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A Minor Magic
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"A MINOR MAGIC is an enjoyable and frequently nail-biting tale of survival ideal for both teens and adults. Skylar's journey of self-discovery is played out in a world ravaged by magic, a post-apocalyptic setting that is as all-encompassing as the ashy remains the catastrophe has left behind. With compelling characters and solid world-building, A MINOR MAGIC is a great book for this new author."
-- Jana Oliver, author of the DEMON TRAPPER series
"Justin Macumber knows how to master both action and character. His writing takes you to places you'll want to go!"
-- Philippa Ballantine, author of WRAYTH, HUNTER AND FOX, and co-author of MINISTRY OF PECULIAR OCCURANCES --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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I read (and reviewed) a previous book of Macumber's, Still Water, and let me say first off, that Minor Magic and Still Water are like night and day, in terms of technical execution. This book is tight, well edited and the unintentionally humorous descriptions are gone. Plot and characters are a bit harder to compare because the two books are different genres and were written for different reasons.
I'm surprised this book only has one previous review. Still Water had a lot, and this is (still) a pretty popular genre. It's not a reflection on the quality of the writing, so don't be dissuaded by that.
Like the title of my review says, I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I'm an adult but I guarantee most adults will admit to having read YA, that's the beauty of writing for it, because it's appeal reaches further than it's target market.
The plot centers around a magical 'war' of sorts between our world and what's essentially an extra-dimensional reflection of our world. For most of the book, we're centered in the south (Tennessee, Louisianna region), in an America covered in ash and destruction from a cataclysm ten years prior. Our protagonist, Skylar, finds that she is connected to the cataclysm, and after meeting a stable of new friends, sets out on an adventure across the devastated southern US to find the answers, going from an eerily preserved medical center, to a downtown New Orleans that is stuck in a rift between our world and the next, and then finally to that other world. It's ambitious, for sure.
Some elements of the story reminded me a little of post-apoc survivor fare like Walking Dead, or The Road. Skylar, in the beginning, must scavenge for resources, shelter, and purpose. After she discovers her magic, the survivalism takes a little bit of a backseat. She is not necessarily a God now, but it's not quite as scary thinking about running into a hulking, lust-crazed biker or survivor in a run-down gas station, as Skylar could (in theory) easily resolve the situation with just a bit of concentration. After meeting up with her first companion, she's captured by a zealot group who thinks she is a demon. She is rescued from the group by a band of travelers who seem to know more about her magic than she does, and it provides an excellent place for exposition. Soon after, they're on the move again, now for Louisianna in search of answers.
I will admit, again, this book took me by surprise. For a YA, there's no rebellion against a government of mean-old-grownups (thank goodness), there's no unlikeable, fish-faced protagonist (Skylar is far more likeable than say, a Katniss or a Triss), and there are some adult issues dealt with (rape seems to be prevalant at least in the beginning but I'll elaborate further in a moment.) The plot is simple but the theme is clear: Finding out who you are, your place in the world.
Like I said, It is well-edited, tight, and I found only one or two errors. Same quality level as a 'professionally' published book. A few of the descriptions could have had a bit more punch, and Macumber seems to compare a lot of things to chips of ice. Maybe it was summer in Texas when he wrote Minor Magic. The kindle version is formatted well and there was only a stray orphan here or there.
This was the reason I didn't give the book five stars. Skylar is more likeable than most YA protags. But I didn't see much in her I haven't seen in a lot of places. She has some flaws, like a short temper, that come up now and then, but nothing that would hurt her friends or create conflict in the story or dichotomy in her character. At most, she seems unsure about using her new magic but to be honest, I think anyone would be. I fall in love with characters because of their flaws, and I couldn't fall in love with Skylar, or any of her friends. Hopefully we get into Skylar's less impressive side in Broken Magic. This is NOT to say she's a Mary Sue. Just, still a bit too sugary for my taste. Also, the villain for this story is a little too...mustache-twirlie, Evil-is-delicious over the top for me, but again it IS a YA. At least it's not a 'grown-up who doesn't GET US, man'
A few more things I liked / thought could be improved that maybe didn't fit into a category:
- Doesn't go where you expect. I consider myself fairly smart and at two separate points this book surprised the crap out of me.
- Nice little slice of creepy. The medical center. Macumber was definitely channeling King that day.
- Genre mixing. Played with a bit, with the Fantasy / Post-Apoc Survivor mixture, at least in the beginning. Hopefully Broken Magic features more of it.
- Skylar is a redhead! Why specifically I like this is because she's an actual character and not a sex object. We need more 'realistic' female redhead characters in fiction.
COULD BE IMPROVED:
- I thought this book was going to end a bit before it actually did. There's a big climactic build up to a fight, then the fight takes place (which feels like a mini LOTR set piece) and then it keeps going to another conflict which feels somewhat less important now. I really thought it was going to end there and the next book would take up where it left off. Maybe not necessarily a bad thing, and not worth losing a star over, I was just tripped up a bit.
- The story could've opened with a more exciting scene. And I say this now, having already read the first chapter of Broken Magic. Broken Magic opens with a description of the Burning. That's how this story should have opened, then we could've flashed forward to Skylar barbecuing the dog. In my mind, that would've been the strongest possible opening, plus we might have gotten introduced to Skylar's mom. She sounded cool. I wanted to meet her.
Overall, a good read (especially for a couple bucks for the kindle edition). A great way to spend a day or two reading, and certainly a unique, refreshing take on YA. I'm sure Macumber's niece was pleased. I know I'm looking forward to getting in to my copy of Broken Magic.
SYNOPSIS: 15 years after the Burning washed across the Earth and destroyed most of humanity, mankind clings to life by its collective fingernails. Young Skylar discovers she is "different" from those around her and is banished from home for her magical abilities. Unable to either explain nor control her new found abilities, she wanders the wasteland. During the perilous journey she taps further abilities of her magic and ends up on the wrong side of a witch hunt. She gains allies including a stranger from another plane who holds the secret to her gift. A rebellion spans multiple worlds and Skylar finds herself in the middle; torn between her legacy, romantic interest and self-preservation. Hard choices and danger await, no matter what decisions she makes.
I found this to be a very enjoyable read. Fast-paced, with a surprising amount of humor injected throughout, Macumber creates a very detailed yet free-flowing world with remarkably consistent "rules". Lives are lost, enemies are vanquished and every decision has an external as well as internal conundrum which I enjoyed and appreciated.
The action was strong as was the pace. There were a few times where the narrative bordered on exposition, but the author seemed to "pull up" at the last minute before it degraded into an "As You Know, Bob" moment.
What impressed me most about the work is the exceedingly fine details of world-building the author has engaged in, without succumbing to the temptation of showing "his full hand" to the reader. I strongly suspect that there a great many more secrets of the setting which Macumber wisely keeps up his sleeve, waiting for the right opportunity to play.
Very fun book to read.
The earth is in ruins. A battle in another dimension has torn through the veils that separate the dimensions. Now there are parts of the other world encroaching on earth. The start of the encroachment killed billions and caused ecological disasters.
Fifteen year old Skyler is living on a farm with an older couple when she suddenly discovers she has inherent magical abilities. The couple she is living with believes it is from the devil and forces her to leave. Having never been on her own, she stumbles around getting into major trouble within hours of leaving the farm. There are people looking for her because she has the ability to heal both worlds. She is fortunate to run into some of these people and they help her. She starts practicing with her magic, slowly getting better at controlling it. Soon she meets a sorceress from the other world and then takes a trip to the other world. Because of time differences on the two worlds, she meets her many times great-grandfather and helps him regain control of his kingdom.
A fascinating story that cleverly blends two worlds. Well written with characters are interesting. The story is engrossing, especially if you like fantasy with magic. Justin Macumber is an imaginative, talented story teller.