4.5 stars - I honestly don’t know what the deal is with KJ Charles. Did she sell her soul to the Devil? Has she been secretly writing for years excessively readable works in some other genre, say, gothic thrillers or werewolf comedy-of-manners or Pre-K fiction? Maybe under the sly secret pseudonym of JK Charles? I ask, because I just sit back sometimes and stare at my much-loved ebooks of The Magpie Lord and Think of England, and ponder that if they were paperbacks, they would be bent and creased and probably wine-stained from all the reading, and hugging, and page-turning and rereading, and to think this just started...last year? When her first book came out? LAST YEAR.
I steered away from the Magpie Lord when it first came out, because I dunno, new, unknown author, whatever, seemed like a commitment, and two weeks from running a conference, so wasn’t doing anything new, but I couldn’t miss all those surprisingly gushing reviews on my GoodReads feed, and a couple days before running my first gay romance conference, I found some time and read it.
And I loved it. I thought it was delicious and thrilling and sexy and surprising, and it ended up being my favorite book of the year. And with this series, and Think of England, which is one of my favorites for this year, Charles is in this auto-buy group in my mind now with Josh Lanyon, Ginn Hale, and Jordan Castillo Price, where I don’t know what they’re doing next, maybe it’s a werewolf comedy-of-manners, but I’ve already mentally pre-ordered it.
Stop gushing. What about book 3?
Sorry, I just get...carried away when I go back and think of the Magpie Lord journey over the series, and what’s transpired for poor overworked Stephen and his demanding, entitled, and sexily supportive Lord Crane, and what terrible things they have survived, including attacks by hair(!!!), killer giant rats, invading spirits, and a group of merciless warlocks that want nothing more than to rip the Magpie Lord’s power from Crane’s bones.
So how was book 3? Well, did you like book 1 and 2? Because if you did, then you’re going to like book 3. It’s a similar style and tone, still surprising with some shocking turns (as the villains are very villainy!!), similar wit and sexy banter between Stephen and Crane as they push-pull each other about their relationship, about keeping secrets, and about whether committing to each other is what’s best for them, especially since being gay is still illegal in Victorian England. (But even with the fear of the Law or blackmail, these two can’t stay away from each other, thankfully for us hungry readers.) Also, like in past books, you will find some more hot sexy times as Stephen leaves his obligations outside the bedroom, and willingly surrenders control to his Lord.
Have you not read book 1 or 2 yet? Then don’t start here. It would be a crime against your possible reading pleasure to jump in at this point. What I would recommend is to go try book 1, especially if you’re a fan of historicals and paranormal, since Charles’ world is a mix of dangerous magic and Victorian morals, with a grateful dash of face-punching, thanks to always-good-back-up manservant Merrick and the not-really-all-that-noble Crane.
Was it a perfect read? No. There’s one development where I shared Stephen’s shock, and it felt less organic than other parts of the series. As a reader, I didn’t “buy it,” and it did feel like a convenient move to comfortably pair other characters off. But even with that point, it was still easy to be carried along with the story’s quick pace and plot.
How do I feel about the series overall? I think it’s a stellar trilogy, and if there are no more novels, I think it is reads great as is, and any reader who has enjoyed the ride thus far with Stephen and Crane should feel good about the ending these two so much deserve after all that they have survived.
What’s next? There actually IS a new Magpie story coming in early 2015, but it’s labeled A Charm of Magpies 2.5, so is set technically before this volume. Also, early next year, there is Jackdaw, which is a related book that follows a secondary character from this volume and his adventures, and by the hints in the blurb, we may also see some Magpie Lord sightings there as well.
Would I read more of this series? Of course! I’m a greedy reader and if the next book was just Stephen and Crane talking about the weather (“Looks like rain.” “That it does.”) I’d pick it up in a heartbeat, but end of the day, even for this greedy reader, this journey settles very well in this volume, and I think other greedy readers will be quite pleased.
I do wonder what Charles, her pseudonym JK, and their Devil companion will come up with next though… I am hoping for more Feximal myself, and of course, the sequel to Think of England...
Reviewed first for Boys in our Books.