Historical England meets paranormal urban fantasy, where magic users and Victorian nobility cross paths to solve murders and defeat evil. Take a pint-size magician with a grudge against the titled elite, and a smuggler-turned-Lord who would rather be cursing his way through China, and you have a delectable novel with brilliant world-building and characters!
What started out as a series following the practitioner Stephen Day and the haughty Lord Crane had expanded into a growing universe, showing class struggles and history entwined with magic and mystery. And the newest book in the series is out in a few weeks!
A Charm of Magpies Series, by K.J. Charles
First Published: September 2013
Number of Books: 6 (plus several short stories)
First Book: The Magpie Lord
Genres: Historical, Paranormal, Gay M/M Romance
What you’ll find in the Charm of Magpies ‘verse:
- magic users who do what’s right, even when it’s not proper
- aristocracy that doesn’t give a damn about birth and breeding
- bad guys who aren’t always bad
- men without magic falling in love with magicians
- lots of sex… often (but not always) on desks
- an entire world of magicians lurking beneath the streets of London
Summary for The Magpie Lord (Charm of Magpies, Book 1):
Exiled to China for twenty years, Lucien Vaudrey never planned to return to England. But with the mysterious deaths of his father and brother, it seems the new Lord Crane has inherited an earldom. He’s also inherited his family’s enemies. He needs magical assistance, fast. He doesn’t expect it to turn up angry.
Magician Stephen Day has good reason to hate Crane’s family. Unfortunately, it’s his job to deal with supernatural threats. Besides, the earl is unlike any aristocrat he’s ever met, with the tattoos, the attitude…and the way Crane seems determined to get him into bed. That’s definitely unusual.
Soon Stephen is falling hard for the worst possible man, at the worst possible time. But Crane’s dangerous appeal isn’t the only thing rendering Stephen powerless. Evil pervades the house, a web of plots is closing round Crane, and if Stephen can’t find a way through it—they’re both going to die.
Why check it out?
I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep saying it until I’m blue in the face, but K.J. is by far one of the best historical romance writers that I’ve ever read. She has an unparalleled ability to write engaging characters and captivating relationships, while still maintaining historically accurate settings, language, and events with perfect balance. It’s clear that she does her research, but I never feels bogged down or overwhelmed by too much information.
But why read this series in particular? There are three story arcs (so far), and each follows a gay couple– one magical, the other mere muggle. But that’s where the similarities end; each set of stories has its own unique tone, and the characters are so different that you’re sure to find a favorite. (Mine is Ben from Jackdaw!) And the characters are genuine… as a reader, you really come to care about them. They’re complex and flawed, and they accept those flaws. I also love that the books really explore the class and race differences in the time period.
Oh, and did I mention the tattoos?
And as interesting as the magic is, it’s not the spells that are the focus. Instead, it’s the way the magic is used, and the emotions attached to it: Stephen, who sees his power as responsibility, something integral; Jonah, who sees it as a means to an end, a tool; and Crispin, who sees his power as a both a curse and as a way to redeem himself.
The recommended reading order for the Charm of Magpies series is:
Stephen Day and Lord Crane:
The Magpie Lord
Interlude with Tattoos (free read)
A Case of Possession
A Case of Spirits (free read)
Flight of Magpies
Feast of Stephen (free read)
The Smuggler and the Warlord
Ben Spenser and Jonah Pastern
Ned Hall and Crispin Tredarloe
A Queer Trade (takes place at the same time as A Case of Possession)
Rag and Bone (takes place at the same time as Jackdaw)
How About an Excerpt?
This is an excerpt from A Queer Trade, but is not spoiler to the series in any way. I just think it’s a great example of the magic and the way K.J. writes. A Queer Trade was first published in the Charmed & Dangerous anthology, and is out now as a self-published novella.
“For five shillings, you could at least pretend you’re listening,” Tredarloe snapped.
“Make it ten and I’ll believe every word you say.” Thank the stars he hadn’t fucked the lunatic. Who knew where that might have led.
“That’s a bargain,” Tredarloe said. “Ten shillings and you believe that my master was a magician, I am a magician, a huge amount of inscripted—magic—paper has passed into your hands, and some of it might even now be wrapped round a pound of sausages that someone is going to eat, do you understand?”
“And what would that do?” Ned asked, drawn in to the fantasy despite himself.
“I don’t know, but nothing good. Words have power. We use a written system for the magic, you see. Anything he wrote with a certain pen, well…” He did look worried. Ned could swear he believed every word of his own nonsense.
“All right, then. You want me to look for your magic paper now?”
He did his best to make that sound serious, but evidently failed, because Tredarloe glared at him.
“No. I want to compel you.”
“That’ll cost you a lot more than ten shillings.”
“Will you stop it!” Tredarloe’s voice cracked. “I’m serious. I have to know what you did with the paper, so I need to make you remember. That means a compulsion, a kind of spell to bring your memory out.”
“You want to do magic on me?” Ned felt a strong inclination to say, Bugger that for a game of tin soldiers, and had to remind himself that Tredarloe was a bedlamite. Let him play his game. “Go on, then.”
“Have you any paper?” Ned just looked at him. Tredarloe glowered. “Clean paper. Not written on.”
Ned plucked a sheet from the stack where he kept blank waste, for the writer types who occasionally dropped by. Tredarloe pulled a pen from his pocket. It looked like silver, covered in fine engraving that caught the light, with an odd yellow-white nib.
“That ivory?” Ned asked. “Uh…bone.” Tredarloe sounded just a little evasive. “What’s your full name?”
“Edward Isaac Hall.” Ned peered at the page as Tredarloe wrote his name, in flowing script. The ink was a bright deep red, and what was odder, he didn’t need an inkwell, like the ink was kept inside the barrel of the pen. Must be some new-fangled invention. “How does that work?”
“Ssh.” Tredarloe was writing, swift and confident, symbols that Ned didn’t know. Odd shapes, too. Ned had once picked up a child’s book of what they called optical illusions, pictures that were different depending on how you looked at them. A black candlestick became two white faces, that sort of thing, and it had given Ned a bit of a funny feeling to have his eyes not know what to do. That was what these characters were like. They gave the impression that if you looked hard enough they’d turn out to be another shape altogether.
About the Author:
KJ Charles is a writer and freelance editor. She lives in London with her husband, two kids, an out-of-control garden and an increasingly murderous cat.
KJ writes mostly romance, gay and straight, frequently historical, and usually with some fantasy or horror in there. She specialises in editing romance, especially historical and fantasy, and also edits children’s fiction.
And be sure to check out Rag & Bone, the newest book in the Magpie series, out March 1!
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 panicked Crispin falls back onto bad habits. The embattled lovers must find a way to work together—or London could go up in flames.