01.13.14 // I spent my December with Allie Beckstrom
Written by Adrienne M. Roehrich, Manager of Editorial Services
I came home from SF Authorfest 7 with a pile of books (shown.) The bottom one I’ve already read and was there to be signed, the top one was meant as a gift for my son, the 2nd to top I’ve read and was a gift for a friend, the 3rd to top I’ve read and was signed for me, so really there were only 6 to choose from for first choice and 3 of those are a trilogy, leaving 4 from which to pick up and read. Thus, the first off that pile I decided to read was Magic to the Bone by Devon Monk.
I chose this book for a number of reasons. First, I sat in a panel presentation where Devon moderated on urban fantasy. Second, I met her (and she thanked me for asking questions in the panel). Third, the setting is Portland, a town I’m somewhat familiar with because I’ve visited and watched the requisite Portlandia. I’ve even run 26.2 miles around Portland, but that didn’t really make me more familiar with it. Third, well, third was the same for choosing any of the books to begin with – they seemed to have a cool main character.
Let me first say that I may have chosen differently if I’d realized there are nine (9!) published books in the Allie Beckstrom series. Or maybe that wouldn’t have changed my mind. Because I love binge-reading. I have always been a reader and binge-reading is sometimes as necessary as a week’s worth of sleep. I knew there were more Allie Beckstrom novels available, but I didn’t really think I’d binge-read them. I had 5 more books on my brand new book pile (besides the 2 double-stacked shelves of Mt. TBR books on my bookshelf) to read. I was also reading another, non-fiction book to review for another website. Yep, I was wrong.
The Allie Beckstrom Series
Magic to the Bone
Magic in the Blood
Magic in the Shadows
Magic on the Storm
Magic at the Gate
Magic on the Hunt
Magic on the Line
Magic Without Mercy
Magic for a Price
I think I was a couple chapters into Magic to the Bone when I immediately called up Magic in the Blood on my Overdrive app from the library to read on my phone as soon as Magic to the Bone was finished. I knew I wasn’t going to stop at just one book. It wasn’t far into Blood when I simply put in a request for any e-books of Allie Beckstrom and physical copies, too.
Besides my own binge-reading tendencies, what made me so interested in Allie Beckstrom? I love this character! She is so flawed and still grows but doesn’t gain super-powers or anything, she’s just a great character. The premise of this urban fantasy series set in Portland is that magic is something every person can use, with the help of a bit of technology, and it’s been around for about 30 years – or was discovered about 30 years ago. Allie, being 25, grew up using magic. Magic incurs a physical price for being used, for Allie this includes losing memories.
Allie is Hound, a person who uses magic to track those who have used magic, often against another person. This Hound job is a high magic-use position that is not easy, but also is looked at very poorly. She has a Harvard education in business magic, but magic knocking holes in her memory has taken care of that. Allie is also privileged to be the sole child of Daniel Beckstrom, CEO of Beckstrom Enterprises, the company who makes it possible for the regular person to use magic. Her mother moved to Europe when she was about 5, never to be heard from again. (This aspect of the book didn’t jive with me. I understand there is a suspension of belief because, magic, but at the same time everything else was within reasonable constructs.) When Allie’s teenage years set in, Allie did her best to separate herself from her father, and was still striving for that.
I like the character a lot. She has a good wit, is very intelligent, makes mistakes, and finds herself in trouble not of her own making. She gets a slight power spike in the first book, but it doesn’t repeat every book and the rest of her growth occurs the good ol’ fashioned way – through hard work. I found myself wondering about things mentioned in the books as seemingly throw-away or focused on that I knew had some big role, but didn’t seem to come up. I’ve found reviews where that really bugged other readers, but they are used to issues being addressed immediately. You have to have some patience in this storyline. The characters and the relationships are complex, nuanced, and feel real. There are a few slight caricatures, but sometimes you need that when you end up with a fairly large cast of characters. I find that the story really is a character story, which I liked just fine. It felt like making new friends and hanging out with them for awhile when reading this series.
The stories move fast. Truly, the major arc runs through all 9 books and each book has a sub-arc. I found about half-way through the series one book that was mostly all character development and set-up for the upcoming novels. It didn’t seem to have a plot of it’s own, but if the publisher was limiting these to around 350 pages (all 9 novels seem to be right about there), this development novel was needed. It was fun, it was just that I got to the end and realized that I didn’t feel like much story had been told, I’d just been along for the ride with Allie and her friends.
The first novel was published in 2008 and the ninth one in 2012. The ninth book is a finale. Monk planned and wrote the series as a 9-book series. However, there is another series that just started (!) about characters originating in the Allie Beckstrom series, taking place about 3 years after the finale of Allie’s story. We get to visit other old friends from the series, too. I haven’t read those, yet. But they are on my wishlist.
I could go into more detail about events and devices I especially liked, but I hate spoilers and work hard not to give them out, so even though these have been out well over a year, I’ll let you go grab Magic to the Bone from your favorite online or storefront retailer or from your local library.