Anna Masterson is a unusually young housewife married to a top tier programmer in a near-future society which mixes magic and technology. Unfortunately, her husband is a real ass who divorces her after they're kidnapped and tortured by the corporate authorities he ripped off. Rescued by her aunt Maggie, Anna changes her name and identity. She re-invents herself as Rune Leveau and runs a Chicago bar called The Lucky Devil. In the Lucky Devil, strangers can purchase magical favors using a coin-operated carnival machine that helps disguise their illicit business.
Unfortunately, the building is mortgaged up to the eyeballs. "Rune" is now in charge of the business without the money or magic to follow in her witch-aunt's footsteps. Thankfully, she soon finds herself meeting two possible solutions to her financial woes. The handsome corporate samurai Saint Benedict and a woman who wants Anne Masterson to find her lost daughter (who was turned into a dog). Rune needs to resolve both missions as Saint Benedict is on a very specific mission: to find the missing Anna Masterson.
The setting is a nice mixture of cyberpunk and urban fantasy tropes that puts me in mind of M.K. Gibson's Technomancer series as well as the Shadowrun Tabletop Roleplaying Game. In the future, corporations have taken over the country and privatized the police as well as legal system. If you don't pay your mortgage, a group of thugs will take you by force. We've got corporate mercenaries, centaurs, fairies, witches, and shapechangers all competing together to find a woman who they've accidentally recruited.
I love Rune as she's a really well-designed character. We have her tragic naive backstory as a teenage bride married off to someone she didn't know very well, only for her to get numerous hard lessons in reality. It's a sympathetic but not overused backstory that informs all of her decisions ranging from her determination to keep the Lucky Devil running to also keep her past history as Anna Masterson a secret. She strikes the nice balance between being capable and knowledgeable without being overpowered for the world she inhabits.
Saint Benedict is a nice foil and potential romantic interest for the character. Too often, the love interests in urban fantasy are overpowered and make the main character redundant. Here, he's a very capable corporate mercenary but completely out of his depth with the supernatural. We also have his motivations remain ambiguous throughout the book, making us wonder if he'd actually betray his employers for Rune.
If there's any flaw with the book, it's the fact it's one which feels like two shorter books put together. The climax of the book, the fate of the Lucky Devil, happens roughly 2/3rds of the way in. The rest of the book follows an entirely different plot that is still entertaining but unrelated to what had been set up. As such, it feels a bit like a letdown. We also never get a resolution to the Masterson files, which I presume will be dealt with in sequels.
In conclusion, this is an immensely entertaining mixture of science fiction and urban fantasy. This is probably a niche book but it's the kind of niche I like. I also think it's something which can be done much easier in literary form than on television or other media format. There's an unlimited special effects budget as well as cast list. I will definitely be picking up the sequel.