Into the Crooked Place

Feiwel & Friends. (Into the Crooked Place: Bk. 1). Oct. 2019. 384p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250318374.
Gr 8 Up–Christo opens this first book in a fantasy duology in the city streets of Creije, where magic is provided as both entertainment and product by young buskers such as Tavia, who works for the city’s underboss Wesley, a former magic hustler who has now risen to favored local criminal of their region’s kingpin. Tavia, orphaned after her mother’s death by magic sickness, is a gifted girl working out a sort of indentured servitude as a purveyor of charms and spells, even some dark magic. When Wesley hands his best busker an illegal potion to sell at the behest of nearly untouchable Dante Ashwood, Tavia’s buddy Saxony recklessly doses herself, revealing apparently deadly side effects. This “new magic” appears inconceivable in a world that killed off most of its magic Crafters in an internecine war. Since Crafters alone can make new magic, what’s still extant in the realm is a dim copy of its former potent glory. A small crew, including these characters—nominal baddies with hearts of gold—leads an assault on Ashwood after the new potion reveals the kingpin’s plot to bring massive unrest back to the realm. Lacking deft world-building, many readers may feel insufficiently situated in the complex setting to be compelled through the story. A trio of world-weary and wisecracking main characters seems cut too much from the same cloth in this narrative that feels potentially derivative of the Grishnaverse of Leigh Bardugo, particularly Six of Crows.
VERDICT Best enjoyed by undemanding devotees of fantasy who don’t mind construction and characterizations that are familiar but not engrossing.

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