Review: Rag and Bone

cover-rag and boneTitle: Rag and Bone
Author: KJ Charles
Series: A Charm of Magpies Linked Story
Genre: M/M Historical Fantasy
Length: Short novel
Available: March 1st

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It’s amazing what people throw away…

Crispin Tredarloe never meant to become a warlock. Freed from his treacherous master, he’s learning how to use his magical powers the right way. But it’s brutally hard work. Not everyone believes he’s a reformed character, and the strain is putting unbearable pressure on his secret relationship with waste-man Ned Hall.

Ned’s sick of magic. Sick of the trouble it brings, sick of its dangerous grip on Crispin and the miserable look it puts in his eyes, and sick of being afraid that a gentleman magician won’t want a street paper-seller forever—or even for much longer.

But something is stirring among London’s forgotten discards. An ancient evil is waking up and seeking its freedom. And when wild magic hits the rag-and-bottle shop where Ned lives, a panicking Crispin falls back onto bad habits. The embattled lovers must find a way to work together—or London could go up in flames.

This story is set in the world of the Charm of Magpies series.

Warning: Contains a warlock who needs to go straight (but isn’t), a waste-man running out of patience, blood magic, bad-tempered justiciars, and a pen with a mind of its own.


Source: ARC from Samhain Publishing via NetGalley

KJ Charles is one of those authors that I’ve been meaning to try for a while, but I didn’t want to jump into the middle of a series. However, when this book crossed my path I couldn’t resist, and although I obviously would have got more out of it (or settled in a little easier at the beginning) had I read the Charm of Magpies series, I found this easy enough to follow and thoroughly enjoyable.

Apparently there’s also a prequel novella with these characters, A Queer Trade, which would definitely have made things easier at the start because Crispin and Ned obviously have history, but I adapted fairly quickly and don’t feel like I’d missed too much. However because this story doesn’t start at the beginning of Crispin and Ned’s relationship there’s a fair bit of back story sprinkled across the beginning. This is necessary – but is possibly a little tiresome for those who’ve read the prequel – as we discover why everyone has such extreme reactions to Crispin’s magic. That poor man has been seriously unlucky in his teachers. It’s no wonder he’s all twisted up and conflicted about it, especially with the justiciars lining up to condemn him because the only other people with his type of talent have done awful things with it.

But Crispin isn’t evil, he doesn’t want to be bad, he just wants to be able to use his magic. Which is Graphomancy, the magic of writing, which he achieves by using his special pen, made from the bone of his own finger with ink of his own blood. You can see why it has a bad reputation, but Crispin’s magic isn’t like all the other justiciars and he can’t make it work the way they want it to. His frustration mostly comes out as poor self-esteem – it’s no wonder that he leaps at the chance of working with Dr Sweet, an academic who is particularly interested in his talent.

All of which conflicts with his relationship with Ned. The pair of them are so very different, and not just because Ned’s a paper-seller who lives in a windowless room and owns next to nothing. Ned is content with his life and who he is. He’s a quiet, self-contained man, perfectly confident in himself. He couldn’t be more different to Crispin’s twisted up sense of inadequacy. Both view the other as better than them, or able to get by without them, which of course causes some conflict. But in the short moments when things are calm between them, they are adorable together. And when they work together, they make an excellent team.

Once the back story and build up is dealt with, this novella goes from something fairly sleepy with a murder investigation bubbling away in the background, to a fast-paced adventure as our heroes race to figure things out and prevent disaster. I loved seeing Crispin and Ned work together, both of them making the most of their strengths and complimenting each other. I’d love to read more about them teaming up in the future and hope this isn’t the last I’ll see of them.

So, overall, if you’re looking for a historical fantasy with a touch of romance, then I thoroughly recommend this. It’s clever, has a few intriguing touches and builds nicely in pace. I now have no excuses not to explore more of this series and world, and I can’t wait to see what I discover next.


Rag and Bone is out March 1st!
Visit KJ Charles for more details.

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