Author: Jeff Somers
Release Date: February 26, 2013
Publisher: Pocket Books
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Series? Ustari Cycle #1
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Adult
Page Count: 384
Magic uses blood—a lot of it. The more that’s used, the more powerful the effect, so mages find “volunteers” to fuel their spells. Lem, however, is different. Long ago he set up a rule that lets him sleep at night: never use anyone’s blood but your own. He’s grifting through life as a Trickster, performing only small Glamours like turning one-dollar bills into twenties. He and his sidekick, Mags, aren’t doing well, but they’re getting by.
That is, until they find young Claire Mannice— bound and gagged, imprisoned in a car’s trunk, and covered with invisible rune tattoos. Lem turns to his estranged mentor for help, but what they’ve uncovered is more terrifying than anybody could have imagined. Mika Renar, the most dangerous Archmage in the world, is preparing to use an ocean of blood to cast her dreams into reality— and Lem just got in her way. (summary from goodreads)
Lem and Mags are not your usual all powerful, masters of the universe type of magicians. They’re Tricksters, grifters, the lowest of the low. They scrape by, gasing up dollar bills to look like twenties, and spending those twenties on booze and cheap hotel rooms. In the world Jeff Somers created, blood is the currency for magic, and unlike others, Lem made a vow to use only his own blood.
“We were fucking incompetent. In all things, we’d failed. We were wallowing in a nice, comfy pit of fucking spectacular failure, deep black and hermetically sealed, me and Mags bound together forever and ever with deep fishhooked ties of ruin (p. 4, ARC).”
I can’t think of many characters that would willingly describe themselves like that! I’d also describe Lem as an anti-hero. As he says throughout the book, Tricksters aren’t good people. “We all preyed on regular people, people who didn’t believe in magic (p. 20, ARC).” But Lem does have one rule: he refuses to use the blood of others to power his spells, which makes him weak, but also lets him sleep at night. Most mages have no trouble bleeding others, and the most powerful ones take Bleeders with them everywhere, like living batteries.
The most powerful mage in the world, Mika Renar, is prepared to sacrifice thousands of women to power a spell. And that’s where Lem and Mags come in. After stumbling over a dead girl in a bathtub, and then finding a live girl in the trunk of a car, they get mixed up in Renar’s business. Notice I didn’t say rescue — Claire, the girl in the car, is a spitfire. Whenever she gets a chance, she’s on the run or beating someone up. She’s not a damsel in distress that waits for the prince to rescue her, which is good, because Lem and Mags aren’t princes, or even very good magicians.
TRICKSTER is a dark and gritty urban fantasy. I think guys will like it, as the main characters are male, and it read like a guy’s book to me. I can’t pinpoint exactly why I’m saying that, because I can’t say for sure what a guy would like or not, but I just had that feeling. I didn’t mind, though, because it was quite nice to have a supernatural book where romance wasn’t the focus!
The world of TRICKSTER is easy to understand, and I thought the concept of blood magic was neat. I like when there’s a cost for magic, and with blood magic, that cost is immediate and has consequences. If you use so much blood that you’re ready to faint, what are you going to do when another fight comes hard on hard on the heels of the first?
The ending did disappoint me, because after all the buildup, I expected … more. However, the author did capture my attention with the story and conflict, so I will be continuing the Ustari Cycle when the next book comes out.
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