Mon
Sep 11 2017 12:00pm

Review: Magicians Impossible by Brad Abraham

Magicians Impossible by Brad Abraham is a debut novel that blends magic and mayhem to create an edgy thriller perfect for fans of fantasy and crime fiction (available September 12, 2017).

The urban fantasy genre is full of protagonists who use keen detection skills and a multitude of supernatural talents and gifts to solve crimes and bring justice to weird and strange criminals. One mashup you don't see as often, though, is elements of fantasy with crime fiction's sister genre, the spy story. I think adding aspects of fantasy like wizards to an espionage story full of impossible heists, shifting allegiances, and morally murky missions makes for a pretty compelling tale. In Brad Abraham’s debut novel, Magicians Impossible, he does just that. The result is a fun and exciting story that could be described with the Hollywood elevator pitch, “Harry Potter meets the Mission Impossible films.”

One of Abraham's biggest strengths in the novel is his world building. In the opening sections of the book, he clearly defines how magic works in his fictional world and introduces readers to some interesting factions, characters, and competing magic schools. The reader encounters these elements through the perspective of Jason Bishop, a 30-year-old bartender who—after the death of his distant father—is introduced to the clandestine conflict between two magical factions: the heroic champions of order, The Invisible Hand, and the sowers of chaos known as the Golden Dawn. Here, Carter Block, the man who inducts Jason into the shadowy arcane world, describes the two different factions:

“The Invisible Hand is a secret society, comprised of individuals of great ability, skilled in the arts of espionage and wielding magic—real magic—as a weapon. Through deception we wage war, and with magic, we hope to win it.”

“They’re called the Golden Dawn,” Carter answered. “They are magic users, but not us. We are born with these abilities; they are Alchemists, but the more common terms would be sorcerers, or witches, or warlocks. Individuals who acquired their abilities through the study of the dark arts. Through books and spells, bindings and enchantments, through pacts with the primordial forces that would tear this world apart if we didn’t stand in their way. They killed your father, and now they want you.”

The other very compelling twist to the war between the Hand and Dawn is there's something about the “Mundane World” that they do battle in that creates a sense of balance. It's a force that undoes the damages of their clashes and compels everyday people to come up with rational explanations for what happened. Here, an Irish Mage named Kelvin explains how it works:

“All the shite that gets obliterated resets like someone flicked a switch and the mundanes who see it forget it just as quick. Those pictures and video they record? Wiped. The ones who manage to upload somethin’ magical to the Web? Hash. But there’s still a tiny part of their mind that tells them something happened; they just can’t remember what.”

In the second half of the book, we follow Bishop into the world of the Invisible Hand, and Abraham unveils some of the stories coolest elements. One I particularly enjoyed was the fact that there are various ranks within the Mages of the Invisible Hand that synch up with the specialties of a heist crew, and when they take to the field, the usual team is composed of a number of these ranks.

There's the Adept, a sort of magical misdirection specialist capable of unlocking doors, melding into darkness, and other magical distractions. The next level is the Archmages, who wield telekinetic powers in addition to all the abilities of which an Adept is capable. An Enchanter can bend and manipulate people's perceptions, allowing them to become someone else. War Seers possess the talents of all the lower levels and the ability to teleport. The top level is the Diabolist, a master who blends together all the mystical talents of the lower levels. There's also the rare talent of the Oracle, who can read thoughts and memories.

As we're introduced to these various concepts, we follow Jason through his magical training and meet the eclectic cast of young mages who compose the core ranks of the Invisible Hand. My favorites were Allegra Stone, a powerful Middle Eastern Diabolist with a fondness for Ramones t-shirts, and Teo Stone, a British War Seer who refuses to forget his impoverished roots.

While we're learning and training with Jason, Abraham shows off another talent: the ability to establish and create believable and exciting locations. We travel with Jason to real-world places like the Cloisters Museum in New York and fantastic locales like the Citadel, the magical headquarters of the Invisible Hand, which includes places like the Atheneum, a travel network that literally opens doorways to places around the globe:

Behind them was a cavern of equal size, with an equal number of rows and shelves and doors. One of those doors sat on the floor behind them and still hung open. Through it, he could see the front hall, the living room, and the stairs of the house in Cold Spring. Then the door swung shut, there was a click, and then the entire door rose off the ground and soared up into the heights of the cavern to disappear from view. High above he could see other doors uncouple and drift silent to unidentified locations, while others returned home.

Jason's training leads to a fun and daring graduation mission: a high-stakes treasure hunt/heist that unfolds in some of Paris's most fascinating locales. At this point, the story started to feel a little formulaic, however. I felt like I had seen this type of narrative before—the chosen hero goes through training, which leads to an epic mission to save the world. Fortunately, it was right around this point where Abraham made like a stage magician and introduced an organic and exciting twist that showed his tale was much more complex and exciting than I thought.

From there, the stakes of the story escalate as Jason engages in several exciting mystical battles while learning more about himself, his family, and the nature of the world. The battles and revelations are all pretty exciting, and with the last few pages of the book, Abraham sets the stage for a possible sequel that I would love to see happen.

Magicians Impossible is a fun genre cocktail of spy and fantasy stories that introduces readers to a unique and well-crafted world that I loved spending time in. I hope I get to revisit soon.

 

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Dave Richards covers all things Marvel Comics for the Eisner Award-winning website Comic Book Resources and his book reviews and other musings can be found at his blog Pop Culture Vulture.

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