I haven’t read Magic on the Storm, the fourth book in the Allie Beckstrom series, but I gather it ended on a massive cliffhanger. The opening of book five, Magic at the Gate, finds Allie in the land of the dead. She has ventured into death to find the soul of her boyfriend, Zayvion, who is in a coma after the events of the previous book.
I normally love to read about underworld journeys, but this one falls a little flat. The problem, I think, is that Allie lacks agency during this sequence. Daniel Beckstrom, her dead father, is calling most of the shots and giving Allie a lecture about magic. When a difficult decision is placed in Allie’s hands, the story instantly becomes more vivid.
The scenes set in the death realm only occupy the early portion of Magic at the Gate. The plot can be roughly divided into three parts. The second, dealing with Allie’s return to the “real” world and the consequences of her journey, may strike some readers as slow. Devon Monk gives the characters time to recuperate and have a few “here’s what you missed” conversations. Since I missed the last book, this was extremely useful to me. I suspect at least some of the information will be new to readers who did read Magic on the Storm; some important events occurred after Allie, the point-of-view character, left the scene of the battle and walked into death.
Then, Monk unleashes the action again in the third section — and it’s terrific. Allie faces several hard choices as she realizes she can’t protect everyone she cares about at the same time. Crises pile up one after the other. The story builds to a big climactic battle, filled with suspense and beautiful writing. One doesn’t expect beautiful writing in a combat scene, but it’s there, and it works. The only trouble with this scene is that it, like the beginning, has Daniel Beckstrom in the “driver’s seat” a little more than I’d have liked.
Magic at the Gate is a good book that gets better the further you read. There’s plenty of action, further insights into some of the secondary characters (particularly Shamus), a couple of hilarious lines, and some wonderfully touching moments between Allie and Zayvion. Monk leaves plenty of plot hooks for future installments. I have no idea where this story is headed, but I’m looking forward to finding out. I only hope that, when the series’ big climax comes, Allie gets more time to shine than her dad.
Allie Beckstrom — (2008-2013) Publisher: Using magic means it uses you back — and every spell exacts a price from the user. Some people, however, get out of it by Offloading the cost of magic onto an innocent, then Allison Beckstrom’s job is to identify the spell-caster. Allie would rather live a hand-to-mouth existence than accept the family fortune and the strings that come with it, but when she finds a boy dying from a magical Offload that has her father’s signature all over it she is thrown back into the world of his black magic.