Jaye Wells brings a gritty side to Urban Fantasy in Dirty Magic, the first installment of the new Prospero Wars series. With a down and dirty attitude, Wells brings to life a world of an inner city cop who knows all too well what the other side of the tracks is like. Wells incorporates the humor and frustration of police work that is captured in many a tv show and pumps up the cool factor by making magic the drug of choice. Dirty Magic is a delightfully entertaining read full of quirky characters and a brash lack of censorship.
The Magical Enforcement Agency keeps dirty magic off the streets, but there’s a new blend out there that’s as deadly as it is elusive. When patrol cop Kate Prospero shoots the lead snitch in this crucial case, she’s brought in to explain herself. But the more she learns about the investigation, the more she realizes she must secure a spot on the MEA task force.
Especially when she discovers that their lead suspect is the man she walked away from ten years earlier – on the same day she swore she’d given up dirty magic for good. Kate Prospero’s about to learn the hard way that crossing a wizard will always get you burned, and that when it comes to magic, you should never say never.
Wells proves she’s no nonsense with the very first profanity-laden sentence of Dirty Magic. I loved that approach since it set a great tone for the book. Wells didn’t shy away from reflecting how people are – frustrated, hopeful, overdramatic, lustful and a host of other emotions. Instead she let her characters act like real people, not glossing over the craziness for a prettier package. This made me respect her as an author and made for a much more interesting read.
The characters in Dirty Magic are quite interesting. There is a mix of positively weird people along with amazingly attractive men. The least interesting character in my opinion was the protagonist Kate Prospero. While I didn’t utterly dislike her, I never found myself feeling sympathetic towards her. That being said, she seems like she has a good head on her shoulders when she’s not being so melodramatic. The contrast of thinking versus feeling that goes on in Kate’s head is quite interesting to read. I found her to be much like that friend you occasionally want to shake and say get over yourself but who still shows a lot of strength and talent for you to remain their friend. While many of the other characters fall into some stereotypes, I didn’t quite mind this because they are still well written and have their own twist. One of these stereotypes I was pleased to see turned a little was Drew Morales, the wise-cracking partner. Instantly attractive, Drew is funny and caring while still being a hard ass. One of my favorite lines is when he interacts with an informant who calls him a derogatory term for Mexican and Drew coolly replies he prefers the more accurate term for Puerto Rican. Drew feels familiar because his type of character is in the background of a lot of cop shows but I quite enjoyed how Wells made him front and center, a real contender as a potential romantic interest.
What makes Dirty Magic so different is how Wells intermingles the magic elements into her world. Even with characters, she introduces Baba, the old witch neighbor who interferes and the informant Little Man, a mature baby who is attached to his adult twin sister. Magic takes the part of drugs in the storyline. There is a big distinction towards Big Magic – or as is often implied Big Pharma and the dirty magic of the streets. Wells weaves her story in a way that begs the question if the two are really all that different and at several points in the story, they seem to be quite parallel. Another cool aspect is how Wells set up the hierarchy of magic and gangs. She places blood magic at the bottom, sex magic in the middle, and alchemy at the top. The magic as drugs theme doesn’t end there. One can find everything from diet potions to energy potions, both of which are quite addictive to the average person as is evident in the packed Arcane Anonymous meeting. The beauty of Wells’s storytelling is that we see these aspects through the eyes of the ensemble cast. Kate’s best friend Pen is a teacher who loses her student to a diet potion overdose which in turn sparks Just Say No to Magic talks at the younger brother’s school.
The overall investigation is quite predictable but the world and characters truly make up for it. I found myself looking forward to reading what wisecrack Drew would say and what reply Kate would shoot back at him. I quite like how romance takes a back seat and instead there’s a matter of fact attraction which Kate pushes aside to focus on what really matters. I zipped through Dirty Magic because of how entertaining it was and I can’t wait to read the next in the series. If you’re not normally a fan of Urban Fantasy, give it a try. You may just find yourself drawn in by Dirty Magic.