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SPFBO Review: Stolen Magic by Marina Finlayson

Stolen Magic by Marina FinlaysonStolen Magic is a fun, compelling and well paced urban fantasy tale which almost – almost! – became our Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off finalist.

Finlayson’s novel – a story of supernatural forces, gods and monsters in modern-day Australia – is alternatively reminiscent of Paternus (Fantasy Faction’s SPFBO finalist last year), Kate Daniels, and Mercy Thompson. Of the five of us who read it, not one of us consider ourselves a fan of the urban fantasy genre in general, so for Stolen Magic to make it so far in the competition (we’re officially declaring it our second place runner up) is a real testament to the author’s ability to keep her readers entertained.

The protagonist – Lexi – is likable and engaging (if not very memorable), and her unique power allows for some particularly neat scenes without ever really feeling like a deus ex machina. Similarly, the supporting cast – especially Syl and the mysterious Alberto – are developed well enough that their own subplots feel integral to the story, and their revelations not too contrived.

A big point of contention among the judges was the romance subplot. While most of us agreed (and were grateful) that it didn’t dominate the story, we were very much unimpressed by the typically brooding, uber-powerful ‘bad boy’ stranger in town – or, more particularly, the way the strong, independent female protagonist immediately begins to ogle him. Thankfully, their budding relationship is mostly confined to the plot’s periphery, with much of the focus instead on Lexi’s goals and the action she must take to attain them.

While the romance may not have been a sticking point, the trope-heavy nature of the novel (shapeshifters, cat-burglars, vampires – oh my!) did at times have the more seasoned readers among us rolling our eyes. However, the author’s self-awareness of her own use of cliches (“A strong male love interest named Jake STEELE who happens to be a METAL shaper?” Lexi points out at one point) as well as one or two twists and subversions later on just about makes it ok.

The book’s climax is tense and exciting, and while some of us enjoyed it less than others, we all agreed that the novel’s final twist made for a sudden yet rather satisfying denouement. The novel itself is quite a short, fun read; I myself breezed through it in just a couple of days.

As a whole, we found ourselves praising Stolen Magic for its quality as a ‘complete package’. Not only did the story keep us entertained throughout, it’s also well written, well paced, and well edited. I for one would certainly like to pick up the sequel at some point, and I know I’m not the only one here who would.

Stolen Magic has now been eliminated from the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off.

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