The Middling Affliction

Alex Shvartsman. Caezik SF & Fantasy, $16.99 trade paper (230p) ISBN 978-1-64710-054-4

With the fast-paced first Conradverse urban fantasy, Shvartsman (Eridani’s Crown) delivers a laugh-out-loud, snarky adventure, throwing out pop culture references and wry observations with dizzying frequency. As a member of the Watch, Conrad Brent helps keep Brooklyn safe from supernatural threats. But he has a dark secret: he’s a middling—a person capable of seeing magic, but not wielding it. The condition is considered anathema in the magical community, subject to persecution and even execution, and Conrad covers it up using an array of enchanted trinkets. After rescuing a fellow middling from captivity, Conrad stumbles into a sinister plot to rob gifted mages of their powers, turning them into middlings as well. And, when his secret is exposed by a rival, Conrad is expelled from the Watch and stripped of his trinkets, leaving him with just his wits to stop the plot and save the world as allies and foes alike turn on him. Shvartsman takes a kitchen sink approach to urban fantasy, packing enough plot into this volume to span a whole series. His supernatural New York City is vibrant and authentic, and Conrad fits right in with wisecracking fan favorite heroes like Harry Dresden and Simon Canderous. The result is a thoroughly satisfying romp. Agent: Joshua Bilmes, Jabberwocky Literary. (May)