REVIEW: An Unkindness of Magicians by Kat Howard

Last Updated on June 23, 2024

An Unkindness of Magicians by Kat Howard seems like a straightforward dark magic story, but it is anything but. If you are just reading the description of this story, on the surface it looks like a pretty common plotline about magic users and magic competition. An urban fantasy story set in the already magical New York City. But what you don’t know, and you learn in the first few pages of this novel is that it is so much more than that. This is a dark and nuanced story involving political machinations, abuse of power, and privilege.

Those who have the power abuse those who are considered expendable.

An Unkindness of Magicians by Kat HowardThe story opens with a seemingly innocent, but still amazing feat of magic. Sydney, the stories protagonist lifts cars with magic, “The cars around her, as one, lifted gracefully into the air. Sydney held them there, rust-stained taxis and sleek black sedans with tinted windows, courier vans and a tour bus blaring the opening number of the latest Broadway hit. Ten feet above the ground, floating through the intersection like some bizarre migration of birds. A smile stretched, bright and wild, across her face. If the people in the cars could have seen it, they might have called it exhilaration. They might have called it joy.” Was it joy or was it a necessity? We won’t know till the very end of Sydney’s journey.

This story has a multiple POV narrative. Often authors fail to write definitive voices when using this narrative style, but Kat Howard’s characters are clear and definable from one another. Sydney goes through a bit of a badass transition into an incredible force of will and magic. She will change society and win The Turning (a magic competition) or die in the process.  The Turning itself, takes on a type of dark mob war mentality. We have Ian formerly of House Merlin, who plays a good counterpart to Sydney. Laurent, the man who is highers Sydney to represent him in The Turning is also a force of good in the story. It is refreshing and wonderful to have a story that is mostly trope free. Sydney is a badass. Just that. She doesn’t need anyone to save her nor make ridiculous mistakes that are out of her character for the sake of literary convention. No. She is just a badass. I loved it, and you will too.

The narrative and plot arc are fast-paced. The story comes at you in the first chapter or so and doesn’t stop. The narrative takes place over a short amount of time so this helps keep up the action.

I’ve read quite a lot of Urban Fantasy and it is one of my favorite genres. I can say this is one of the better books I have read representing the genre. I am certainly looking forward to a second book to continue Sydney’s story. Good characters, great world-building, interesting magic system. You can’t go wrong.

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Elizabeth Tabler

Elizabeth Tabler

Elizabeth Tabler runs Beforewegoblog and is constantly immersed in fantasy stories. She was at one time an architect but divides her time now between her family in Portland, Oregon, and as many book worlds as she can get her hands on. She is also a huge fan of Self Published fantasy and is on Team Qwillery as a judge for SPFBO5. You will find her with a coffee in one hand and her iPad in the other. Find her on:

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