cover image An Unkindness of Magicians

An Unkindness of Magicians

Kat Howard. Saga, $25.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-4814-5119-2

Howard’s sophomore novel (after Roses and Rot) is zippy at the expense of character development. Sydney is a magician in an alternate modern-day New York who’s hired to represent House Beauchamps in the Turning, a magical competition that determines the hierarchy of houses in the magical community called the Unseen World. Magic isn’t an ability magicians have unlimited access to, but rather a resource that can be bottled and transferred from magician to magician. As a child, Sydney was a captive of the House of Shadows, who siphoned some of her magic to strengthen the abilities of other magicians, but she won her partial freedom after challenging the house. Now, with each magical duel she wins, her abilities grow and the reservoir of stolen magic shrinks. The houses in power plan to eliminate her if she survives the Turning. The plot is very rushed, and readers will find Sydney difficult to connect with; any obstacles or sources of tension are no match for her magic. The other characters treat events that should be devastating without prolonged concern, thus discouraging the reader from getting emotionally involved. When Howard slows down, both the characters and the Unseen World flourish in her gorgeous prose, but these moments are too few. (Sept.)