Crimes against Magic (Helllequin Chronicles #1) by Steve McHugh Book Review

Write on: Wed, 22 May 2019 by  in Charles' New Reviews Read 3310


What to do when you don't have the Dresden Files to read. It has been a LONG time since PEACE TALKS by Jim Butcher was announced. I don't blame Jim Butcher for this as he had to deal with his dog dying, building a new house, a divorce, and a new marriage. However, if you are a die-hard fan of urban fantasy then it was one of your regular staples being put on hiatus. Thankfully, this turned out to be a good thing both for me and other urban fantasy authors as it required us to read other great titles! People who would never have checked out my books (I was a Teenage Weredeer, Straight Outta Fangton) or future classics like the Hellequin Chronicles.

CRIMES AGAINST MAGIC is about Nathan Garrett, an amnesiac professional thief in the service of a supernatural crimelord who literally lives in the (London) Underground. Nathan is a bit James Bond, a bit Harry Dresden, and a bit Geralt of Rivia. After his last mission, he finds himself soon accosted by a variety of beautiful women, monstrous creatures, and mercenaries. He regains his memory and discovers he might just be the most dangerous man.

The novel is a good deal more adult than the Dresden Files with Nathan Garrett not having Harry's immature attitude toward sex while also possessing a great deal of unsanitized violence. Mind you, there are some wish fulfillment aspects to the book like the fact every woman seems perfectly willing to throw themselves at Garrett. I don't necessarily object to that element and he's actually in a committed relationship at the start of the book. All of the female characters in the book are also fully fleshed out and fascinating characters.

This is a book filled with action, brutality, and twists that make it feel like both a thriller as well as a urban fantasy mystery. Nathan's amnesia would normally be a sort of hackneyed plot device but it really does serve a strong narrative role in showing how rudderless and troubled he is in the modern world. He's also a very different person from the assassin he used to be.

One element I really enjoy about the book is the fact that it takes advantage of Nathan's extremely long lived life. Like the movie Highlander, there's a good number of flashbacks to previous centuries and these are some of the best moments in the book. It manages to combine French Revolution fantasy with more gritty London-based urban fantasy. The fact it all ties together is also a testament to the author's skill. One minute he can be exploring a private military contractor firm for clues and the next punching it out with a werewolf.

My favorite part of the book is the relationship Nathan has with the O'Hara family who are some of my favorite characters in the series (which is a shame as they only appear here). They're a London crime family that Nathan has effectively adopted since he lost his memory a decade ago. Holly is the woman Nathan is dating and a great match for him mentally, like a gangster version of Mary Jane Watson for Spider-Man, while her brother Lee is a complete psychopath. Lots of trouble brews under the surface of the family but you can see why Nathan chooses to live under their auspices.

I really liked the villains in this book and how violent, visceral, and dangerous they are. Nathan is one of the most dangerous people in the world but he's not capable of fighting a genuine monster. The gargoyle Achilles manages to exude menace and his master is even better. I'm less interested in Lee but as a horrible example of humanity, he manages to completely screw up the found family Nathan has built for himself. I think both manage to join the ranks of my top 10 most memorable urban fantasy foes.

In conclusion, I really recommend this book. If you are a fan of Dresden Files or urban fantasy in general then I think this will be an excellent pick me up. I think it has its own feeling and it's harder R-rated feel is good. Nathan Garrett is his own character and I am looking forward to reading more of his adventures. It's got great characters, great world-building, and a character who stands out in a sea of snarky wizards (while also being a snarky wizard).

Available here

Last modified on Sunday, 24 April 2022 14:19
C.T. Phipps

C.T Phipps is a lifelong student of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. An avid tabletop gamer, he discovered this passion led him to write and turned him into a lifelong geek. He is a regular blogger on "The United Federation of Charles".

He's written Agent G, Cthulhu Armageddon, Lucifer's Star, and The Supervillainy Saga.