15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved it.
This is the first book in the Allie Beckstorm series, a series I was reluctant to try. I prefer shifters to magic, as a general rule, and I wasn't sure I liked the sound of this series. But a couple book buddies said it was really good, and they're rarely wrong (okay, differing opinions doesn't make them wrong as such, but, ya know... ;-) ). I'm glad to say they were...
Published on 6 Jun. 2010 by Claire Mill
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A World where magic use isn't free...
Using magic means it uses you back - and every spell exacts a price from the user. Some people, however, get out of it by Offloading the cost of magic onto an innocent, then Allison Beckstrom's job is to identify the spell-caster. Allie would rather live a hand-to-mouth existence than accept the family fortune and the strings that come with it, but when she finds a boy...
Published on 20 Sept. 2010 by M. C. Symonds
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A World where magic use isn't free...,
Using magic means it uses you back - and every spell exacts a price from the user. Some people, however, get out of it by Offloading the cost of magic onto an innocent, then Allison Beckstrom's job is to identify the spell-caster. Allie would rather live a hand-to-mouth existence than accept the family fortune and the strings that come with it, but when she finds a boy dying from a magical Offload that has her father's signature all over it she is thrown back into the world of his black magic.
I like the premised that magic use isn't free - you use magic and you could end up with a migraine, sore throat, stomach aches of memory loss. And with magic being freely available for anyone to use the world Devon sets up has possibilities. However, I didn't quite take to the main character Allie. She spends a lot of this book reacting to things and not necessarily sensible. I didn't feel she drove the action much - indeed after the confrontation with her father near the start of the book she doesn't really initiate any further actions, just spends her time being chased and running away. Having said that the ride was enjoyable - I liked the love interest and how he remains as much of a mystery at the end as he did at the beginning. In fact he's even more mysterious and intriguing. The best friend, Nola was also good and I would have liked more on her. Overall, the book was a good introduction to the world and I think I will be looking out for the sequel `Magic in the Blood'...but I probably won't rush out for it.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved it.,
This is the first book in the Allie Beckstorm series, a series I was reluctant to try. I prefer shifters to magic, as a general rule, and I wasn't sure I liked the sound of this series. But a couple book buddies said it was really good, and they're rarely wrong (okay, differing opinions doesn't make them wrong as such, but, ya know... ;-) ). I'm glad to say they were right this time as well. I got hooked on this book really quickly and had a hard time putting it down.
Allie is the daughter of one of the most powerful magic users around, so she's pretty well known. But she hasn't seen her father in seven years, and lives on very little working as a Hound in order to pay rent and keep food on the table. When she finds a young kid who's dying of an illegal magic offload with her father signature, she storms straight to him to deal with it. She's furious and determined to see him pay for his crimes. But within a very short space of time things take a stranger, darker turn in her latest case. Nothing is quite as it seems and Allie suddenly finds herself fleeing to try and protect herself. Allie is a loner with just one friend, a woman who lives 300 miles away on a farm that doesn't use magic. She doesn't trust easily and so she's naturally cautious, if attracted, to the very mysterious Zayvion Jones who is around when she begins the Hounding case on the boy and always seems to be around when weird stuff keeps happening.
I actually really love the world created here. The way magic has (very serious) limits and consequences for it's use. And Allie is no exception to those rules. She spends a lot of the book dealing with the fallout of using magic and she keeps a little book on her at all times with vital details of her day to day life so that if she loses the memories of a case she's working on or something, she has at least got a way to fill in a few little gaps. The memory loss is an interesting twist, because there are times when she loses part of her memory of events the readers have seen so she can react to things and we think 'seen/know that, you've already done this once'. But that's not to say it gets repetitive, because it doesn't. It's just something that does happen occasionally. It's something Allie has to deal with, so we get to deal with it along the way as well.
The plot moves along quickly with some good twists and turns. There is one moment in particular near the end which seriously shocked me. Like, enough that I couldn't keep reading for a few moments. That doesn't happen very often. Maybe I should have seen it coming, but I didn't, and it had a pretty huge impact. I really liked the characters too. Allie is very easy to get on with, and I really felt for her as she tried to figure out what was going on, tried to deal with memory loss and the other effects of using magic. Zayvion is mysterious, but I love his character anyway. He's clearly hiding a lot, but we get to see enough of him over the course of the book to get a decent sense of him. He is a love interest for Allie, but the romance is a sub plot and doesn't really take over at any point, but still gets a reasonable amount of page time. The ending isn't a cliffhanger, but it did leave me wanting more. There is a lot left very open at the end of this book, to be dealt with in the rest of the series, which I ordered as soon as I was done with this! A great read, looking forward to catching up on the series!
27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing,
The basic idea is a good one. The problem is that it's badly written and the heroine is strangely unlikable - which is possibly why she only has one friend. She is supposed to be well schooled, intelligent and street smart but doesn't demonstrate this in her persuit of the conclusion of the story. For example, she's apparently starving with enough money for a coffee and a bun left in the world, living in squalor when she gets a call for a job. She does the job - taking a taxi to get there, then forgets to ask for her money and doesn't go back to get it. She regularly takes money from her only friend (who she thinks can't afford it) but refuses to take money from her father (who she hates) who can afford it. I found that, and other examples, irritating.
I think that either a lot was edited out of the book or the author ran out of steam as it started well but quickly slid down hill to the point of me considering whether or not I could be bothered to finish the book or not. There was no character development at all but we were supposed to like the heroine (can't even remember her name she was that forgettable) and fancy the romance interest.
The romance is not good. The sex scenes come from no-where, there's no build up of tension. Suddenly they are just sleeping together for no reason that I could establish other than the heroine had had a bad day and was feeling claustraphobic. It wasn't sexy. Then she falls in love with him (and apparently he with her) for no apparent reason other than good sex. They have the strangest conversations which have no thread or authenticity. At times if you overheard them in real life you would think they were on the phone to other people and just happened to be looking at each other when talking.
I'm sorry to give a bad review to a new author. I'd encourage her to try again though as the basic idea behind the book was a good one.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Slow start but well worth it,
I bought this book on a whim, thinking that if it was good, I'd buy the other seven currently out in this series(I think there is one left to be published). Suffice to say that I now own all eight Allie Beckstrom books and am eagerly awaiting the last instalment in the series..!
This book is built on a great premise - magic in the modern world is almost like electricity - used by all - but it comes at a price. It's definitely what I'd class as 'urban fantasy' and it's not like anything I've ever read before (I tend either towards the 'true' fantasy or crime/thriller types of books). The world is well thought out and fascinating in its darkness and it certainly draws the reader in.
I did find it hard to warm to the characters - especially Allie. For some reason I felt as though I was being kept at arm's length from really getting to know the people being written about. That may be part of what the author was trying to get across (i.e. the characters are very self-preservationist types) but Allie is written from the first person perspective and therefore you would expect to at least be able to 'get' her. It took me at least two, if not three books in the series to really start to understand what she was about and to warm to her. She is a flawed heroine, but that by itself shouldn't prevent the reader from getting close to the protagonist - in fact, if anything the opposite should be the case.
Still, I'd say it is worth persevering. This is a nine-book series in all and the story unfolds over the entire nine books. This book does have a storyline in its own right, but a lot of questions are left unanswered and you really do need to invest in the full series to get the best out of this fantasy setting and the characters therein. Having done so myself I would definitely recommend getting all of the Allie Beckstrom books and getting stuck in - the overall story is great, each book is well-written and the characters do come to life over time.
3.0 out of 5 stars A gritty and intriguing Urban Fantasy,
This review is from: Magic to the Bone (An Allie Beckstrom Novel) (Paperback)
Reviewed June 2012.
I've had this sitting on my virtual book shelf for literally years. I'm not sure why it has taken me so long to get round to reading it but I'm glad I did. This is a very strong beginning to what looks like a very good UF series.
The world building is quite hefty but that's to be expected in the first book of a fantasy series. The idea of magic being a new consumer item was very refreshing in a genre full of secret societies and ancient rites. There is a price for using magic and as Allie frequently reminds us, you can use magic, but it will use you right back. The pacing was fast and action-packed, sprinkled with moments of Allie catching her breath. There are some truly sinister moments during the 'Cody' chapters that added real menace and suspense to the story.
Allie is a likeable character, if not a little isolated. She reminded me a lot of Merit form Chloe Neill's Chicagoland Vampires series, both have rich, overbearing fathers from whom they are estranged. She's tough and independent but has moments of vulnerability (her claustrophobia makes a continuous appearance) and definitely feels it when she's hurt.
The romance plot is in keeping with the UF genre, it's much more a sub plot and doesn't take focus from the action. It did feel a bit rushed and because Zayvion is such a mysterious character I found it hard to understand why Allie was quite so interested.
So far so good right? So why only 3.5 and not 4 or 5 stars? The Ending. Allie is deeply effected by the events at the climax of the book and it was very difficult to decide whether the outcome was interesting or irritating. It does give Monk the chance to resolve some of my issues with this book but I hope it doesn't become a regular occurrence.
A gritty and intriguing Urban Fantasy, that may not be mind blowing on its own but a great setup for a series. Looking forward to reading the next in the series and see if my hopes (and not fears!) are realised.
Would recommend if you like: Rachel Vincent's Unbound series, Kim Harrison's Rachel Morgan series, Ilona Andrew's Kate Daniels series, (haven't read this but understand the premises are similar) and based on Allie, Chloe Neill's Chicagoland Vampires series.(less)
4.0 out of 5 stars Urban fantasy featuring magic,
This review is from: Magic to the Bone (An Allie Beckstrom Novel) (Paperback)
This book prompted me into remembering how much I love urban fantasy, to the point that I will definitely be calling it my favourite genre from now on. It includes many of the usual tropes you find in urban fantasy, such as a strong-willed heroine with a fast-paced story to keep you on the edge of your seat, but the thing that I particularly enjoyed was the magic system. As an occasional epic fantasy fan, I can really appreciate the nuances of a good magic system and Devon Monk has weaved something phenomenal here. Magic runs through pipes below the city and through buildings for easy access. It can also be harvested from magical storms but these are not overly frequent. It is an every day convenience, just like electricity, only it can do so much more.. if you're willing to pay the price. And the price is pain. As you might be able to imagine, you can use a 'proxy' to avoid this, another human being. And this is, of course, illegal. It is Allie Beckstrom's job as a Hound to sniff out the perpetrators of such magical attacks and this isn't always the safest of jobs.
The story is told from a close first person perspective and as such we have to deal with an unreliable narrator. Whatever Allie believes to be true, tends to come across as true, although there is the odd time when we have the benefit of being on the outside and seeing things a little differently because we are unbiased whereas Allie isn't. It makes it more fun to follow because it is much more difficult to work out who to trust and it's so much more intimate. The narrative is also interspersed with Cody chapters, who I shan't tell you anything about. However, the contrast between Allie and Cody is so big that the variety keeps the narrative feeling fresh and interesting.
As for Allie herself, she thinks of herself as a loner. She's stubborn, untrusting, and a bit of a badass. Her idiosyncrasies pull us deeply into Allie's mind and it feels much more personal following her thought processes so much more closely than you usually would in a first person narrative novel. You feel much more as though you are Allie. The other characters are full and multi-faceted, though Zayvion's mysteriousness really, really bugs me, they all feel so real.
If you enjoy urban fantasy with a bit of magic and a crime to be solved with much mystery, you may love Magic to the Bone. Whilst there are a few loose ends, I figure they'll be picked up later in the series.
3.0 out of 5 stars Allie Beckstrom book 1,
In a world where anyone can use magic but it always has a price the more unscrupulous people out there try to find a way to force that price onto unsuspecting victims. When the price for even the smallest magic use can be a migraine that lasts for days, serious bruising or even memory loss it's no surprise that people who are messing with nasty spells don't want to take their own backlash. Although there are legal ways to disperse the effects using proxies people often want to take the free, more illegal, option. Allie Beckstrom is the daughter of one of the most famous and powerful magic users but rather than be forced into joining the family business she would rather go it alone. Working as a Hound it is her job to investigate the illegal dispersal of magical effects and track down the source of magic so that the user can be punished. When she is asked to investigate the illegal use of a spell against a young child she tracks the source straight back to the father she hasn't seen for seven years. But things aren't always what they first appear and the more she investigates the deeper the hole she digs for herself.
Magic to the Bone is an interesting start to a new urban fantasy series, this is a series I've heard a lot about from US bloggers but it is fairly new to the UK with only the first two titles in the series currently available from a UK publisher (hopefully the rest of the series will be following soon). I really like the world that Devon Monk has created, the idea that using magic has a price was really interesting and I loved the fact that the magic can be tapped into thanks to underground magical cabling. This was made even better by the fact that the poorest parts of town didn't have the required cabling so become kind of like magical dead zones.
I liked Allie and it was interesting that her use of magic nearly always caused physical pain as well as memory loss, she had to carry around a notebook with her to write down important events in case she couldn't remember them after her next attempt at using magic. I have to say that apart from the curiosity of her memory loss she doesn't really stand out as a kick ass urban fantasy heroine yet but hopefully that means she has plenty of room to grow as the series continues. I'm looking forward to seeing how her character shapes up in the next few books.
While I'm very curious about love interest Zayvion I haven't fallen for him yet. I felt the relationship with him and Allie kind of came out of nowhere and was a bit too rushed. I would have really liked it if the sexual tension from the beginning of the story could have continued a bit longer as it would have made things more believable. Zayvion is still quite a mystery, in fact I think he's more of a mystery at the end of the book than he was at the beginning! I am looking forward to finding out more about him but I'm still not sure if he is 100% trustworthy. I did really like Allie's friend Nola though and I really hope we see more of both her and Cody as the series continues.
I think Magic to the Bone was a solid start to a series that has a lot of potential if the characters really start to develop in the next installment. I already have a copy of Magic in the Blood and am looking forward to getting stuck into it.
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, but not amazing either,
This was an okay start to a series. It definitely shows some potential but it has some quite major issues as well. For me, the problem with this one so far seems to be the characterization, or rather, the lack thereof.
Think about all of your favourite Urban Fantasy heroines. Add up all the brilliant things you love about them: their humour, their sarcastic wit, their strength of will, their fighting abilities, their sheer badassness. Whatever it is you love about them, add it all up. Have you done it? Good. Now take all that away and you'll be left with Allie Beckstrom.
Harsh? Maybe. True? That's for you to decide for yourself, I suppose.
I can, however, see potential for her to grow as a character, so it's not all doom and gloom. There has to be somewhere for your character to go. If they start out all shiny and awesome, there's no journey, and I totally get that. But, it's literally like the only interesting thing about Allie Beckstrom, is that she is not interesting in any way. She's just a regular girl. Daughter of a rich, powerful man, trying to make a go of things on her own in the big, wide, magic-filled world, and avoiding her father as much as possible. She seems to be doing this through sheer, childish stubbornness rather than because her father did anything particularly heinous. Okay, he used "Influence" to try and get her to go to the college of his choice. This is hardly the crime of the century now is it?
So you can safely add "stubborn" to her list of attributes. You can also add "Too Stupid To Live". Yup, we had a definite TSTL moment in this book. With consequences that will reach well into the next book and probably beyond. Good going, Allie!
There's also a love interest of sorts that was introduced. Now, I'm a bit confused here because I have this theory about a possible future plot that may explain my total lack of connection with this character. If that theory pans out in future books I will totally come back and eat all of these words because it will actually be really quite clever, but for the moment I can only comment on what I experienced in this book, and that was that I didn't understand how they ended up together. At all. He was kind of stalking her at the beginning of the book, he dresses like a "drifter", she tells him to go away and he won't, and then, whoops! She kisses him!
*insert nonplussed face here*
Looking at the positives now, the world-building and the actual plot I did enjoy. The idea of using magical glyphs to cast spells in the air with your hands was interesting. As was the idea that the common masses can all now draw on magic, which is fed into the city like electricity. I also liked learning about the different types of magical specialities people have developed since magic was introduced about thirty years back.
The hunt for the bad guy was fairly well written. There were just a couple instances where I was confused by the actions and decisions of one of the main characters. I found the small passages from Cody's point of view a good way of giving you a glimpse at the actions of the bad guy, without actually telling you any details.
Overall, it's a middle of the road 3 stars rating. I was intrigued enough by the events at the end of the book to pick up the next one straight away. I really hope to see an improvement with these characters and some much needed growth in the next book(s) to give me that connection that I'm currently missing and that's preventing me from truly being able to enjoy the story.
5.0 out of 5 stars "It was a flash, a slice of heartbeat. Bonnie and Cody were there. Lightning struck. Bonnie and Cody were gone.",
Allie Beckstrom is a troubleshooting practitioner of magic who lives in an alternate universe where magic exists. So when she gets a call from her old friend Mama Rossitto saying that somebody has put a death spell on her son Boy, Allie agrees to help. Now, Mama runs a restaurant in a magic free zone, and takes in street kids referring to all of them as "Boy". She wants Allie to track down the person who had put the spell on Boy and fix things. But, Mama seems to be reluctant to get anybody else involved. Why?
Although it is never made really clear, Allie's abilities are that she can use her olfactory senses to track down, and detect, magic and its practitioners, thus her nickname "The Hound". She tracks the origin of the spell back to her father, the powerful businessman and magician Daniel Beckstrom. Her father denies doing this, although Allie doesn't believe him, although soon afterwards somebody then uses a death spell to kill him. This time the death spell is traced right back to Allie. So, what's going on? And that's the core of this mystery-adventure. And as all good classic noir and hard boiled-mysteries go, Monk peoples her novel with some colorful types.
There is Mama herself, she's certainly a character, in the old pulp days she'd be the perfect old-world ethnic type, or there is Cody Hand (a. k. a.: Cody The Hand) a broken magician who can perfectly imitate any magician and their spells, and it is he who is behind the death spells, but his time of usefulness is over, and man behind the curtain now wants him dead, but Allie wants him alive. Again, he's another familiar type that is to be found in many crime novels, usually as the shady counterfeiter. And all good crime novels have to have a heavy, and Monk gives us one in the form of Bonnie Sherman, an old school chum, and another Hound, who has graduated to black magician and sociopathic gunsel who wants Allie dead in the worst way.
And lastly, then there's Zayvion Jones, tall, dark, and handsome, who, who's also the counterpoint male to Allie's female and he keeps popping up wherever Allie is. In a male oriented crime novel he probably would also have been the mysterious woman with a mysterious past.
There is an instant attraction between the two, but Monk makes the relationship a bit more complex and believable than those that are found in your average paranormal romance. However, Allie being Allie, she finds it hard to trust anybody, especially with her self-acknowledged poor judgment in men. In this novel, as in life, not all attractions will lead to a Harlequinesque hearts and haloes ending.
Allie is another in a long line of damaged, cynical, maladjusted pulp detectives. Long abused, magically and psychologically by her ruthlessly ambitious Dick Chenyesque father, she is still torn emotionally when he is murdered. To use magic is to be used by magic, and Allie, to quote a popular animé, has to pay into the law of equal exchange. Every act of magic that Allie performs, either minor or major, takes its toll on her, leading to extreme physical abuse, and to having large chunks of memory just BURNED from her memory. Monk also makes a statement on the whole no-man's-an-island proverb as Allie is not nearly as tough, or as competent she thinks she is, or as able to function as independently as she thinks she can, and pays the price when she overreaches herself. Again, this is another pulp standard. What she does have, like all good classic detective heroes, is a strong sense of right and wrong, a strong moral center, and a stubborn streak that won't allow her to quit. She's also quite likable as I liked Little Ms. Crankypants' droll, self-depreciating cynical wit.
This is a classic pulp detective novel, only freely using the long established urban fantasy genre to tell it. It all doesn't work, the lead villain will end up a disappointment, and Monk while tries to imitate the terse and economical style of the old hard-boiled, and is only (ONLY?) mostly successful, as the narrative will occasionally come across in a herky-jerky way. Still, writing a novel is different than writing a short story, where the character Allie Beckstrom originated, and Monk turns in a good first novel, and a good novel in the Allie Beckstrom series. This is the first novel in the projected nine books series of the Allieverse, and both the style of the novels and the character of Allie Becstrom will change considerably over the course of the years.
For those who are paying attention, Allie Beckstrom appeared in print about the same time as Margaret Ronald's character Genevieve "Evie" Scelan, who has a similar mode of operations, but is handled in completely different manner.
For this site I have reviewed the previous Allie Beckstom appearances:
'The Sweet Smell Of Cherries' a short story in the anthology Crime Spells.
2.) Magic in the Blood (Allie Beckstrom Novels) (Which is a sequel to 'The Sweet Smell Of Cherries'.)
3.) Magic in the Shadows (Allie Beckstrom)
4.) Magic on the Storm (Allie Beckstrom Novels)
5.) Magic at the Gate (Allie Beckstrom Novels)
4.0 out of 5 stars "Allie Beckstrom" series book 1,
Allie Beckstrom has justifiable reasons for her `daddy issues'; having lived under her father's magical Influence until breaking away from him. Now she'd rather (and does) live a pretty much hand to mouth existence working as a Hound; using her enhanced senses to track down magic users responsible for illegal magic. Allie has inherited her father's Influence, but she uses all her magic sparingly as it always comes at a cost. Sometimes the magic takes away memories, other times it makes her sick; no matter how small the spell there is always a price.
When Allie is asked to check on a young boy, she is angry and disgusted to learn he is the victim of an Offloading spell. Someone is working some powerful magic but unwilling to pay the price for it; instead channelling the cost of wielding it onto an innocent. Allie is definitely not the type of heroine to sit idly by and let this happen.
There is a small amount of romance, but this doesn't feature that heavily. Instead expect plenty of magic and suspense as Allie grits her teeth and faces the consequences of drawing on her magic to investigate what is going on and to protect herself when she is framed for murder.
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Magic to the Bone (An Allie Beckstrom Novel) by Devon Monk (Paperback - 13 Oct. 2011)