Mike Wood is a teenager at a decidedly unprestigious Catholic school in Manhattan, accustomed to solving problems using brawn rather than brains.
One day, his nerdy classmate Hob Callahan persuades him to read a mysterious old book of unknown authorship, The Calendar of Slights. On the face of things, the book is a guide to performing clever card tricks; but in fact, it is a test for recruiting new members to join a secret cell of radical magicians.
Amazingly, Mike passes with flying colours unlocking not only his potential magic powers - but also the door to New York City's vast and hidden underground network of warlocks, sorcerers and mages.
Here, with Hob as his unlikely guide, Mike's role as a steadfast soldier begins. For there is a war being waged. A war between rivaling factions of magicians that has spanned the ages. A clandestine war against the establishment: a war against The A******s.
Munson's second novel (after The November Criminals) is an underwhelming mess, with a well-worn plot served poorly by its muddled narrative voice. Adolescent Michael Wood is a loner, fighting whenever he needs to defend himself and otherwise living an unengaged life at his Catholic school in Manhattan. After Michael finishes beating up a student who made fun of his name, a quiet fellow named Hob gives him a mysterious book called The Calendar of Sleights. It's ostensibly a book of tricks, but Michael finds that the opaque prose offers him strange powers and access to a secret society. There's little that's new in the concept, and little that's compelling about the characters and writing. Michael's narrative voice consists of short sentences and fragments ("The air smelling of oranges. Some herb. Bookshelves lined the walls. English titles, German titles, French. Other tongues.") that lack the necessary wit, and the complex and muddling secret war plot simply never excites.