFO: Dirty Magic is 381 pages long divided over thirty-six numbered chapters. Narration is in the first person via Kate Prospero only. Dirty Magic is the first volume in the Prospero's War series and the second volume Cursed Moon will be out in August 2014.

January 21, 2014 marked the Trade paperback and e-book publication of Dirty Magic via Orbit Books.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: I’m a virtual newcomer to Jaye Wells and her style of writing. I've read her debut “Red-Headed Stepchild” but haven’t read any other books of hers. So with this book, it felt as if I was re-introduced to her and with a completely new story and protagonist. The story drops into a world wherein magic has been present since quite a few decades but isn't all out accepted as well. The story is told through the eyes of Kate Prospero, a beat cop in the city of Babylon which is a decaying world set in the Rust Belt region of the USA. 

The story begins a bit startlingly as Kate in one of her patrols is assaulted by a man who has apparently turned into a werewolf. Not one to take things lying down, Kate manages to get the upper hand and kill the person. Things take a weird turn when the dead person is identified as a CI and now she finds herself attached to a Magic Enforcement Agency task force. That’s where the story starts to coalesce into a fine thread of mystery, discovery and magical thrills. Kate is a strong-willed person and also she has an innate ability to brew magical potions. This ability along with her family lineage got her into major trouble as a result of which she has become the person she is now.

Obdurate in regards to using magic and obstinate in her refusal to associate with any member of her family besides her younger brother. The familial problems also run deep as her uncle Abe is the person who was the coven head and is currently in maximum security. Kate has hidden her background however her new case will have her mixing with magic in its ugliest form as well as getting re-acquainted with John Volos who happens to Babylon’s newest savior and shares a strong magical connection to Kate’s Past.

The story is a proper procedural masked in urban fantasy clothing however that makes it a bit tough to rate. While I enjoyed the author’s world building in regards to magic’s introduction in the 1970s and how it has encapsulated human lives. Another freaky but cool aspect of the story was how the author showcased all the various magical addictions that can grow from the usage of potions. This was for me an absolute pluspoint as to how the author’s imagination amalgamated magic use and addiction issues fascinatingly to provide believable scenarios. The other pluspoint of the story since this is a first person narrative was Kate Prospero and her life story, which was interesting but not entirely as fascinating as the world-building.

Here’s what I liked about Kate, she is shown to be a survivor with some form of PTSD which has manifested in her hard-edged attitude about magic. Kate doesn't enjoy her feelings about magic but she can’t quite explain it to her younger brother who thirsts to know more about their mother, family and of course magic use (which is forbidden to him). The author also has an interesting character cast set up around Kate and it will be interesting to see how the author explores their lives and interactions with Kate. A particular fun character is called Baba who is an elderly specimen who babysits her brother and offers rough, inane advice to Kate whether she wants it or not.

With this book, there’ll be readers who either like/love it or dislike it or have a mixed bag of emotions. I found myself falling into the third category. Here are my reasons why; I liked the story set up and the imagination of the author as to how she went about setting up the world and the main character. The faltering aspect for me was the pace that was uneven throughout the story. Now I have to say that most procedurals aren't quite fast paced and infact the whole story is often about the journey towards the eventual climax. In this regard, the book’s journey is a good one as the reader is introduced to the seedy underbelly of the magic world. But the pace does slacken and this lead to a troubled read for me. The second factor that didn't work for me was the buildup for the possible love triangle that seems to be inherent for Kate and the two male characters with whom she interacts within this story. Usually it never bothers me but I’m hoping that if the author takes this route, she doesn't make it a whimsical one.

Lastly I must add that the plot twists were a bit predictable and the climax resolution while neat also gives us a strong hook for returning for book II “Cursed Moon”. Also this book quintessentially feels like the set-up for the series and while that might not be a bad thing, it might definitely irk some readers. I will be definitely waiting for it to see how the author develops the story but rest assured it will be  even more interesting if the author decides to deepen the focus on the magical side of things and explores that unique aspect of the world.

CONCLUSION: A story that reads a bit unevenly but is still strong enough to hold your interest till the end. Dirty Magic is a good start to a series that is perhaps ambitiously described as “The Wire with Wizards”. It’s a good tale which focuses on the seedy underbelly of the magic world. As a reader it’s always fascinating to see authors do different things in a crowded subgenre. Jaye Wells does that soundly with this fascinating opening volume.

Q] Welcome to Fantasy Book Critic and thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. For someone who hasn’t read any of your titles, how would you describe your writing style? 

JW: Thanks for having me on! I write urban fantasy that leans toward gritty action and suspense with fantastical or horror elements. Some have described my work as snarky, but I prefer to think of it as irreverent.

Q] You have an upcoming series which you had described as “The Wire and Breaking Bad with wizards”. While that is a pretty terrific description, what would you say is its USP in differentiating itself from the crowded UF sub-genre? 

JW: I’m not sure what USP stands for? I’m certainly not the first UF author to combine fantasy with police procedurals, but what makes my books stand out is what makes all good writers of UF good—the world building is complex, innovative, and compelling, and the characters who inhabit that world are richly drawn and empathetic. By combining two genres—UF and police procedurals—I can elevate the best points of each as well as combine them in new ways. It was great fun to write, and, I hope, will be be as fun to read.

Q] I remember you having a conversation about how UF and PNR are separate entities on twitter. As a UF fan, I completely agree that it’s very annoying to see that mentality of them being one and the same but as a UF writer, I can only imagine what thoughts go through your head at this silly assumption. Your thoughts on this? 

JW: There’s a prevailing attitude among certain circles that any book written by a woman featuring a female protagonist must be romance. Buttressing this view is the attitude that romance in an inherently inferior genre (and therefore the women writing them are inferior writers). Both of these positions are, frankly, lazy and ignorant. That’s pretty much all I have to say on the matter.

Q] As with your previous series, Prospero’s War looks to feature an interesting cast of characters (Danny, Volos, Morales, Baba, Mez, etc.) How do you go about creating their personalities, and what is the key to successfully crafting such a believable, yet fantastical character cast? 

JW: Fantastical characters must always have relatable or empathetic human traits. They each are products of the worlds in which they live, so I use that to figure out what makes them tick. You create three-dimensional characters by giving each character a goal, motivation, and a conflict (internal and/or external). I also try to write dialogue that sounds like people actually talk, which helps them feel more alive on the page.

Q] In Dirty Magic, it isn't specified where exactly Babylon is. Would you care to reveal any clues about its location? 

JW: Babylon is located in Ohio, along Lake Erie. I used Cleveland as a template and then adjusted the geography and history by stealing from other Rust Belt towns (Cincinnati, Detroit, Gary, Indiana) or making things up to reflect a world influenced by magic.

Q] Dirty Magic is the first volume in a series. Could you offer any details about the sequel “Cursed Moon”, and how many books do you anticipate to write in this series? 

JW: Cursed Moon is about what happens in Babylon when a rare Blue Moon makes everyone’s magic go wonky. Kate and the gang also have their hands full tracking down a psycho who thinks he’s the reincarnation of the god Dionysus.

Right now, I’m contracted for three books, total. Whether there will be more depends on how well-received the first books are, I suppose. Ultimately, I’d like to write seven novels in the series, but I’m not a plotter, so please don’t hold me to that. The series is very much an organic thing to me.

Q] Prospero’s War sounds like an epic series title and could you elaborate how its genesis occurred. How long have you been working on it? 

JW: I began working on the series in 2012. It’s genesis was the result of finishing my Sabina Kane series and needing something new to work on. I knew I wanted to do something a little different—no vampires or were-creatures—and I wanted to play with crime fiction. It’s hard to pinpoint the moment that it coalesced into a fully fledged idea because there are so many influences that when into it. However, the title was easy to come up with. The name Prospero is a reference to Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and the war alluded to in the title is actually two wars: The war against dirty magic as well as Kate’s internal war against magic’s hold on her.

Q] One of the things that impresses me a lot about you as a writer, is your ability to produce good books at a regular, yearly rate. What’s your secret? 

JW: Ha! I didn't know I had a choice in the matter. At this point I’m writing two books a year, actually. Part of it is demands of the market, but the other is that I’m getting faster the longer I write. It also helps to write series because the further in you get the more you know the characters and the stories develop a sort of comfortable rhythm. The other secret is that writing is my full-time job.

Q] In closing, are there any final thoughts or comments that you'd like to share with your readers? 

JW: First, thanks for taking me on. Second, all of your readers should go buy DIRTY MAGIC. Like the potions it’s named after, it’s pretty addictive, but it probably won’t turn you into a slathering hellbeast.


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