In Lee Kelly’s “electric” (Publishers Weekly) fantasy novel, two young sorcerers experiment with magic and mobsters in 1920s Prohibition when a new elixir is created that turns their lives upside down.
Washington, DC, 1926. Sorcery opponents have succeeded in passing the 18th Amendment, but the Prohibition of magic has only invigorated the city’s underworld. Smuggling rings carry magic contraband in from the coast. Sorcerers cast illusions to aid mobsters’ crime sprees. Gangs have even established “magic havens,” secret venues where the public can lose themselves in immersive magic and consume a mind-bending, highly addictive elixir known as “the sorcerer’s shine.”
Joan Kendrick, a young sorcerer from the backwoods of Norfolk County, accepts an offer to work for DC’s most notorious crime syndicate, The Shaw Gang, when her family’s home is repossessed. Alex Danfrey, first-year Federal Prohibition Unit trainee with a complicated past and talents of his own, becomes tapped to go undercover and infiltrate the Shaws. When Joan meets Alex at the Shaws’ magic haven, she discovers a confidante in her fellow partner and he begins to fall under her spell. But when a new breed of the addictive sorcerer’s shine is created within the walls of the magic haven, Joan and Alex are forced to question their allegiances as they become pitted against one another in a dangerous, heady game of cat-and-mouse.
In Kelly's nuanced tale of an alternate 1920s America, Prohibition outlaws magic, and "shine" is a potent and addictive spell-made drink that only lasts for one day after its creation. Joan Kendrick is so desperate to save her family that she hitches her magic to a rising star of the black market, gangster Harrison Gunn. Alex Danfrey is looking for redemption and revenge, so he becomes a federal spy in the Shaw Gang, which includes Gunn and Joan. When Joan creates a spell that can preserve shine eternally, a discovery that will rock the world, Alex has to decide whether to bring down the Shaws or rescue Joan and her family. Kelly excels at contrasts in her characters: the innocent who is increasingly willing to submit to darkness to protect her loved ones, the not-so-innocent climbing back from darkness through good acts, and their inevitable clash despite the bond between them. The dark underbelly of Washington, D.C., in Kelly's arcane Jazz Age is the perfect shadowy setting for two young characters who think they are nobodies, but upon whom history will turn. This urban fantasy, always electric, reads like jazz itself.