Book Review: An Unkindness of Magicians by Kat Howard ★★

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“Magic, at its heart, starts with sacrifice. You have to give up something to get something, and because magic is big, with all that it allows you access to, what you give up has to be big. It has to be meaningful.”

So ultimately, I am really disappointed in this book. I requested this one from my library and I have heard a lot of good things about it, so I was really excited when it finally came in and I could get my hands on it. I had heard people call this one “adult Harry Potter” and it was (originally) a stand-alone. All things I was very interested in! However, it just fell very flat for me in the end😕😕

This book is about a secret society of magicians living in modern-day New York City. When magic decides they need a new leader, there is something called the Turning, where all of the major magical houses duke it out for the power to control The Unseen (magical) World. We mainly follow a woman named Sydney, who is not from a particular house, but is going to stand as champion for another one and fight in the magical duels.

The problem, though, is that aside from Sydney, there are an abundance of other perspectives throughout the book. The author simply could not handle the amount of voices and perspectives she wanted to incorporate into the narrative. It was jumbled and messy, the transitions between voices were non-existent, and half the time, I had to go back and double check who was speaking because they all sounded the same and it was all very confusing. No one really stood out, so it was at once jarring, and monotonous to read. The characters themselves were extremely underdeveloped. We had a ton of names being thrown at us all at once, but hardly any of them actually had any impact on the story. All of them felt like cookie-cutter caricatures, too. Like not real people, but the stand-ins of certain archetypes the author wanted in her story. Very black and white, with no real nuance. None of the main characters were fleshed out or given enough page time to mean anything to the reader, which also made it difficult to understand their motives/drives or connect with them in any way. Because I felt zero connection to any of the characters, that then made the plot, their goals, and the stakes of the book in general mean nothing to me. I didn’t really care what happened, because I had no investment in the story or characters.

The book immediately drops the reader into the world, which is fine, normally I can quickly figure things out, but in this case, it seemed almost like an afterthought for the author to actually explain anything. She had all of these grand ideas that essentially resulted in nothing. It was like halfway through the book, she’d be like “oh yeah, here is what that means” or “oh shoot, that makes not sense, I better create some reason for that.” It was very strange. And I think that goes hand in hand with my biggest complaint regarding the book, which really encompasses everything else, that being that the story needed MUCH more time to develop. The author was trying to cram a complex and multifaceted plot into 350 pages. It just didn’t work. Nothing was developed properly. Backstories, character arcs, plotlines, world building, action, mysteries, history; it all needed much more work. The whole book read like a first draft outline to me, which a published novel should definitely not do.

It was so frustrating how little time was spent on seemingly important scenes. The author was too worried about switching to all of her persectives and letting everyone get a piece of the narrative, when she would have been better to pick a few key voices to focus on. This would have given more weight to the events of the novel, the mysteries she was trying to weave in, and the reveals at the end. Instead, we get hurried conversations throughout the book that are then very on-the-nose and give away all of the secrets before the reader even has time to wonder about them. And any sort of anticipation or suspense is dashed in no more than a page or two. Every magical duel that was supposed to be super intense and brutal and full of awe-inspiring feats of magic, was literally over in a few paragraphs. What??? That’s so boring! The author built them up every time to be so great and then it was like “The challenge begins. Sydney wins again. She leaves the room.” It was actually so annoying. Very poor writing! I don’t want a bunch of build up, every time there is supposed to be action, just to have the author brush it aside and tell us about it afterward. And it happened every single time. There was so much tension, too, about how the duels were about to become “mortal,” meaning that the magicians were allowed to kill each other, but someone had been dying every time anyway??? So what was the point of the suspense? By the time we got around to mortal duels, it made no flipping difference. Very frustrating.

And again, any ounce of mystery in the book was revealed way too quickly, problems were resolved too fast and with hardly any conflict whatsoever, characters were not nearly developed enough. Overall, it made for a pretty boring book, if I’m being honest. I just simply did not care about any of it. I was not invested. And it was entirely the fault of the writing and the way this story was presented to us. I did enjoy the relationship that developed between Ian and Sydney. I liked that she was so open and up front about just wanting to have sex with him, and he seemed very sweet about wanting more, but also giving her space. It was interesting and cute, but again, wildly underdeveloped. That’s kind of all I liked. Other than that gorgeous cover! The plot had potential, some of the characters had potential, but there was just no payoff in the end. Unfortunately, I think this book should remain a standalone. I will not be continuing with the sequel set to come out this year or next year.

This plot was like a ball of yarn all tangled up! I love yarn, but not when it comes to my books.

Thank y’all for reading!

Title: An Unkindness of Magicians (An Unkindness of Magicians #1)
Author: Kat Howard
Genre: Fantasy | Adult | Urban Fantasy | Fiction | Magic
Publication Date: September 26th, 2017
Page Count: 352
Buy It:  Book Depository Wordery

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