Monday, February 25, 2013

Early Review: Trickster (Ustari Cycle #1) by Jeff Somers

Release Date: February 26, 2013
Published by: Pocket Books
Source: ARC provided by Edelweiss

Praised by the Guardian for stories that are “exhilarating . . . powerful and entertaining,” Jeff Somers returns with a darkly original urban fantasy series featuring a cadre of mages operating just under the radar of human society. 

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.

Somers' urban fantasy debut is dark, gritty and suspenseful. The world he has created is filled with dirty magic fueled by blood. Those who can wield this magic, whether they're lowly Tricksters or high Archmages, all use it for their own selfish needs, caring little about the lives that are affected.

Lem is a Trickster who uses his magic for simple cons. He can make one dollar bills appear to be twenties or charm people into becoming more agreeable. But Lem refuses to use other people's blood to gas up his spells, so he was left unable to continue his magical training. As a result, he never reached the full potential of his abilities.

Despite the talents that Lem possesses, he is poor and filthy and drifting from one place to another with nowhere to call home. But he isn't drifting alone. With him is Pitr Mageshkumar, better known as Mags. Lem often describes him as if he's a pet. He's loyal, friendly, and lacking in intelligence. He's also easily amused, easily distracted, and often quick to forget things. But he's all Lem has and he knows Mags would do anything for him without question.

Somers has taken these two very unlikely heroes with essentially nothing positive going for them and manages to write them in a way that has you rooting for them until the very end. Not because defeating the bad guys is the right thing to do and not because they need to save the girl, but because you genuinely like them and would be crushed if they didn't both make it through to the end.

Many of the details of the mystery are revealed fairly quickly and it isn't exactly shocking as much as it is disturbing. But what made this story line so thrilling and intense wasn't the actual mystery of the girls covered in magical glyphs. It was the question of how one lowly Trickster, who couldn't even follow through with his training, could possibly best one of the most feared Archmages alive.

The true bad guys (not just the characters with sticky fingers and loose morals) are as equally well-crafted as our heroes. One is suave, cunning, handsome and wears impeccable suits and a slick smile. The other is ancient and decrepit, practically a mummy, but more terrifying and deadly despite the frail appearance.

By the time the final showdown arrives and Lem's commitment and abilities are put to the test, I was on the edge of my seat and flying through the pages as fast as I could. I knew Lem would make it to the end, but I was desperate to know how many casualties there would be and what magic trick Lem would have to pull off in order to save the day.

Somers has a real talent for world building and crafting unique and colorful characters. For fans of dark urban fantasy and unconventional heroes, Trickster is a must read.


Braine TS said...

Ill take your recommendation.

Melliane said...

I liked this one but I confess I wasn't as thrilled as I thought at first. I'll have to read book 2 to see how it is.

Addicted2Heroines said...

Braine - Great! =) Let me know what you think once you've read it.

Melliane - I read your review. Hopefully you'll enjoy the next one more.

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