Review of STOLEN MAGIC by M. J. Putney (see her website)
Del Rey, May 2005
The 'Guardians' work together to protect innocents from rogue mages. A few of their number are called to become hunters, seeking after rogues and bringing them to justice. It's a dangerous task and, despite its importance, the hunters are often feared by others. One of the best of these hunters is Simon Malmain, Earl of Falconer. Simon's investigations lead him to Lord Drayton--but the rogue Guardian doesn't seem worried. And when Simon attempts to subdue him, Drayton turns the tables on him, turning Simon into a unicorn and attempting to kill him to gain the power of his unicorn horn. It's impossible for Drayton to hold such powers, but apparently he's done the impossible--and Simon thinks he can see how. Drayton is robbing the power of other mages.
Drayton's guards stake out a handy virgin to capture the unicorn--and capture him, she does. But the virgin, Meg, is really one of Drayton's thralls--the magic-rich sources of his power. Together Simon and Meg attempt to bring Drayton to justice--only to find that the prejudices against Simon allow Drayton to escape from justice again. And now Drayton is fully warned--and intent on having his revenge and recovering the source of so much of his power.
Author M. J. Putney (see more BooksForABuck.com reviews of novels by Putney) continues her historical paranormal series with STOLEN MAGIC. Set in 1748, just before the dawn of the industrial revolution and after Bonnie Prince Charlie's doomed invasion, STOLEN picks a critical time in history. Invention is popping out everywhere, offering both promise and threat to established powers. When Drayton summons a meeting of inventors, one wonders whether he might attempt a powerful combination--creating a battery for magical energy, for example.
The mystical attraction between the virgin and the unicorn (and although Simon regains his humanity, his unicorn side always threatens to break out) is interesting and sexy. Drayton's ability to draw on the powers of other magic holders adds an element of threat and evil to his character. And Putney's strong writing makes STOLEN easy to get into and hard to put down. Still, compared to the earlier book in this series (see our review of A KISS OF FATE), STOLEN falls a bit short. Simon claimed to have evidence of Drayton's wrong-doing when he first apprehended him, yet he offered none of this evidence at Drayton's trial, when that evidence could have avoided all of the trouble to come. His willingness to strip Drayton of his power (frustrated by Drayton's unicorn spell) seems at odds with his later discussion of the difficulties in getting permission to do that very thing. And for me, the strong sensual element of the attraction between unicorn and virgin drowned out much of what I look for in a romance--an attraction between two humans.
Don't get me wrong--STOLEN MAGIC is an enjoyable story. It just fell a bit short of what I expect from this talented writer.
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