I have a read a bunch of urban fantasy books in my years, but this one is definitely one of the more unique takes on the concept. I didn’t know what to expect with this but I had a good time with it. A young woman named Jen, who’s a game developer, gets a strange email about a game she’s never played before. It kind of feels like geocaching mixed with low level grinding levels of games like WoW. She was asked to pick up random ingredients from all over the city and deliver them to different parts of the city and gets small rewards for doing so. While playing the game, she meets a young girl named Polly who mocks her for being a noob, but Jen still manages to beat the girl at a game and in return, she asks for answers to some of her questions about the questing game she’s been playing. What she was shown and told blows her mind. Magic is real, this young girl can perform it, and that the game she’s been playing (collecting all these ingredients) are actually ingredients to magic potions and the like for other higher level players.
While trying to make sense of this new and mind melting information, she accepts a weird quest that requires apples and a pie to be baked. She does this while her long distance boyfriend is visiting, and as it turns out, they’re magic apples and she can now hear the inner thoughts of anyone who has eaten the pie. Including this woman who she later teams up with, a woman named Beatrice. Things REALLY take off from here, Beatrice is a high level player and magic user who has been around for a long time. She basically strong arms Jen into being an assistant and helping her with higher level quests. One of those quests turns out to be a set up for something much bigger than themselves and things get very complicated very quickly.
I was able to sink into the story fairly quickly, the bulk of the story is from Jen’s perspective but there are interlude chapters where you get to see Beatrice’s past assistants – I really did not like Doug from beginning to end (you’re not really supposed to like him). His chapters were thankfully pretty short. Since it’s set in our modern world without much deviation I didn’t have to spend much time trying to ‘get to know the world’ like I do in high fantasies so I was able to move quickly through the beginning chapters without much lag time to get my footing.
As far as drawbacks, there’s a bit of info dumping around the topic of magic. There were a couple too-coincidental things that happened, like meeting the father of Polly ‘by chance’. It’s a big city, the likelihood of that happening is very low. I know it’s a fantasy book but things like that dig at me a little. The biggest thing that really got under my skin though was Jen’s long distance relationship. I didn’t like the guy from the start, I didn’t understand the relationship dynamics. The guy lives in Hong Kong and they rarely see each other, I didn’t understand why he proposed or why they were together at all. I’m also not a romance person so take that as you will.
I did think the magic system was pretty neat. Magic isn’t something you’re born with, magic is something that’s a part of the earth and runs through the earth like a river. It can be a part of anything, anyone can use it, and yet most of the world doesn’t know it exists. In this world, the pioneers didn’t come to America for religious freedom, they were trying to find a new source of magic. Kind of like oil or fresh water, magic in this world is a consumable resource, and people are always looking for new sources.
I liked the “voice” of Jen. She was a likable character and the prose was quick and light. I do wish we had gotten to know some of the side characters a little better. The villian at the end was a little mustache twirling for my liking but it wasn’t so bad that I didn’t enjoy the book.
The pacing was a little odd. Every once in a while we would get a little synopsis of the story so far like we were picking up after the ‘last episode’ in a TV show. I read some of the reviews for this after I finished and it turns out this was several novellas put into a book – which makes sense now. There’s a definite ending although it leaves room for the next book while wrapping up the events of this one.
I’d recommend this for people who enjoy urban fantasy with a unique twist, magic is hidden around us trope, quick reads, relatable and likable characters, and those who like audio books.
- Plot: 11/15
- Characters: 11.5/15
- World Building: 11/15
- Writing: 11/15
- Pacing: 10/15
- Originality: 12.5/15
- Personal Enjoyment: 7.5/10
Final Score: 74.5/100