Title: A Grimoire for Gamblers (Book One of Trove Arbitrations)
Publisher: Waldron Lake Books
Author: Amanda Creiglow
Pages: 310pp
Price: $12.99 / 0.99

Elizabeth has returned home. Eight years ago, her father voluntarily committed himself to an asylum and her mother ran away to Florida. Last week, her father committed suicide. Returning to her childhood home, Elizabeth is surprised to find his train set still in the attic — and still running. In a fit of anger and frustration, she knocks the little train off its track. The next morning, she is shocked and horrified to hear that a real train also derailed …. Then things get really weird. A wizard shows up and threatens to wipe her memory. The local ice cream lady turns out to be a stone creature who can never lie (but that doesn’t mean she speaks the entire truth). There’s a troll living under the bridge, and a chance demon running a casino at the local crossroads. And so much, much more. If Elizabeth is to survive, she has to figure out exactly what happened to her father and mother eight years ago, and exactly who she can — and cannot — trust ….

For bookworms, it can be a struggle to find new series that we can look forward to enjoying for years to come. As such, I was thrilled when I came across A Grimoire for Gamblers, the first book in the Trove Arbitrations series. The book sucked me right in and didn’t let up until the last page; and now I badly want to read the second book (A Surplus of Sirens) and the upcoming third book (A Reckoning of Wraiths).

First, there’s Elizabeth. Mostly, she’s an ordinary person. She works in small town politics, loves her boyfriend Faisal, and worries that her father’s mental illness may prove to be hereditary. That soul-deep skepticism — even paranoia — proves to be a life line. When Elizabeth suddenly finds herself spiraling down the rabbit hole into a world of dangerous magic and even more dangerous enemies, her paranoia is a vital navigational tool; she constantly checks what she knows against her assumptions, what people have told her, and what seems most likely or unlikely given the facts; it helps her determine who to trust, who to avoid, and how to finally figure out the mystery of her father’s insanity.

Then there’s Max. Max is … complicated. I won’t say much about him. Only that he’s a wizard, that he’s made some ethically grey choices in the past, and that having Elizabeth thrust into his life is going to badly upset the fragile balance he has created. I look forward to seeing how he evolves (or not, but I hope he does evolve) as the series progresses.

Finally, there’s the magical underground world that has been invisible to humans for centuries; likely longer. Magic works by Right Mind and intention, by glyphs and mental focus and language. The illusions that hide wizards and trolls and others from humans also, in their own curious, bizarre way, reveal the truth — if you know what you’re looking for. And Elizabeth, as she begins to practice magic, learns what to look for, and what it means, and how she can use that knowledge to survive.

That’s probably enough. If I say more, I’ll give away too much, and I want the book to be as much of a surprise for others as it was for me.

Highly recommended to fans of The Guild Codex by Annette Marie, The KC Warlock Weekly by MN Jolley, The Rules and Regulations for Mediating Myths and Magics by FT Lukens, Touched by Magic by Celine Jeanjean, and The Girl with Ghost Eyes by MH Boroson.

[Reviewed by Rebecca Buchanan.]

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