Magical Mysteries | SFF Genre-Blends

In these fantasy novels, hexologists track down a blackmailer, an auditor of magic investigates a dangerous ritual, and a 15-year-old ghostalker is caught in a locked-castle mystery.

Bancroft, Josiah. The Hexologists. Orbit. (The Hexologists, Bk. 1). Sept. 2023. 336p. ISBN 9780316443302. pap. $18.99. FANTASY

Isolde and Warren Wilby, who delve into secrets and solve magical mysteries, find themselves seconded to the Crown in this first entry in a new series. Their mission: to learn who the king’s blackmailer is. It should be an easy case to solve, but all the records seem to have disappeared—and all the witnesses seem to have died under mysterious circumstances. Something is rotten in the kingdom of Luthland, but whether it’s the blackmailer, the king’s past, or the current cover-up is what the Wilbies will have to hunt down, even if their road leads to forbidden magic or the inside of a tomb—possibly their own. Bancroft (The Fall of Babel) writes a gaslamp fantasy world where magic breeds technology and disaster in equal measure, and sometimes the only thing a pair of magical detectives can do is keep digging in hopes of finding the key to each deadly mystery as it attacks with the able assistance of the dragon who lives in their portmanteau. VERDICT This madcap thriller is recommended for readers who can’t resist the rising wave of fantasy mystery series.—Marlene Harris

Butcher, James J. Long Past Dues. Ace: Berkley. (The Unorthodox Chronicles, Bk. 2). Oct. 2023. 384p. ISBN 9780593440438. $27. FANTASY

Grimshaw Griswald Grimsby has achieved his dream of becoming an auditor for the Department of Unorthodox Affairs, which enforces laws about magic, yet the job is not filled with exciting, magical investigations as expected, but instead with mundane check-ins and mounds of reports. Grimsby takes matters into his own hands by lifting a case file meant for his friend and soon finds himself in the middle of a mysteriously unfinished ritual that mirrors one seen by his reclusive partner, the Huntsman Leslie Mayflower. Except that foe was vanquished by the Huntsman 20 years ago. Grimsby knows he must ensure that this ritual is not completed, for if it is, the cost could be too high—and one of his friends may have to pay. Butcher’s deft dialogue continues with tongue-in-cheek humor, wry commentary, and snark, while this magical Boston setting is both familiar and fantastical. VERDICT Grimsby continues his awkward hero’s journey, complete with reluctant partners and magical mysteries in the second installment of “The Unorthodox Chronicles,” after Dead Man’s Hand. This well-paced urban fantasy is a delightful addition to the subgenre.—Kristi Chadwick

Huchu, T.L. The Mystery at Dunvegan Castle. Tor. (Edinburgh Nights, Bk. 3). Aug. 2023. 400p. ISBN 9781250883063. $29.99. FANTASY

The stakes have never been higher for either intrepid 15-year-old ghostalker Ropa Moyo or the independence of Scottish magic in this urban-fantasy/alternate-history thriller. The mystery is too big for a mere locked room and requires an entire locked castle for its deadly story of family secrets, grieving ghosts, ancient betrayals, and viciously underhanded politics. Ropa is caught in the middle with her besties Priya and Jomo, as she tries her hardest to protect her country, her mentor, and her future. When her world falls apart just as she’s pulling it all together, Ropa does what she does best—picks up the pieces and moves on into the jaws of yet another adversary. Totally out of her element, Ropa still throws herself into this case that no one believes she can possibly solve. Because everything rides on Ropa’s still young shoulders, she pushes forward anyway. VERDICT This third entry in the series, after Our Lady of Mysterious Ailments, takes Ropa out of her city and drops her into the deep end of the political pond far away from home. Readers won’t be able to resist following this compelling character every step of her fraught way. Highly recommended.—Marlene Harris

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