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Black Magic Woman

Magical duels, New York City, and lawyers—An Unkindness of Magicians has it all.

Black Magic Woman

BOOK REPORT for An Unkindness of Magicians by Kat Howard

Cover Story: Holy Shizz
BFF Charm: Caution
Swoonworthy Scale: 4
Talky Talk: Knife-Edged
Bonus Factors: NYC, Magical Duels, Lawyers
Relationship Status: Champion


Cover Story: Holy Shizz

THIS COVER. I can’t stop staring at it. It is absolutely arresting—and it refers to part of the story, so what more can you ask for? I hope Kat Howard has a poster-sized version hung on her walls, because lord knows that’s what I’d do if I wrote a book with such a beautiful cover. I’d probably be carrying it around with me everywhere, and wearing clothes made exclusively from the cover art. “Hello, yes. Did you see this? This is my book cover. Behold.”

I love it, in case you couldn’t tell.

The Deal:

The Unseen World in New York City is one of magic and sacrifice, where dueling houses issue challenges to see who will rule over its practitioners. The families are rich, power-hungry, and occasionally, deeply corrupt. A Turning has begun, and the competition is cutthroat.

Sydney is an unHoused magician, who has been offered the job as champion to a candidate House. She is the strongest magician anyone has seen in decades, and will surely put the candidate House at the top—if the competition doesn’t kill her first. With her astounding power and talent comes a requisite sacrifice of physical pain…and that’s beside the fact that the higher tiers of the competition include magical duels to the death.

Sydney’s survival isn’t her main concern, though—she has a score to settle, and she’s not afraid to unravel the Unseen World in order to do it.

Like Roses and Rot, this is an adult book with YA appeal.

BFF Charm: Caution

Sydney might be hellbent on revenge, and there’s danger everywhere—but she’s a pretty good friend to people who treat her well. She’s got no problem meting out magical vigilante justice (which I like! I want to be a magical arbiter of fate!), nor one with killing her competition when the challenge requires it (maybe not so awesome if you’re battling her). Her powers make her a target for danger, and everyone knows that friends and lovers are used for leverage in scenarios like this. Although I found her endlessly fascinating, I’d approach friendship with extreme caution. I don’t have a death wish.

Swoonworthy Scale: 4

Like Kat Howard’s first book, there are some sexy bits and romance, but the main thrust (heh, I'm a grown-up) of the story here is focused on revenge. I liked the love interest, and he served a purpose, but let’s be honest: I love badass ladies more. 

Talky Talk: Knife-Edged

I love Kat Howard’s writing: it’s dark and lush with description, but also very precise. She uses a lot of knife and metal imagery in this book, on top of writing a protagonist whose very nature is polished, cool, and sharp-edged.

The sensual descriptions and dry humor that I loved about Roses and Rot are also present in Unkindness—this one comes with some interesting descriptions of magic. My favorite was her description of a spell being “brass-scented,” which sounds odd at first read, until you realize that you know exactly what that smells like. (At least, I do. My parents had a lot of brass stuff in the house when I was growing up. Maybe they’re weird.)

Bonus Factor: NYC

New York is already pretty magical—just add gorgeously-dressed, lethal magicians for a ridiculously fabulous setting.

Bonus Factor: Magical Duels

Magical duels can either be amazing or a letdown—there must be rules and consequences in place, or else it just reads like an author’s fever dream. Howard never fails to implement either, sometimes to gruesome effect. (YES, she cackles, rubbing her hands together gleefully.) It’s beautiful, but satisfying, and the danger lurking under the surface keeps the tension high.

Bonus Factor: Lawyers

This is a terrible thing to write about such an intense, gorgeous book, but I think the single thing that delighted me most about this book is that there are law firms that represent magicians. It makes so much sense, too—of course magicians are going to need lawyers for highly specialized wills and trusts and transactions and deeds! Now I’m going to be bitterly disappointed in any book that doesn’t include magic-adjacent lawyers. No one goes through even a presumptively mundane life without needing a lawyer at some point (says the former lawyer).

Relationship Status: Champion

Book, when your author described you to FYA as “Gossip Girl meets Swordspoint with magicians,” I knew we had to go out immediately. Our date was exactly the kind of Kat Howard magic I was expecting, and so much more. I’m not a one-book kind of gal, but I can offer you my services as champion—stay put looking dark and sexy while I go tell the world how good in bed (and on the couch, and at a bar—boy, did we get around) you are.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a free review copy from Saga Press. I received neither money nor a pet unicorn for writing this review, despite how hard I wished for one. An Unkindness of Magicians is available now.

Jennie's photo About the Author: Jennie Kendrick lives in San Francisco and has an excessive fondness of historical fiction, spreadsheets, turquoise sparkly things, and bourbon. When she's not reading, writing, or writing about reading, she cooks obsessively, runs an Etsy shop, and thrifts for vintage everything.