Rag and Bone
Magic and m/m and Victorian London. Yes, please. This is my basic response to just about everything by K.J. Charles these days. I adored her Charm of Magpies series, and the whole world she’s built, and this newest one (which looks to be the start of its own series, perhaps?) fits in perfectly.
Crispin Tredarloe is an accidental warlock. Really. He never knew that the magic he learned, graphomancy to be precise, was illegal and could (and did) kill people! Now that he’s discovered just what he’s been taught, Crispin is trying hard to learn to do his magic in a more appropriate style, but it’s beyond difficult for him because he just can’t control it any more. And the only person on his side is Ned Hall, his friend and lover, who wants absolutely nothing to do with the magical world, believing it to be nothing but trouble. And he’s only proven correct when people start dying, and something evil is trying to find it’s way back into the world.
I admit, I haven’t read A Queer Trade, the prequel to this story, although I don’t think it’s completely necessary. Those familiar with the Charm of Magpies world will have little trouble following along, though I would recommend that those who are new to the series go back and start at the beginning – it makes a lot more sense that way. (Also, Stephen Day is much more likable. Otherwise, he comes across as more than a bit of an asshole.)
The thing with this, as with all the books in this series, is that magic is a serious thing. It’s dangerous. It can destroy lives. But it’s such a part of the main characters that they, and the reader, can’t imagine giving it up. Ned, for example, wants nothing to do with magic at all, but his feelings for Crispin outway his need to get far, far away from ir. It isn’t really an issue until Ned feels like he’s coming in second place, and, as you’d expect, he’s not okay with that. And I can’t blame him. Especially with Crispin’s magical upbringing being what it is.
Looking at the variety of conflicts in the story, though, I’m amazed that everything fits so well into such a short book! We have the relationship drama, the prior magical issues (Crispin’s past isn’t exactly lily-white), and the major problems happening now. Everything is woven together so well that it feels seamless – it isn’t until you look back at it that you realize just how much is going on.
My only complaint (if it really is a complaint) about Rage and Bone is that I wanted more romance between Crispin and Ned. I have since got a copy of A Queer Trade so maybe that’s where the romance I’m looking for is hiding. I’m hopeful!