Lem has ethics in using his magic. Therefore Lem is hungry and broke most of the time.
Ethics in the world of blood magic, however, is a gray area. While Lem will grift his way through life by using small glamours to make $1 bills appear as $20s, enabling him and his none-too-bright pal Mags to eat, he won’t use other people’s blood to cast. Stronger spells require more blood, and hardcore magicians use Bleeders or “volunteers” to this end. Not Lem.
So when these down-and-out boon companions encounter a girl kidnapped and marked with magic rune tattoos, it’s not at all clear that they’re powerful enough to save her…or themselves. Turning to his estranged Master for help, it quickly becomes clear to Lem that not only is this beautiful, strange girl’s life all but forfeit, but that the world’s preeminent mage had big, earth-shattering plans for her—and he and Mags just got in the way.”
I’ve got to start with the obvious, the cover art for Trickster is, imho, atrocious. Shallow, I know, but it does the book no favours whatsoever, and makes it look so very YA that this isn’t one I could read at work without ridicule. Sulky emo teens and a muscle man? Not something you’d expect to see a serious Fantasy reader curled up with. The daft thing is that it’s such a surprisingly good read that I can’t help but wonder why it didn’t get some proper cover love. Maybe that’s how it goes with UF, I mean, take the pretty covers of someone like Benedict Jacka, they’re hugely eye-catching but what’s inside is massively disappointing, and with Somers it’s the other way around. I’m whittering, I know, I just think it’s a shame as I would imagine a lot of people who would potentially adore this will skip over it on the shelves. You’ll just have to take my word for it that it’s not a tale of sulky teens. And of course this is a perfect lesson in not judging a book by its cover.
I adored this book. It’s intelligently written, pacey, action-packed, and the magic system is fantastic. That was by far the biggest win for me, I love how Somers has developed the concept of Blood Mages, I always enjoy reading Fantasy where the Magic system has a true and immediate cost, and that couldn’t be more the case here. The characters are hugely endearing, and anyone who enjoys a Lenny/George style relationship will appreciate Lem and Mags. I really like how flawed Lem is, it made him so readable, so interesting. “We were not Good People”, Lem says it more times than I can remember, despite his high moral ground on the subject of bleeding others for his own gain. Because on the flip side of that morality he scams people day in, day out. He’s a complicated soul, and complex always makes for an interesting read.
As well as the physical aspect to the Magic, I also really like the accompanying language system, and Lem’s approach to it. Any kind of scientific approach to language always fascinates me, and Lem cutting through language to pare it down as much as possible whist still retaining the essential meaning, like a programmer developing the most efficient program with a minimum amount of code, was brilliant. There are just 2 rules to the Magic here, the Rule of Perception and the Rule of Volume, it doesn’t matter how good you are with words unless you have a lot of blood on hand to fire them. So for all of Lem’s skill, he’s going to be stuck running tiny scam spells with only his own blood to use. I thought that was pretty original, it doesn’t matter how talented you are, unless you’re properly ruthless you’re not going to get anywhere. That said, Lem can pull off some pretty big wins with just the tiniest of spells, when he uses them wisely. It’s very David and Goliath, and who doesn’t love that? I thought it was a beautifully developed system, and definitely one I’d like to spend more time with. And I don’t want to spoil anything for you, but the system devised to ‘power’ the spell at the heart of the storyline is a seriously terrifying work of disturbed genius.
If that isn’t enough to convince you, the other great thing about Trickster is that it’s really, really light on the romance angle, which is so refreshing in a genre full of endless Sexy Warlock-riddled Mills & Boon tat. Well played Mr Somers Sir, well played. I can’t recommend this highly enough, especially if, like me, you’re sick of the ongoing PNR contamination of UF. I will be eagerly awaiting the next in the series.