Excerpt and Giveaway ~ A Criminal Magic by Lee Kelly

Posted: October 26, 2016 in Fantasy, giveaways, YA
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Enjoy this glimpse inside A Criminal Magic

A CRIMINAL MAGIC is a historical fantasy that takes place in Prohibition-era America, but magic instead of alcohol has been prohibited.  It follows sorcerer Joan and undercover agent Alex as they become entangled in the magic underworld.  We pick up with sorcerer Joan, on the eve of her audition for the criminal Shaw Gang:

A block of cold cement takes shape amid the forest. It looks like a prison, maybe a warehouse, with a narrow stitch of windows running like a border around the top. There’s a little gravel lot surrounding the place, a small white island shining under the hazy moon, but no cars besides Gunn’s.

“We’re here.” Gunn nods to the backseat. “Grab your things.”

We crunch across the gravel lot and approach the warehouse entrance. Gunn takes off a block of wood that’s barricading the door on our side, props it against the concrete wall. Then he opens the door and offers me his hand. I just think Ruby, Ruby, Ruby, Ben, Ben, Ben, and I force myself to grasp it, to allow this gangster to lead me by the hand into a locked warehouse in the middle of nowhere.

It’s too black inside to see anything, and so I step carefully, the scuff of my work boots against the concrete floor the only sound through the dark lofted space. It takes a near minute for my eyes to adjust, and when they do, I see the floor is littered with at least a dozen occupied cots.

“Who are they?” I whisper.

“The other sorcerers,” Gunn answers. “Fifteen of you in total, though only seven will be staying beyond my experiment.” Seven.  I look around at the smattering of satchels littered around each cot, each sorcerer thrown over a thin mattress like a twisted bag of flour. Old, young, men, women, from what I can make out. I wonder where they’re from. I wonder what they can do. I wonder if they’ll all perform circles around me in whatever “experiment” awaits us tomorrow.

Stop. You will succeed. You must succeed.

Gunn clutches his keys in his palm, and the sudden jangle prompts a few of the sleeping sorcerers to grunt and roll over. “I need to go. It’s late, and we’re starting nice and early tomorrow.”

“Wait—” But the word hangs there alone. There’s too many other ones to choose from—where are you going you gonna leave me here where the heck are we—that I can’t figure out where to start.

“That one’s yours.” Gunn points to the one empty sunken mattress in the corner. He tips his white fedora, a cotton ghost floating in a haunted warehouse, and turns on his heel. “Get some rest.”

“Mr. Gunn—” I whisper, but he’s already back out the door. He closes it, gives a faint grunt as he slides the block of wood over the door to lock it on the other side.

Nerves on fire, I force myself to tiptoe around the minefield of sleeping sorcerers and lie down as quietly as possible on the empty cot. The thing’s all coils and sharp edges, but I just close my eyes, wrap myself around my knapsack, and pray for a sleep as deep and dark as sleep can get.

But I’m too wound up. One of the men a few feet away shifts with a squeak in his cot, and I give a gasp before I can help it. Another wheezes—whispers?—while a nearby cough nearly sends me jumping off my mattress.

I turn over, close my eyes, pinch out the warehouse. I need to calm down. I need to cut my fear out, bottle it, and put it on a shelf.

But then I feel something warm and soft slip up against my neck. I give a startled yelp and whip my head around. “Who’s there?”

No answer. And no one has moved. But I feel it again, this time on my arm, that brush of softness like a large paintbrush. No, softer, almost—almost like fur, and then the quickest slap of something else, like the whip of a tiny tail.

Out of the darkness molds something half the length of my forearm and twice as wide, whiskers prickling my skin, little feet pattering over my fingers. Fur. Tail. Rat.

I push the animal away as hard as I can, and the thing goes squealing, flying to the border of the next cot, but it doesn’t skitter away. Instead it comes back at me again, bounds forward like a hell-spawned rodent and starts climbing over my right leg. I sit up, kick at it, hear myself whimpering. Do not cry Joan do not cry Joan—

I attempt to push it into the fuzzy dark that swallows the back of the warehouse, but the slippery bastard manages to squirrel out of my fingers, bounds up my arm, and races over my stomach, its dirty paws pressing into my shirt as it attaches itself to my other arm. I writhe away, swat at it as it runs over my shoulder, into my hair. “Get off!” I command the small monster.

As soon as I say it, I hear a soft, muffled chuckling.

And then, to my immediate right, a woman’s voice: “Leave her alone, Stock.”

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A Criminal Magic
Lee Kelly
Publication date: February 2nd 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, Young Adult

THE NIGHT CIRCUS meets THE PEAKY BLINDERS in Lee Kelly’s new crossover fantasy novel.

Magic is powerful, dangerous and addictive – and after passage of the 18th Amendment, it is finally illegal.

It’s 1926 in Washington, DC, and while Anti-Sorcery activists have achieved the Prohibition of sorcery, the city’s magic underworld is booming. Sorcerers cast illusions to aid mobsters’ crime sprees. Smugglers funnel magic contraband in from overseas. Gangs have established secret performance venues where patrons can lose themselves in magic, and take a mind-bending, intoxicating elixir known as the sorcerer’s shine.

Joan Kendrick, a young sorcerer from Norfolk County, Virginia accepts an offer to work for DC’s most notorious crime syndicate, the Shaw Gang, when her family’s home is repossessed. Alex Danfrey, a first-year Federal Prohibition Unit trainee with a complicated past and talents of his own, becomes tapped to go undercover and infiltrate the Shaws.

Through different paths, Joan and Alex tread deep into the violent, dangerous world of criminal magic – and when their paths cross at the Shaws’ performance venue, despite their orders, and despite themselves, Joan and Alex become enchanted with one another. But when gang alliances begin to shift, the two sorcerers are forced to question their ultimate allegiances and motivations. And soon, Joan and Alex find themselves pitted against each other in a treacherous, heady game of cat-and-mouse.

A CRIMINAL MAGIC casts a spell of magic, high stakes and intrigue against the backdrop of a very different Roaring Twenties.

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Author Lee Kelly

Lee Kelly has wanted to write since she was old enough to hold a pencil, but it wasn’t until she began studying for the California Bar Exam that she conveniently started putting pen to paper. An entertainment lawyer by trade, Lee has practiced law in Los Angeles and New York. She lives with her husband and children in Millburn, New Jersey, though after a decade in Manhattan, she can’t help but still call herself a New Yorker. She is the author of A Criminal Magic and City of Savages. Visit her at www.NewWriteCity.com.

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Comments
  1. Anne C says:

    The book cover is gorgeous and story is very intriguing. I would love to read it.

  2. I have been wanting to try this one!

  3. BookLady says:

    What an intriguing book! Great cover too.

  4. Fabulous cover and I am always interested in how much input an author has in the final product.
    sherry @ fundinmental