The Magpie Lord was recommended to me by a friend as, “Queer Sherlock Holmes style crime fiction with dark fantasy” and that was enough for me to prick my ears. Even better, it was free to download on Kindle. Whilst it’s definitely fantasy, it’s hard to work out where to otherwise categorise it. The description above is definitely accurate but it also has an urban fantasy vibe, despite being set more in the country. It’s definitely more urban leaning than folk, and above all, is a fun, easy read.
The main characters established themselves with ease, taking over the page with big personalities and realistic dialogue, from Lord Crane who is roguish and full of charm, to the boringly enigmatic Stephen Day, with his sense of justice.
I’m still undecided as to the role of Merrick, Crane’s servant. On one hand he is a secondary character but he does fulfil his own arc and I can’t quite put my finger on what is is I don’t like about his setup.
It was a very clever move by the author, to both help reinforce the background story of Crane and Merrick having returned from China to keeping the plot moving and pacey, that there are cut scenes where the two plot or gossip in Shanghainese. It’s also fun and makes the world more rounded within the pages of book. And allows for a little more swearing, of course.
This definitely isn’t a YA book, despite the cover and description suggesting it may be suitable for that audience — the M/M scenes were gloriously exploratory without being too much, but there is a little explicit detail in there. I did love how the M/M dynamic developed and how it added to those characters and their motivations. At no point was it gratuitous or felt like it was shoe-horned in.
My biggest criticism is a minor one in the grand scheme of the book: there’s a dinner party scene where we’re introduced to Lord Crane’s neighbours and a further couple of scenes with them in. I found the names to be a bit confusing as we’re introduced to them all at once and because I’m a visual person, struggled to work out who was who later on.
Book DetailsPublication Title: The Magpie Lord
Series: A Charm of Magpies #1
Author: KJ Charles
Publication Date: 28th March 2017
Exiled to China for twenty years, Lucien Vaudrey never planned to return to England. But with the mysterious deaths of his father and brother, it seems the new Lord Crane has inherited an earldom. He’s also inherited his family’s enemies. He needs magical assistance, fast. He doesn't expect it to turn up angry.
Magician Stephen Day has good reason to hate Crane’s family. Unfortunately, it’s his job to deal with supernatural threats. Besides, the earl is unlike any aristocrat he’s ever met, with the tattoos, the attitude... and the way Crane seems determined to get him into bed. That’s definitely unusual.
Soon Stephen is falling hard for the worst possible man, at the worst possible time. But Crane’s dangerous appeal isn't the only thing rendering Stephen powerless. Evil pervades the house, a web of plots is closing round Crane, and if Stephen can’t find a way through it—they’re both going to die.