I finished this book last night. It was published in 2008 and is Monk’s first novel. Its also the first in the Allie Beckstrom series. From the back of the book:
Using magic means it uses you back, and every spell exacts a price from its user. But some people get out of it by Offloading the cost of magic onto an innocent. Then it’s Allison Beckstrom’s job to identify the spell-caster. Allie would rather live a hand-to-mouth existence than accept the family fortune—and the strings that come with it. But when she finds a boy dying from a magical Offload that has her father’s signature all over it, Allie is thrown back into his world of black magic. And the forces she calls on in her quest for the truth will make her capable of things that some will do anything to control…
First of all, the reader can tell that a woman wrote this novel. One of the things that makes me leery of reading female authors in pulp fiction is that they fill their novels with sex. Why is that? Males are supposed to be the sex-driven gender. But in novels, female authors seem to confuse sex for romance. There’s vast amounts of psychological speculation we could get into with this point. However, the last “urban fantasy” book I read was co-authored by a male and female author – and there was no sex in it. There were some vague innuendos and a few hints, but no sex. In this book here, Magic to the Bone (entirely authored by a female), there are at least two lengthy sex scenes. I’ll be honest – I don’t read them. I skip ahead a few pages.
I like some of the concepts that Monk is playing with in this novel because they are fresh and interesting. There are no vampires (thank God!) and there are no werewolves (thank God!). Instead there is this concept of turning magic into something like a municipal utility. You know, like electricity and water. This is cool. And sure, there are hints that maybe there are magic users that preceed this sort of utility and that operate outside of this municipal faculty. But these are interesting concepts, to be sure. There is sort of a “conservation of energy law” that ties into the story. I think there is some work to be done with all of these concepts…. but this is Monk’s first book and, well, its not Scientific American. Its pulp urban fantasy. Still it was nice to read something that didn’t involve vampires.
The main character can be amusing at points. (I don’t know how many more times she could say “Hells!” when exasperated, though.) Allie Beckstrom is not as assertive and intelligent as some of the typical female heroines, though. I mean, she’s stubborn and catty, but sometimes she’s pretty daft. There are times that she does some dumb things. For the first quarter of the book, I was slightly frustrated because she makes retarded choices and seemed to be really running in circles. Literally. However, by the end of the book, she seemed to develop a bit more, which is to be expected. I liked the other characters fairly well. The villains were a little underdeveloped, but I suspect Monk was just laying the foundation for more books. I was interested in Violet, Allie’s stepmother, and Cody, the real victim in the book. And there is a cute kitten in the book that stole my heart.
Overall, this is a solid first book. And I would read further in the series.