Magician Stephan Day is under a lot of stress.
Terrible occult murders are taking place, the judiciary is understaffed, and to make matters worse, Saint–Stephan’s junior practitioner in training–stole the Magpie Lord’s ring. The strain he’s under from work is starting to affect his relationship with his aristocratic lover, Lord Crane.
Crane, who hates the conventions of England society, hates that he cannot publicly display affection towards Stephan, nor be open about having a male lover. He’s faced pressures to marry women before, but there’s something even more disconcerting than the confines of English society eating at him: a new development in the blood-and-sex bond he shares with Stephan. This new development causes Crane to wonder if he should even be with Stephan.
To make matters worse, old and new enemies threaten Crane and Stephan, wanting nothing more than to drive them apart. The pressure is getting to them, and as they are steadily boxed into a corner, there seems to be no way out.
It’s hard to write about the final installment in the Charm of Magpies trilogy, because there are too many spoilers, thus making it hard for me to talk about this particular book.
I can say that I love this series, and that I will certainly return to it in the future. I love how the relationship between Crane and Stephan has grown, and how they are able to fight about issues, but still work it out. The magic system in this world is unique–a blood-and-sex bond between two men–making it not only sexual but also natural as well. Stephan’s partnership with Crane has not only become professional, but highly personal.
I love the artwork for each of the books in the trilogy. If you look closely at the covers, you can see the progression of Stephan and Crane’s relationship, how they grow from partners solving crimes to lovers.
On the first cover, Crane and Stephan are standing next to each other, suggesting a partnership or at least a friendship in discovering the truth about the house at Piper. Their relationship is just beginning. They are standing next to each other, supporting one another, but are still at odds.
On the second cover, Stephan and Crane are still standing next to each other, but are looking at one another. Stephan has his arm on Crane, suggesting that they are much more intimate than on the first cover. There’s still the obvious height difference, but because they are looking at each other, this suggests that they are starting to see each other in a different light. Crane and Stephan are moving towards treating each other with respect, seeing more eye-to-eye.
On the final cover of the trilogy, Crane and Stephan are sitting on a bench. There’s still a height difference, but they are more on the same level with each other. Crane has his arm around Stephan, protective and assertively. They are no longer hiding their relationship, and are more equals than they were before on the other two covers. Despite the stressors they face in the final book, the two men are closer than ever, as is suggested on the cover.
I miss this trilogy already. They are quick, engaging reads. They are steamy, and sexual, but also tender and thoughtful. There’s plenty of mystery, plenty of nail-biting action, and lots of humor and wit. K.J. Charles is a fantastic writer, someone who can conjure up unique and memorable characters, people you want to learn more about. She shows us the magic, shows us the stress, rather than just telling us about it. (Showing is better than telling, in any case.)
I love the magic system, the mysteries, and the romance. I love how there’s not one stereotype in a book that just so happens to feature gay men. There are stereotypes assumed, like how Crane is an aristocrat, but he breaks all of them with his mouthy attitude and his tattoos. Stephan may be shorter in stature, but he can certainly take care of himself. (I’m short myself. I’m only like five feet tall. It’s not as bad as you’d think.) He’s a magician, someone who can harness the power of the Magpie Lord through his relationship with Crane, and respects his job so much so that keeps him from just walking away when things get rough. His job, after all, is one of the only things he has that’s his own.
I enjoy the other minor characters as well. Merrick the manservant of Lord Crane, who’s obedient but also feisty when it comes to his own lover, a younger woman. Saint is a badass, a woman who can windwalk–kick and walk on the air around her using magic–and has quite the mouth on her when she wants to. Doctor Dan is a neat guy, someone who is married to Ester, a woman who’s also a practitioner just like Stephan. Ester is also a neat woman, another strong female lead when Stephan works cases with her.
If you love reading about Victorian England, interesting characters, mystery, romance, and witty humor, this trilogy is for you. Seriously. Go read these books already!