Title: Gutter Mage
Publisher: Saga Press
Author: JS Kelley
Pages: 332pp
Price: $21.99 / $12.99

Rosalind Featherstone is a mage. Or, at least she was studying to be a mage. Then she was horribly betrayed by a professor whom she loved and trusted. Traumatized and left with strange sigils on her palms that give her the ability to control fire, she drinks too much, sleeps around, works odd jobs as a private investigator/fixer, and lives in an apartment the size of a closet. But she has friends, even if she doesn’t realize it. And every now and then, a case comes her way that really catches her attention — like the kidnapping of Lord Edmund’s infant son. Assuming there even was a baby to kidnap …. And what does all of this have to do with the ceremony that gave Roz her sigils and pyrokinetic abilities? And what about the elder spirits that seem to be hopping between bodies? What are they planning? And can Roz stop them before they bring down the entire kingdom?

I found an advance copy of Gutter Mage on netgalley. The description sounded interesting, so I downloaded it, then lost track of it among all of the other books I was planning to read. I finally remembered it during one of my lunch breaks, pulled it up, and read it straight through in only a couple of days.

Gutter Mage is fun and snarky and dark and earthy and sensual and uncouth (and I mean that as a compliment). Roz is bitter and angry and foul-mouthed, but understandably so considering everything that has been done to her. Despite that trauma, she’s doing her best to keep living and to make the world just a little bit better — in her own unique, bloody, fiery way. She cares about people (even though she doesn’t want to) and there are people in the world who care about her (even though she doesn’t want them to).

The world which Roz inhabits is an interesting amalgamation of technology and magic. While many countries rely on steam power, the nation of Penador uses magic. Spirits of air and wind and earth and fire are bound to objects, everything from carriages to elevators to skyscrapers, allowing them to move or burn or fly or whatever else needs to be done. It’s clean and efficient. It’s also dangerous, especially if the prophesied Nevma Year (when the spirits will break free of their bindings) proves to be true.

Frankly, I had a heck of a fun time reading Gutter Mage. There were a few glitches here and there (typical of an advance reader’s copy), but none serious enough to distract me from the story. While complete in and of itself, Gutter Mage leaves room for future books in a series, and I look forward to reading them.

Recommended to fans of A Grimoire for Gamblers by Amanda Creiglow; the Down and Dirty Supernatural Cleaning Service series by Quinn, et. al.; The Magical Romantic Comedy (with a body count) series by RJ Blain; and the Verity Fassbinder books by Angela Slatter.

[Reviewed by Rebecca Buchanan.]

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