What a wonderful début from Kit Brisby Rogue Magic is. This is an exciting thought provoking novel and at 328 pages there is time to really get absorbed in the alternate universe and the story.
This is an America that has outlawed magic and oppresses those born with magical powers. Such people are forced to register and wear CALM bracelets from childhood, in order to restrain their abilities. Those who have not registered live in fear of exposure and losing their liberty, or their lives, every day. Although, this tale concerns people born with magical skills it could easily be an analogy for ‘immigrants’, POC, LGBTQ+ people, or anyone deemed fearful through difference.
As well as the law, magic is dealt with and suppressed by a hugely influential company, Cole Industries. This company makes the CALM bands and opposes magic of all kinds. It is also about to go public with the new, secret, Harvest Initiative. They have a permanent PR division that spreads rumours, news and spins stories – hyping the fear amongst the general populace regarding magic users, and maintaining a good public image for themselves.
One such PR spin doctor is Byron Cole, nephew of the current CEO of Cole Industries. He is kept in a fairly lowly position, reports the truth as told to him, and never doubts what the family business stands for and achieves. On his way to yet another press conference, Byron is trapped in a stalled subway train and flirts with a young waiter with adorable curls, Levi. While the commuters are being lead out of the subway to safety, Levi uses his outlawed magic to create a shield, thus saving them and Byron from the effects of a huge explosion.
Levi’s altruistic actions result in abuse from the security forces and imprisonment under sentence of death. What Byron sees that day, and his discoveries about Levi’s treatment, have Byron questioning his whole attitude towards magic and eventually his whole existence.
Byron hatches a plan to save Levi from the mad scientist at Cole Industries. During the time needed to put the plan into action, Byron falls for Levi and his feelings are reciprocated. However, there is no assurance the plan will work and what state they will be in after – if they survive.
Levi and Byron are assisted by Byron’s friend and flatmate, Eleanor and her scientist girlfriend, Victoria Alvarez. I really love the interplay between the characters and the tension is palpable throughout the novel. Levi’s doubts and fears are totally believable, and the changing of hearts and minds doesn’t happen suddenly. The ending is HFN at most and there is no surety throughout the action that all will survive.
The secondary characters are really good even though the bad guys are veering towards pantomime big bad villains. I really enjoyed the story and felt for the principals. The writing is perhaps a little too simplistic at times, but this wasn’t a huge distraction, and the plotline kept me interested all through the novel.
Rogue Magic is a strong début, and I shall look out for more by Kit Brisby in the future.