With the justiciary understaffed, a series of horrifying occult murders to be investigated, and a young student who is flying—literally—off the rails, magical law enforcer Stephen Day is under increasing stress. And his relationship with his aristocratic lover, Lord Crane, is beginning to feel the strain.
Crane chafes at the restrictions of England’s laws, and there’s a worrying development in the blood-and-sex bond he shares with Stephen. A development that makes a sensible man question if they should be together at all. When a thief strikes at the heart of Crane’s home, a devastating loss brings his closest relationships into bitter conflict—especially his relationship with Stephen. And as old enemies, new enemies, and unexpected enemies paint the lovers into a corner, the pressure threatens to tear them apart.
Warning: Contains hot-blooded sex, cold-blooded murder, sinister magical goings-on and a lot of swearing.
What I liked:
The pair of protagonists known from the previous two parts, Lucien Vaudrey, Lord Crane, and Stephen Day, a practitioner of magic, are developing their relationship and working some serious issues out; it was a joy to observe those two and their dry sense of humour was, as always, a huge bonus.
Their attachment is being nurtured in very unfavourable circumstances. Stephen is overworked and his branch of magical division – not only underpaid but also severely understaffed, quite contemporary problems you have to admit. Unfortunately the criminally inclined warlocks don’t want to take that into account and limit their nefarious activities. As a result Stephen, the only active senior justiciar left in London, is made to work longer and longer hours without any reprieve. Not only it adversely effects his private life but also it makes him very stressed and even slightly paranoid – he feels he has to solve every single case and save the entire London single-handedly. Which is, of course, impossible. He also starts to worry that bored Lucien, quite a catch on the matrimonial market and indeed anywhere else, might find another man to fill his empty days and nights pretty soon. All these worries sounded somehow right and I was delighted both gentlemen, apart from one row, tried hard to find working solutions, showing that they both cared.
I was also thrilled that the author decided to feature some of the secondary characters from the previous installments more prominently; I think here mainly about Esther Gold, her husband and Jenny Saint. It was a very good move, plot-wise, a logical continuation preventing the reader from getting bored with just rather predictable trials and tribulations of two main leads. The murder mystery was there and the ideas were interesting but it was rather the weakest link (more in the section below).
Finally kudos for choosing a very consistent set of three covers, featuring the same two gentlemen and no artificial, headless torsoes.
What I didn’t like:
I know it is a historical fantasy novel, with the strong emphasis on ‘fantasy’, but still if you write about Victorian Britain I believe you should make your characters behave and think like the Victorians. One issue bothered me here the most: the case of Jenny Saint and her dalliance with Frank Merrick, the servant and occasional bodyguard of Lord Crane. Stephen as Saint’s former tutor and guardian was horrified when he found out his ex-protégée was having an affair with a man more than two times older than her. Now I ask you: why? Clearly Stephen, even if officially portrayed as a Victorian magician, was behaving like a contemporary guy. If somebody like Jenny Saint, a former petty thief and a foundling without any dowry, had any prospect of a good marriage, a real Victorian would only congratulate her heartily, not kick up a fuss about the future hubby’s advanced age.
I also wish I knew a little more about Lady Bruton, the main baddie in this part. Without any backstory she seemed a bit too two-dimensional, just reappearing like a jack-in-the-box and then being promptly killed. Yes, she was present in the first part but still, there was nothing but a quite sketchy characterization offered – not good enough.
I always say that any novel, romance or otherwise, with funny, intelligent characters can count on my deep forbearance and understanding. This is the prime example of such a situation: even with some anachronistic behaviour and words of the characters I liked Flight of Magpies very much, its romance thread included, and I wish the author writes the continuation soon. Preferably featuring a marriage of convenience and a more complex baddie – somebody like, for example, Jonah Pastern. ;p.