Review: “Modern Sorcery,” Gary Jonas

Pros: Original and fascinating
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

In Gary Jonas’s Modern Sorcery (Jonathan Shade Book 1), wizard David killed his wife Kathy in a grocery store–in front of all sorts of people and security cameras–with a sword. Their daughter Naomi goes to Jonathan Shade to ask him to prove her father is innocent. She, too, is a wizard, and she believes magic of some sort held a role in causing her father to kill her mother. The case is complicated by Jonathan’s feelings for Naomi–he once asked her to marry him, and she said no. Wizardry is genetic, and since he isn’t a wizard, she worried that their children wouldn’t have any abilities. (And let’s face it, wizards consider normal people to be second-class citizens.) Jonathan is, however, mysteriously immune to magic, and due to a brief death can see and communicate with ghosts. He also has Kelly Chan, a Sekutar warrior (magically enhanced and incapable of feeling pain) as a stalwart ally, not to mention a ghost friend who tags along with him. He thinks it’s pretty cut-and-dried that Naomi’s father is guilty, but to keep Naomi around a little longer he agrees to look into the case. What he stumbles into is quite surprising–and very deadly.

I love the characters in here. Kelly has good reason not to trust Naomi, rather than just indulging in the rivals stereotype. And there are certainly examples of women getting along with each other in here. Jonathan is kind of a sap when it comes to Naomi, but he still has smarts and creativity, which is good. I also appreciate that not all of the women in Jonathan’s life are head-over-heels for him. Even the bad guy has a quirky, somewhat entertaining personality, and his own messed-up view of right and wrong. I think my favorite character is Kelly, who kicks serious ass and has a rather violent personality, but is a solid partner for Jonathan. I’d love to read the story of how the two of them ended up working together.

The tone is kind of quirky and darkly humorous. Several of the characters have smart mouths, which is fun.

The world-building is interesting, but somewhat amorphous. Jonathan is nailed down pretty well in terms of how his immunity to magic works and how he can see ghosts, but magic is ill-defined so far. People can throw bolts of force, or cause things to fly around. There are wards that can be set, and some people can heal others. Other than that, however, I don’t have much of a sense of how it really works. I’d like that to be a little clearer.

I may have to read more of this series. You know, after I make more of a dent in my current To Be Read list…

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