Rag and Bone, by K.J. Charles
Series: Charm of Magpies ‘verse
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Release Date: March 1, 2016
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
This review contains spoilers for A Queer Trade, and I recommend reading that story before reading this one.
It’s amazing what people throw away…
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.
This story is set in the world of the Charm of Magpies series.
Gay M/M Romance
I’m not sure what had me more excited when I saw this book announced: more K.J. Charles! More Magpie-verse! More Ned and Crispin! (Okay, it was definitely all three equally.) After getting the first glimpse of Ned and Crispin in the Charmed & Dangerous anthology (now a self-published short titled A Queer Trade), I couldn’t wait to read more about the couple and the intricate magical world they live in.
The highlight of this book was Ned. He’s a richly complex character: stubborn and pragmatic, an underdog worth rooting for, but also hopeful. Ned’s on the fringes of not one, but two societies; he’s a low class black man, as well as a flit (meaning he has only the tiniest bit of magical talent). But he’s proud and resourceful despite the odds being against him, and he drives the plot, resolutely pursuing the answers to questions that no one else is asking.
The relationship between Ned and Crispin is also pure delight to read. They’re opposites in many ways– Crispin is white and an extremely powerful practitioner– but the bond between them is strong. They fight and misunderstand. They inadvertently insult each other. They’re a real couple, struggling to make things work.
And Rag & Bone is more than just another historical romance. It challenges you as a reader, and K.J. doesn’t shy away from the difficult topics. Ned’s race is never pushed aside, and the repeated accusations against Crispin are reflected in his own self-doubts. The illicit aspects of their relationship are constantly affecting their every word and action.
While the characters and world-building are superb, I do feel like the plot was very predictable in some ways. I won’t explain how, because spoilers, but I definitely wasn’t surprised by the big plot twist.
I can’t remember the last time I read a book where I wanted to climb inside the pages and live alongside the characters, but Rag & Bone (and, of course, the rest of the Magpie universe) is right up there alongside Harry Potter on the list of magical series that I desperately wish were real!
If you’re new to K.J. Charles’ Magpie series, you can check out my Series Spotlight here, including the recommended reading order and an excerpt from A Queer Trade!
K.J. also has another series currently in progress: Society of Gentlemen, with the third and final book out in April. (Historical/Regency, Romance, M/M)
I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.