REVIEW: Magic on the Storm

Devon Monk
Magic on the Storm (Allie Beckstrom #4)
Zebra
ISBN-10: 0451463277
ISBN-13: 978-0451463272
Urban fantasy
May 4, 2010

From the author’s site:

“Magic stirred in me….I closed my eyes, wanting to lose myself to it. Wanting to use magic in every way I could. But that would be bad. I had enough magic inside me; I could burn down a city. And I didn’t want to do that….”

Allie Beckstrom knows better than most that when magic’s involved, you always pay. Whether the price is migraines, amnesia, or muscle aches, she is committed to her work as a Hound, tracing illegal spells back to their casters. But her job is about to get much more dangerous.

There’s a storm of apocalyptic force bearing down on Portland, and when it hits, all the magic in the area will turn unstable and destructive. To stop it from taking out the entire city, Allie and her lover, the mysterious Zayvion Jones, must work with the Authority–the enigmatic arbiters of all things magic–and make a stand against a magical wild storm that will obliterate all in its path.

*Book provided by the publisher.

*Possible spoilers for past books in series.

Reviews for books 1, 2 and 3.

This has been one of my most favorite urban fantasy series. Last year I had a small hiccup with book three, Magic in the Shadows, but after really giving the book as part of a series some good thought, I realized I didn’t want to give up on the series yet. I hadn’t planned on getting this installment to review, more that I’d planned to read it on my own time, but I was curious to see how those problems I had previously played out this time.

And may I say, those problems were indeed ironed to the point of oh my word, this book was awesome.

Allie is alternately easy and not so easy of an urban fantasy heroine to get along with. She’s had to grow up a lot since book one in the sense of taking on responsibilities she never wanted. Up through book three, Magic in the Shadows, she’s been rebelling against everything forced upon her (and at times I felt a frustrating kind of apathy from her). She’s still no pushover and does things her way, but this time it felt as if Allie has finally come to accept that there are some things she cannot escape. Some things she will have to face and maybe even sacrifice in order to make things right with magic. Because magic is coming for everyone this time, and even if Allie’s still the most inexperienced, yet most powerful, magic wielders, she’s right at the center of it all.

To recap a little, the series’ world is based on magic (a system I feel makes use of magic in one of the more creative ways for urban fantasy) that anyone can use. From the most normal house wife to a corporate mogul to gang members, anyone can manipulate magic in some form or fashion. It runs entire cities, like an alternate energy source that people have come to depend on heavily. It pools beneath communities in large wells.When a person uses magic, there is a price demanded from the user in some kind of physical form such as a fever, muscle aches, possibly something much worse depending on the level and amount of magic used. The person performing the magic can take on the punishment or they can hire a proxy to take the pain for them.

Allie lives in Portland, Oregon, and is the daughter of Daniel Beckstrom, inventor of special “lightning rods” that attract the magic that sometimes rides on storms, channeling the dangers of that away from buildings, down special conduits and into these wells beneath the city. These wells are where people draw power from. Allie herself is what’s called a Hound. She detects the spells used in crime scenes, scenting out what people have done, where they’ve gone, etc. She aids Detective Stotts a lot in magical investigations.

As the books have progressed, we’ve learned more and more about the world and people populating the series. That magic is far more complicated than the average citizen knows. That it’s darker secrets are known primarily by a secret society called the Authority. Allie meets one of their members early on in the series, Zayvion Jones, and he’s been a tantalizing love interest from book one. We’ve also come to know his secrets degree by barest degree throughout the series, and we’re not done yet after this book.

Allie has plenty of skeletons in her closet, and being our first point-of-view heroine, we get to learn them all as the series progresses. She has plenty of problems with her father, who is now deceased, and because of this, an even more interesting dilemma to do with him. Things aren’t right within the Authority, and it’s clear in this book that its members are busting at the seems, Allie able to read their restless and tell-tale body language for what it is.

These books are heavy on the plots, both individual book ones as well as the always excellently developing series arc. Where I’ve always hoped to see more development was in the characters. This book has answered those prayers. Magic on the Storm delves much deeper into the relationship between Allie and Zay, as well as her growing friendships between some of the other Authority members and that of her newest duties, acting as den mother to a group of other Hounds. This was a duty she took on as a favor to another well-respected Hound in a prior book.

Allie herself, as a result, feels much more human to me, easier to sympathize with and definitely easier to support when she doesn’t want to do what seems to be the right thing at the right time. She’s just as stubborn, but she seems to have come to a better understanding of what is happening, making decisions that had me applauding her as opposed to shaking my head. She gets hurt a lot in these books, but this time I never felt it was unnecessary. She does what she has to do, to protect those she loves.

I loved the tenderness and genuine caring that comes more into play this time between her and Zay. It helps a lot that we are learning more about him, meaning most importantly that he opens up more to Allie. If I didn’t already love him for the personal level of caring he brings to Allie, this book would surely have sealed that deal.

Lending in an air of ribald comedy and comradeship to their small circle of friends is Shamus, who we meet in the previous book. He’s the son of one of the more influential members of the Authority and he’s Zay’s best friend, albeit one that severely tests the limits of that friendship. Shame’s like the kid brother you just can’t shake, and whom you never, ever want to underestimate. I was glad to see him having a bigger role this time. At times I was unsure of where he stood, and I found I enjoyed the added depths that a little moral ambiguity gave him.

We get a great advancement of the series arc this time and things do end on somewhat of a cliffhanger, but it’s the kind I don’t mind because a) there was a genuine sense of hope and confidence from Allie that I loved and b) there is a pretty decent excerpt for the next book, Magic at the Gate (November 2010), following it immediately. Before that, though, points that have been steadily building finally come to a head in this installment and I feel the author’s done a great job of guiding readers to this point in the books.

The author’s writing style has always appealed to me. Yes, Allie is another smart-mouthed, sarcastic urban fantasy heroine. I love those if done well and I think Monk composes Allie very well in this regard. Combined with the often highly entertaining dialogue Allie has with anyone at any given time, she often comes out as the only one with a sense of humor in an increasingly dark storyline, giving the whole experience a much-needed lightening up sometimes. Combine that wit of hers with Shamus’ though, and the humor can get downright incendiary. The toll it takes on Zay is pretty hilarious and when he and Shamus scuffle like two brothers, I love it every time.

There have been some parts of the author’s style that haven’t appealed, and this was a tendency to repeat certain details much too often. I remember in book three, there was a particular facet of Zay’s character that Allie repeatedly relays at least five or six times…in less than the same amount of paragraphs. This aspect of the book was so distracting that it’s part of what made book three so frustrating for me.

This time, I’m happy to say that the writing period was much more tight. No constant repeating of details too closely together. Yes, some things were repeated, but if it’s once at the beginning of the book, once towards the end, that’s just good writing. It doesn’t hurt to repeat certain details so that readers are aided in remembering certain things, we just don’t need that prompting several times in one chapter. Magic on the Storm is much more tightly written. It was very hard to give in to sleep, but it was all so good that I still managed to read it in less than 24 hours.

I admit that after book three I was a little worried about my continued interest in one of my most favorite urban fantasy series. Magic on the Storm has wiped away all those fears, though, cementing the books yet again in my mind as first-rate urban fantasy entertainment. While things get pretty heavy and even sad at crucial points in this installment, I felt left with a keen sense of confidence and her own kind of authority in Allie, and I cannot wait to see how she fulfills the promise she makes at the end of this book.

If you haven’t read the series yet, I’m betting you can read this one and still know pretty much what’s going on (readers, we’re pretty intelligent), but there have been a lot of major series points building in each book that you will likely be glad for having read first hand. So I do recommend reading the series in order.

Rating: Five Scoops

Series Order:

  • Magic to the Bone
  • Magic in the Blood
  • Magic in the Shadows
  • Magic on the Storm
  • Magic at the Gate (November 2010)
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5 comments

  1. Thanks, KC. I wanted to say a lot more lol, but tried not to do spoiler for this particular book. This really has been one of my fave UF series. Really stands out for me on the UF shelves. ;) Hope you enjoy the books!

    Janicu, same to you – I hope you like the books if you try them. :)

  2. Yes, Allie is another smart-mouthed, sarcastic urban fantasy heroine.

    Normally I steer clear of such heroines as I can’t relate to them at all, but your review (and the five scoops) have me tempted to give Magic to the Bone a read :) So, thank you.

    Oh, and I’ve just discovered an amazing new fantasy author that I just have to jump on soapbox and rave about – Carol Berg. I’ve just finished reading Flesh & Spirit and have delved into the sequel – Breath & Bone. Lots of plot, but plenty of character development (which is important to me :) and these characters are varying shades of grey. And no one is what they seem. /soapbox rant *grin*

  3. Sounds rather interesting! Never heard of this, but I love high magic settings and it’s rarely seen in urban fantasy…Plus I love Portland too, so hey. Definitely gonna check this out!

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