7 Rated Books Book Reviews

Book Review: Street Magic by Caitlin Kittredge

Title: Street Magic

Author: Caitlin Kittredge

Genre: Dark Fantasy, Urban Fantasy

Publisher: St. Martin’s
Publication Date: June 2, 2009
Paperback: 352 pages

Stand Alone or Series: Book one in the new Black London series.

Why did I read this book: I had read Ms. Kittredge’s Nocturne City books, and though was not blown away by them, I liked her voice enough to see what else she could do. When Karen Mahoney (book pimp extraordinaire) told us about this new, darker series, I was intrigued…and when I received a copy of Street Magic in the mail, I pulled a greedy, selfish executive decision and told Ana that I was hoarding the book and she’d just have to wait! Yes, I am Eeeevil like that.

Summary: (from Amazon.com)
Her name is Pete Caldecott. She was just sixteen when she met Jack Winter, a gorgeous, larger-than-life mage who thrilled her with his witchcraft. Then a spirit Jack summoned killed him before Pete’s eyes—or so she thought. Now a detective[MSOffice2] , Pete is investigating the case of a young girl kidnapped from the streets of London. A tipster’s chilling prediction has led police directly to the child…but when Pete meets the informant, she’s shocked to learn he is none other than Jack. Strung out on heroin, Jack a shadow of his former self. But he’s able to tell Pete exactly where Bridget’s kidnappers are hiding: in the supernatural shadow-world of the fey. Even though she’s spent years disavowing the supernatural, Pete follows Jack into the invisible fey underworld, where she hopes to discover the truth about what happened to Bridget—and what happened to Jack on that dark day so long ago…

Review:

Confession: I really did not expect to like this book so much as I did.

I was excited to read Street Magic (enough so that I bogarted the book from Ana’s clutches), but upon starting Pete Caldecott’s book, I was nonplussed. A hundred pages in, and I was still waiting to be wowed – and I had it on good authority from Karen and Kmont that wowing would happen. I was dejected, resigned to being the party pooper once again, resigned to being the only person in the blogoverse that wasn’t digging on another hot new title.

But then, it happened.

The Wow. In the form of – wouldn’t you know it? – a pub.

Jack let go of her arms and lifted the gryffon-headed knocker on the pub’s door. He let it fall three times, and the red door swung open with a moan of ill-oiled age. Jack made a courtly gesture to Pete. “After you, luv.” He grinned as she stepped into oil lamps and noise and smoke. “Welcome to the Lament Pub,” Jack said. “And welcome to the Black.”

As Pete stumbles into a new world of dark magic, I inadvertently followed her. And it was damn awesome.

When Pete Caldecott was sixteen years old, she was enamored with the older, mysterious and devilish Jack Winter (who also happened to be her older sister’s boyfriend at the time). So, when Jack asked Pete to come with him on a dangerous, magical endeavor in a graveyard, Pete didn’t hesitate. The night would end in tragedy, however, as Jack summons a Wicker Man that he cannot control – and Pete leaves Jack, dead. The weight of Jack’s death has weighed on Pete’s heart and mind for years; her guilt and heartbreak has haunted her constantly. Years later, Pete is a detective for Scotland Yard and investigating a series of child kidnapping cases. A lead tips her off to the Grand Montresor Hotel, where she finds a strung out, heroin-addicted Jack Winter – who proceeds to tell her that the girl she is looking for will be at the entrance of the Highgate Cemetery the next morning. When Pete finds the missing girl the next morning – blinded and traumatized by whatever ordeal she has been through – Pete needs to find out how he knew about the missing girl…and how he is still alive. Little does Pete know that the trip will lead to a dark realm beyond her reckoning. Pete and Jack must work together to find the missing children, and to right the past wrongs between them.

Street Magic is a dark, evocative start to a solid Urban Fantasy series. Although, as I have mentioned above, I did have some initial issues getting into the story. There were two main obstacles to my initial enjoyment of the novel. First, that the language seemed over the top – the novel is set in London, and as such Pete and Jack speak (and think) with British slang and mannerisms. While I have it on good authority (from UK dwelling Ana, and Brit Karen) that the language is accurate, I can’t help but feel a bit nitpicky about the colloquialisms – since I know that Ms. Kittredge is American (and knew this coming into the story), I kept feeling that the mannerisms, the repeated “bollocks,” “buggers,” “sod offs,” or the many references to certain brands (i.e. ‘he drank a Newcastle Brown Ale,’ or ‘Pete nabbed a Parliament and lit the fag,’) etc were forced. By no means am I any expert on British slang or speech, but the point is that I could not suspend my skepticism; something about the language felt over the top to me and irritating to me. It’s kinda similar to how I felt about Emile de Ravine’s Claire on LOST or Lila on Dexter – yes, I know that both are Australian and British, respectively, but there was something about their accents (“CHYA-LAY! THEY AH TAYKING MY BAY-BAY!”) that just didn’t do it for me.

The second, more important factor that detracted from my immersion in the story was the slow-moving plot. Street Magic begins to the tune of a number of standard urban fantasy novels (heroine with save-the-world syndrome, sexy dude, nefarious crime underfoot), and at least initially there isn’t anything to separate this book from the usual genre suspects. Not until 100 pages or so into the novel do things really begin to get underway.

AND, when things do heat up – in the form of Jack introducing Pete to the Black as in the quote above – Street Magic really gets working. After a slower, shambling start, Street Magic gains its feet and managed to completely, wholly win me over.

Ms. Kittredge shines in this new series, which is easily the best book of hers that I’ve read. Street Magic is wonderful dark take on magic and legend. The descriptions of the creatures, magic and power in this universe are luscious, vivid and darkly consuming. Ms. Kittredge’s London is not a pretty place, and the creatures that live and interact with humans undetected in the Black are wraiths and fey along the lines of harsh myth, rather than the benevolent Disney version. There’s not a single werewolf or vampire to be found in Street Magic, and readers should know that this is a dark fantasy novel and in no way a paranormal romance. There is a shared history between Pete and Jack – in that as a young girl of sixteen, Pete was infatuated with Jack, and Jack encouraged her affection for his own self-serving reasons – but do not look for raw sexual heat or anything like that. Jack and Pete are layered, complex characters with a layered, complex relationship, and Ms. Kittredge draws these characters brilliantly.

On the subject of characters, though Pete is ostensibly the main protagonist, Street Magic is really all about Jack Winter. As a mage, Jack isn’t a “hero” character; in fact, he’s selfish, heroin-addicted, manipulative, and responsible for so much of Pete’s heartache and the source of her nightmares. And yet…there’s something irresistible about the knave. Jack Winter reminds me a lot of another Jack: he, of the beanstalk and of Bill Willingham’s Fables, a conman and with a tendency to get in over his head. They both have that charismatic charm that draws people in, against their better judgment – including readers, and the normally levelheaded Pete. As for Pete herself, I couldn’t ask for a better heroine. She’s tough without being abrasive, completely ballsy, and good at her job. Of course, in all likelihood someone like Pete wouldn’t be an investigator for very long considering her penchant for risk-taking and refusal to elaborate on how exactly she solved the kidnapping cases, but I was willing to suspend disbelief. Together Pete and Jack make a fabulous pair – Jack with his brashness and raw power, Pete with her cleverness and no-b.s. attitude.

I cannot wait to read more of the formidable duo in Demon Bound, this December.

Notable Quotes/Parts: Without a doubt, the climatic scene when Pete confronts the source of her recurring nightmares and discovers what really happened to her and to Jack many years before. Ms. Kittredge’s writing is incredible. But I won’t quote and spoil that for you! Instead, here’s a look at one of her descriptions.

“He’s back there, alone. As usual.”

Pete’s gaze was drawn to the back corner of the pub, where roof beams and lamplight conspired to create a slice of shadow. A solitary figure sat, fragrant green-tinged smoke from his pipe rising to create the shape of a crown of young spring leaves before dissipating.

Jack nudged her arm. “Come on.” He picked up the two pints of Newcastle Brown and started toward the table with a measured step. If Pete didn’t know better, she’d call it reluctance, or a sort of respect.

The man seated alone and smoking was unremarkable as far as men went. Pete would pass him boarding the tube or in a queue at the newsagent’s without a glance, although he did have lines of mischief at the corners of mouth and eyes, and they glowed pleasantly brown. He was older than Jack, wearing a well-trimmed black beard and a soft sport coat patched at the elbows.

Jack set the pints down on his table and grinned. “Been a long time, Knight.”

When the man turned to look at them, Pete heard a rushing sound, as if a spring wind had disturbed a sacred grove, and with great clarity she saw a tree, ancient, branches piercing the sky while the roots reached down and grasped the heart of the earth.

“Well,” said the man. “Jack Winter. I next expected to see you lying in state at your premature funeral, yet here you are disturbing my evening. Well done.”

Shaking his head, Jack gestured between the man and Pete. “Detective Inspector Caldecott, Ian Mosswood. Mosswood, this is Pete.”

Also, you can check out an extended excerpt of the first chapter HERE.

Additional Thoughts: Head on over to author Caitlin Kittredge’s website for a chance to ask Jack Winter a question, and for a chance to win copies of Street Magic and an ARC of her upcoming Nocturne City book Witch Craft. Here’s the skinny:

This coming Friday I’m doing a “Freaky Friday” over at Bitten By Books, wherein a character from Street Magic gets interviewed.

Of course, I picked Jack.

So here’s the deal. Submit questions for the interview in comments throughout the week (up to midnight Wednesday, because I need Thursday to collate and answer them.) I’ll pick out the best ones for the interview and out of those questions, one random entrant will get a signed copy of Street Magic and an ARC of Witch Craft.

But the real prize is having Jack answer your burning questions.

Trust me, I’m an author.

Go forth and enter HERE. You have until midnight!

Verdict: Street Magic is a dark, delectable fantasy novel and a promising start to a new urban fantasy series. I cannot wait for more from Jack Winter and Pete Caldecott. Absolutely recommended.

Rating: 7 Very Good

Reading Next: You Are So Undead To Me by Stacey Jay

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15 Comments

  • KMont
    June 3, 2009 at 9:56 am

    I LOVED this book! Have you sen the cover for the second one? SciFiGuy has it up on his site here:

    http://www.scifiguy.ca/2009/04/cover-art-demon-bound-by-caitlin.html

    But yeah, the first book was just awesome. I thought the writing was so beautiful and was sucked in right from the beginning.

  • Liz
    June 3, 2009 at 9:58 am

    Dudes! I want this book! *sobs into her hanky* have already blown my budget for this month so will have to wait for next payday. Am a greedy monkey.

    Awesome review – glad she wowed you.

  • Ana
    June 3, 2009 at 10:42 am

    This better be in my next batch. Just sayin’ 😀

  • Thea
    June 3, 2009 at 11:28 am

    Kmont – Ooh, awesome! Thanks for the heads up link. In my copy of [i]Street Magic[/i] the title of book 2 is [i]Conjure Man[/i]. I’m guessing there was a change then :p

    Liz – Thanks! I really ended up enjoying [i]Street Magic[/i] despite the slow start and cannot wait for more. I hope you enjoy it too when you’re able to get your hands on it! :mrgreen:

    Ana – Yeah, yeah, it’s coming, I promise 😉

  • Karen Mahoney
    June 3, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    I am SO glad it won you over, Thea! Yay!!! 😀

    You should now read ‘Newlydeads’, Caitlin’s story in MY BIG FAT SUPERNATURAL HONEYMOON. It’s a Jack & Pete story and is set just after this first novel. 🙂 Hopefully you can get hold of it.

  • Lusty Reader
    June 3, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    Everytime I saw “Pete” throughout the post I thought it was a male character. It was hard for me to remember Pete is a she, even just in a blog post [and yes i know y’all write long posts and i heart that about this site]. Am I crazy?

    I really like the quotes you included though, sounds like a great read!

  • orannia
    June 3, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    Thank you Thea! This sounds gooood 🙂 *plans how to convince the local library that Street Magic is a ‘must purchase book*

    And I agree with you Lusty Reader – Pete is one of those names that you would normally associate with males. I’ll just have to concentrate that extra bit harder 🙂

  • Mandi
    June 3, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    This one is being shipped as we speak. I have been waiting a long time for it! So glad you liked it!

  • Angie
    June 3, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    Thanks, Thea. I love it when books surprise you. This one sounds rich and good. I’m definitely gonna get a hold of it when I can.

  • Thea
    June 3, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    Karen – Thank YOU for the book pimpage. Again 😉 I had no idea there was another Pete and Jack story already out there! I’ll have to hunt it down :mrgreen:

    Lusty Reader – D’oh! I was going to mention that in my review but completely forgot. I agree, it [i]is[/i] kinda hard to get used to “Pete” being a girl’s name (although it’s actually a girl’s name, and it’s revealed later in the book…but I won’t spoil it for you!), but you get used to it eventually.

    I actually love girls with guy names – in Nancy Drew, George was always my favorite!

    Orannia – I’m sure you can get the library on board 😈

    Mandi – Awesome, I hope you enjoy it too!

    Angie – This one is very, very good and I definitely think you’ll like it. Darker fantasy, rich imaginative descriptions of the fey and other beasties…it’s good stuff! I hope you get a chance to read it 🙂

  • Wendy
    June 4, 2009 at 2:17 am

    It definitely sounds like something I would like! 😀

  • A little of everything
    June 4, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    […] The Book Smuggler’s Ana reviews, in a most thoughtful and analytical manner. […]

  • Jude
    September 18, 2009 at 6:06 am

    The British language was a total disaster – way too obvious and it very nearly ruined the book entirely. I’m not sure I could bear a second novel unless this improves a lot. 🙁

  • The Book Smugglers » Blog Archive » Book Giveaway: The Iron Thorn by Caitlin Kittredge
    March 28, 2011 at 12:03 am

    […] UF writers – we read and loved Street Magic, the first in her Black London series (reviewed HERE) and the two books in the Icarus Project series which she writes with Jackie Kessler (review of […]

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