SFF

American Magic

Atria. Aug. 2019. 320p. ISBN 9781501168611. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781501168628. FANTASY
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DEBUT Jack Reacher and Jack Ryan meet Harry Potter in this wild thrill-a-minute ride. A terrorist releases instructions for a deadly weapon on the Internet, with a promise of more chaos to come. The weapon is words: instructions on how to perform real magic. Telekinesis and invisibility enable some to crash mass transit, stage prison breaks, and sneak into secure government buildings. Tumult builds as it becomes unsafe to gather in society, and unsafe to stay home. The CIA discovers Eila Mack, who can use magic, and brings its best (and most reviled) agent, Ben Zolstra, out of retirement to contain the problem before it’s too late. But when Ben and Eila go rogue, chasing the possibility of a solution, the CIA hunts them down as they search for answers while the world starts to burn. Throughout, the characters humanize the dilemma: the agent atoning for past missions, the alcoholic using her newfound powers for a fresh start, and the disgraced academic who turns out to have been right all along.
VERDICT This urban fantasy/spy thriller employs magic as just another superweapon, and brings all of the usual suspects to bear in order to stop it, complete with secret societies, evil government officials, and rogue agents accomplishing the mission from the outside. It all makes for a heady, page-turning mix.

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