While trapped in a stalled subway train on his morning commute, PR rep Byron Cole flirts with Levi, a young waiter with adorable curls. But Byron's hopes for romance crash and burn when Levi saves him from a brutal explosion—with outlawed magic.
When Levi is imprisoned, Byron begins to question everything he's ever believed. How can magic be evil when Levi used it to save dozens of lives? So Byron hatches a plan to save Levi that will cost him his job and probably his life. If he doesn't pull it off, Levi will be put to death.
Byron discovers that he isn't the only one questioning America's stance on magic. And he learns that Levi is stubborn, angry, and utterly enchanting. Time is running out, though. Byron must convince Levi to trust him, to trust his own magic, and to fight against the hatred that’s forced him to hide his true nature his entire life. The more Levi opens up, the harder Byron falls. And the more they have to lose.
This debut urban fantasy might have felt timely, given its depiction of successful resistance against a totalitarian alternate America driven by corporate greed and fear, but it's undermined by a plodding and entirely predictable plot, shallow and clunky worldbuilding, and stereotyped characterization. After attractive Levi Camden saves bystanders from a subway explosion with a spontaneous use of magic, he's blamed for the explosion, jailed, and subjected to torture. One of the people he saves is Byron Cole, a hapless PR guy and nephew of the CEO of the evil corporation that produces government-required CALM bands to suppress the magic of registered mages. Naturally, Byron has a change of heart. By using his connections to get Levi transferred to a friend's magical defense testing facility and connecting with the unregistered magical underground, Byron prepares Levi to destroy his uncle's new machinery, which is meant to drain mages' vitality in order to produce clean energy. There's not enough adrenaline in Brisby's story to justify the handwaving vagueness of the powerful magic system, and the romantic arc between Byron and Levi is a complete dud that feels awkwardly glued onto the political and fantastical core story.