Series: A Charm of Magpies #1
Published by Samhain Publishing Genres: Fantasy, Gay
Reviewed by Cassie
A lord in danger. A magician in turmoil. A snowball in hell. Exiled to China for twenty years, Lucien Vaudrey never planned to return to England. But with the mysterious deaths of his father and brother, it seems the new Lord Crane has inherited an earldom. He’s also inherited his family’s enemies. He needs magical assistance, fast. He doesn’t expect it to turn up angry. Magician Stephen Day has good reason to hate Crane’s family. Unfortunately, it’s his job to deal with supernatural threats. Besides, the earl is unlike any aristocrat he’s ever met, with the tattoos, the attitude...and the way Crane seems determined to get him into bed. That’s definitely unusual. Soon Stephen is falling hard for the worst possible man, at the worst possible time. But Crane’s dangerous appeal isn’t the only thing rendering Stephen powerless. Evil pervades the house, a web of plots is closing round Crane, and if Stephen can’t find a way through it—they’re both going to die. Warning: Contains hot m/m sex between a deeply inappropriate earl and a very confused magician, dark plots in a magical version of Victorian England, family values (not the good kind), and a lot of swearing.
Lucien Vaudrey, Lord Crane, never intended to return to England. He was content in China, despite having been exiled there by his father. When he is forced to return to his family’s country home to deal with his inheritance of the earldom after the deaths of his father and brother, Crane finds out he’s inherited more than property and a title. Someone wants him dead, by means of dark magic.
When a magician has to be called in to deal with the problem, Stephen Day is the man they get. He has his own reasons for hating the Vaudreys, but his strong professional ethics force him to help solve Crane’s problem. While working to save Crane’s life, Stephen finds that the man is nothing like his father and brother. An attraction springs up between them.
Can Stephen get to the bottom of the magical riddle before dark magic destroys them both?
The Magpie Lord is a fascinating mix of history and magic that combines to form an intriguing fantasy world. Crane and Stephen live in what seems to be England in the 1800s. Everything in the story is normal and expected—except that magic is real. Magicians, shamans, witches, and warlocks exist, some working for good and some for their own gain. Curses cause real physical harm. Spells can influence people. That one small twist to reality is all it took to make the setting seem like a whole new world. KJ Charles did a very good job with the world-building, and with creating a menacing atmosphere at Crane’s ancestral home.
I also really liked the characters. Lucien Vaudrey is a rakish sort of man. He makes no apologies for his past, his business concerns (most of which were definitely not things noblemen ought to be involved in), or his attitude toward society in general. He’s also a good man who wants to do the right thing when he can and not be like his cruel, manipulative father and brother. Stephen Day is quite a contrast to Crane. He’s short, not of noble birth, and he makes his living helping others with magical problems. He’s a very honorable man with a very good reason to have a grudge against the Vaudreys, yet his sense of honor forces him to help Crane. Soon enough he realizes that he’s judged the man unfairly. He also realizes he’s drawn to the man.
Unfortunately for Crane and Stephen, their interest in each other has to take a backseat to solving the mystery of who wants Crane dead. This aspect of the story is not for the faint of heart, as the mystery is full of twists and turns, terrible family secrets, and horrifying confrontations. A few scenes were pretty gory and disturbing, which didn’t bother me but might bother some readers. Personally, I thought the creepiness of those scenes only added to the world Ms. Charles created. Crane and Stephen must travel, navigate the minefield that is English society, and face frightening truths in order to find the culprits. Anyone who’s looking for something new and different with a historical flavor should pick up The Magpie Lord. It’s a truly unique book, and I can’t wait for the next entry in the series.