An Unkindness of Magicians

People always talk like winter is the time to stay in and read, perhaps next to a crackling fire while sipping mulled wind. Which is nice and all, but to me summer is prime reading season. When it’s too hot to go anywhere or do anything, obviously you should just give up and grab a book. And maybe a beer.

Summer reading seems off to a lukewarm start with An Unkindness of Magicians by Kat Howard. It has a fun premise: the Unseen World (ie rich, snobby magicians in New York) are having a ritual tournament of magical duels to the death and Sydney shows up out of nowhere and beats all their smug champions. Take that, corrupt establishment!

But also there’s a serial killer, and a girl whose friend was murdered, and sometimes magic isn’t working right anymore, and this guy got disinherited and there are some lawyers, and secret relatives, and it just seems like too much going on and the book plays all its cards too quickly. We breeze through most of the duels, because Sydney’s just too good for most of them to be suspenseful. The villains and their villainy are too obvious too early on. When Harper proves who the killer is, it’s not exciting because we already saw him kill someone a few pages ago.

I feel like any one of the sub-plots could be an interesting story on its own. I would totally read a book about magicians’ lawyers and their wacky clients. Or a murder mystery about a magical serial killer. But they didn’t get enough space here for me to get really invested in them or warm up to all the characters, so they mostly just seem distracting.

Maybe this should have been a series instead?

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