Arcane magic meets Cold War intrigue in this alternate history series opener from debut author Goodwater. Karen O’Neil is a researcher and magician whose sexist coworkers demean her for being a woman, while the public distrusts her for using magic. Her father, a veteran who saw firsthand how horribly magic was used in battle, is particularly scornful. Eager to prove herself, Karen leaps at a request from the State Department to investigate a growing breach in the Berlin Wall, which in this universe is an enormous construct of magical energy that divides the city and the world. Plots criss-cross and double-cross as Karen learns the truth of the Wall’s creation and the weapon it hides. Goodwater sprinkles powerful truths about the nature of power into this entertaining tale of magic and espionage. The novel’s ambitions get the better of it sometimes, with a few plot holes and underdeveloped characters as well as a startling absence of non-white people, but the well-constructed world and thrilling vibe more than make up for it. Agent: Jennifer Udden, Barry Goldblatt Literary. (Nov.)
Correction: An earlier version of this review misspelled the author's last name in one instance.