Review: “Magic Without Mercy,” Devon Monk

Pros: Tight, tense plotting; interesting developments
Cons: I hope you can remember the previous books well…
Rating: 4 out of 5

Allison Beckstrom is trying to ‘cure’ magic–someone has poisoned it, and people are dying right and left. She isn’t entirely sure where to start, however, and to make matters worse, she’s being hunted. The Authority has been co-opted and wants her dead. The police believe she embezzled money from her father’s company; she’s being set up, but she doesn’t have time to clear her name. The poison is spreading incredibly quickly, and she’s relying on a dangerous madman to help her neutralize it. She can’t settle anywhere without her hunters catching up to her, however, and her friends have been placed in grave danger just by helping her.

 

Magic Without Mercy is Devon Monk’s eighth Allie Beckstrom novel. The plot and its background have gotten pretty complex, so I do not recommend jumping in at this point. I absolutely adore the world-building in these novels; the use of magic is original, fresh, and fascinating. So too is the fusion of magic and technology that plays a role in the plot.

Due to previous events, Allie’s response to magic has become quite unusual. The smell of it sickens her. The use of it flattens her. And now she sees magic all the time without the need to cast a Sight spell, even when it makes things more difficult for her. I love that Allie sees magic; it allows her to share the experience with the reader in a way that helps to keep magic fresh and interesting even after eight books. It also provides a flow of complex information to help keep the plot moving in new directions.

There are a couple of niggling things that bugged me. In the Beckstrom books magic always has a price. Death spells don’t tend to happen for the simple reason that a commensurate price must be paid: such a spell would kill the person who cast it. By casting a Disbursement spell the caster can at least choose the form most prices take, such as headaches, muscle aches, or fever. The problem is there’s a lot of heavy-duty magic flying around in this installment, and it sometimes seems like casters don’t pay an appropriate price. At least once this was even pointed out and yet subsequently ignored.

Allie is highly unusual as magic-users go. I think the ‘what is Allie’ train has been chugging along for too long without any stops. It’s been a couple of books without any hint about what’s going on there; this makes her magic-related disabilities start to feel like a plot device rather than an interesting plot.

I’m definitely still having fun with the Beckstrom novels and look forward to reading book nine, but I hope it has some movement in these areas.

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