Minimum Wage Magic by Rachel AaronMinimum Wage Magic by Rachel Aaron

Minimum Wage Magic by Rachel AaronMy teenage daughter (Tali) and I enjoyed listening together to the audiobook editions of Rachel Aaron’s HEARTSTRIKERS series, so we were pleased to learn that Aaron wrote (and self-published) a spin-off series also set in the Detroit Free Zone (DFZ), which takes place a couple of decades after the end of Last Dragon Standing.

But you don’t need to read the HEARTSTRIKERS books first, so feel free to jump in right here with Minimum Wage Magic (2018).

The DFZ series, beginning with Minimum Wage Magic, stars Opal Yong-ae, a young mage who ekes out a living in the DFZ by working as a “Cleaner.” This nasty, but sometimes lucrative, career involves bidding for jobs to clean out apartments and houses that have been abandoned in the Detroit Free Zone. When a Cleaner bids on a job, they are hoping, during the cleaning process, to find valuable magical items that they can sell and profit from. It’s like an urban fantasy version of Storage Wars.

Opal is desperate for a good find. She’s totally broke and she’s got to pay somebody $10,000 by the end of the week. When she finds a mage’s dead body at the last apartment she bid on, and then somebody tries to shoot her, she wonders if she’s onto something big. When an attractive fellow cleaner named Nik offers to help her out, she isn’t sure she can trust him.Minimum Wage Magic by Rachel Aaron

As Opal and Nik gradually solve the mystery, we learn about Opal’s background (she’s from North Korea), her family life (her family is wealthy and her dad is really important), and what brought her to the DFZ . We also get to explore a lot more of the DFZ than we did in the HEARTSTRIKERS series.

Minimum Wage Magic is the first of three novels in the DFZ series. Tali and I thought it was great to be back in the DFZ and to see it from a non-dragon perspective. We didn’t love the characters quite as much as we loved the Heartstriker dragons, but we had fun with this quick-paced adventure and we expect that Opal and Nik will grow on us. We want to see where Rachel Aaron is taking them.

Audible Studios, who produced the audio editions of the DFZ books, smartly chose Emily Woo Zeller to tell Opal’s story. She’s perfectly cast and her performance added a lot to our enjoyment.

Published in 2018. The DFZ, the metropolis formerly known as Detroit, is the world’s most magical city with a population of nine million and zero public safety laws. That’s a lot of mages, cybernetically enhanced chrome heads, and mythical beasties who die, get into debt, and otherwise fail to pay their rent. When they can’t pay their bills, their stuff gets sold to the highest bidder to cover the tab. That’s when they call me. My name is Opal Yong-ae, and I’m a Cleaner: a freelance mage with an art history degree who’s employed by the DFZ to sort through the mountains of magical junk people leave behind. It’s not a pretty job, or a safe one – there’s a reason I wear bite-proof gloves – but when you’re deep in debt in a lawless city where gods are real, dragons are traffic hazards, and buildings move around on their own, you don’t get to be picky about where your money comes from. You just have to make it work, even when the only thing of value in your latest repossessed apartment is the dead body of the mage who used to live there.


  • Kat Hooper

    KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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