Published by Roc
Allie Beckstrom, the protagonist of Devon Monk’s debut novel Magic to the Bone, is a Hound. In Monk’s world, Hounds are magical trackers, people employed to find the source of spells of the illegal or damaging kind. When she is hired to find the source of a spell that has seriously wounded an innocent young boy, Allie traces the spell back to her father Daniel Beckstrom. Of course complications surround Allie; her father is one of the most prominent businessmen in Portland (the novel’s setting) and in the country: he’s something like Donald Trump except his money was made disseminating magic technology rather than real estate. To say that Allie’s relationship with her father is strained is an understatement – despite his wealth, Allie scorns his assistance and seeks a life free of him and his influence.
In investigating her father’s ties to the wounded boy, Allie herself is followed by a mysterious yet attractive man by the name of Zayvion Jones who was hired by Allie’s father to keep tabs on her. It isn’t too far into the novel when Allie’s father is found dead with all traces of magic leading back to Allie. So, Allie’s on the run from shadowy people, she tries to cope with unresolved daddy issues, and falls for the mysterious Zayvion.
We are firmly in Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance (at least as the genre label is known and used today) territory here: mystery, romance, and magic cobbled together in what amounts to a solid page turner. The novel is told in the first person through Allie’s engaging voice, but as the novel marches along, it becomes evident that Allie just might be an Unreliable Narrator. The tag line on the back of the novel indicates, “magic has a price” and in this case, for every spell Allie casts, part of her memory dissolves. Although she carries around a pen and pad to help keep her personal facts straight, when events are chaotic (for the most part the whole novel, but if they weren’t chaotic the novel wouldn’t exist J), she doesn’t have the chance to record events as they happen. Monk has created an interesting, flawed protagonist who, for the most part, comes across as genuine and sympathetic.
The other primary character, and romantic interest, is Zayvion Jones. He’s the mysterious, brooding, strong, and attractive type. I found his name to be a bit of a stumbling block and was perhaps a bit of brow-beating to the reader to say: “Look at me, I’m mysterious and enigmatic.” However, Monk’s ability to keep him in the shadows did make him intriguing. The romance between Jones and Beckstrom did tiptoe over the believability line in some instances. Throughout the novel, Beckstrom’s past romances are hinted at as disasters of miscalculated trust. It came as little surprise to me that despite all the shadowy events surrounding Zayvion’s past, his association with her father, and caution from her best friend about Zayvion, that Allie still gave into her urges and fell for him.
The main problem I had with the novel was the predictable nature of Allie’s relationship with Zayvion and the consequences of her romance with him. However, Monk has left enough of Zayvion’s past and his motivations in the shadows that something more plausible could be developed down the line between Allie and Zayvion. One other thing felt a little strange about this book, and it isn’t a bad thing: throughout the novel I got the sense that this wasn’t the first book in a series. Allie has a substantial backstory that remains to be told (or felt as if it was told in previous volumes) and I jumped in midstream with Magic to the Bone. The supporting characters (Allie’s best friend; Allie’s most recent step-mother; and rival Hound named Bonnie), the realistically evoked setting of Portland, and rapid pacing help to make Magic to the Bone an enjoyable novel and one I suspect is doing well and will do well with readers of Urban Fantasy. There’s potential here for more and Monk’s got a sequel (Magic in the Blood) coming out in May.
© 2009 Rob H. Bedford