Contemporary fantasy meets true crime when schools of ancient sorcery go up against the art of the long con in this stunningly entertaining debut fantasy novel.
Mike Wood is satisfied just being a guy with broad shoulders at a decidedly unprestigious Catholic school in Manhattan. But on the dirty streets of New York City he’s an everyman with a moral code who is unafraid of violence. And when Mike is unwittingly recruited into a secret cell of magicians by a fellow student, Mike’s role as a steadfast soldier begins. These magicians don’t use ritualized rote to work their magic, they use willpower in their clandestine war with the establishment: The Assholes.
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.