We Are Not Good People – Jeff Somers

About the Book

From the “exhilarating, powerful, and entertaining” (Guardian) storyteller of the Avery Cates series comes a gritty supernatural thriller featuring a pair of unlikely heroes caught up in the underground world of blood magic.

The ethics in a world of blood are gray—and an underground strata of blood magicians has been engineering disasters for centuries in order to acquire enough fuel for their spells. They are not good people.

Some practitioners, however, use the Words and a swipe of the blade to cast simpler spells, such as Charms and Cantrips to gas up $1 bills so they appear to be $20s. Lem Vonnegan and his sidekick Mags fall into this level of mage, hustlers and con men all. Lem tries to be ethical by using only his own blood, by not using Bleeders or “volunteers.” But it makes life hard. Soon they might have to get honest work.

When the pair encounters a girl who’s been kidnapped and marked up with magic runes for a ritual spell, it’s clear they’re in over their heads. Turning to Lem’s estranged master for help, they are told that not only is the girl’s life all but forfeit, but that the world’s preeminent mage, Mika Renar, has earth-shattering plans for her—and Lem just got in the way. With the fate of the world on the line, and Lem both spooked and intrigued by the mysterious girl, the other nominates him to become the huckleberry who’ll take down Renar. But even if he, Mags, and the simpletons who follow him prevail, they’re dealing with the kind of power that doesn’t understand defeat, or mercy.

Book One in the Ustari Cycle, the first portion of We Are Not Good People was originally published in an altered form as Trickster (Pocket Books)

514 pages (paperback)
Published on October 7, 2014
Published by Gallery Books
Author’s webpage
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This book was sent for me to review by the author.


We Are Not Good People is a very dark book. Uncomfortably dark. Deliciously dark. That’s really the first thing you should know before you read this one. If incredibly dark books bother you, you’ll probably want to stay away from this one.

The title pretty much says it all: We Are Not Good People. Somers strips down everything, his world, his characters, the magic system, even the plot, and portrays it in all its broken beauty. I tend to really enjoy books that deal with those moral gray areas. I love the antihero, and the dark, dismal plot that often goes along with it, and Somers brings both of those qualities out in spades.

This book is based on blood magic. It’s dirty and gritty, often involves uncomfortable addictions. Much of We Are Not Good People focuses on society’s underbelly, the seedy joints where drugs are traded, cons are had, and people are scammed. Lem and Mags fit seamlessly into this world, each broken and damaged in their own ways, but they work perfectly together as a balanced partnership in this world that Somers has created.

In many ways this book does have a silver lining. In many ways, this is a very dark, twisted story through the chaotic and nuanced world of blood magic in search of Lem’s twisted form of redemption. This book deals with saving the woman, and saving the world, which in its own boiled down state, is a pretty typical plot. It’s also Lem’s way to prove to himself that, despite the fact that “we are not good people” (as he repeats quite frequently), there is still some good in him despite the bad things he does to accomplish his aims.

The plot moves incredibly quickly, and it’s hard to find any part of this book the least bit dull. If you aren’t absolutely gripped by this dark, dark world and the dark, dirty magic that peppers it, then you’ll be hooked by the plot and all of the seedy, uncomfortable things that are happening as the characters try to make their own way through the happenings.

We Are Not Good People is, in many ways, two books in one. After some research I learned that the first chunk of the book (the best chunk), was previously published as the novel Trickster. The second half of the book adds on to what Somers started with Trickster. This part, while still incredibly well done, felt a bit forced in many respects. There gets to be a point toward the middle where a lot is happening, but not much actual progression is going on. It causes things to feel a little bogged down, a little sluggish until they pick up again.

The ending left me a little less than thrilled, but the journey to get there was completely worth it. This is one of those books that will assuredly make you uncomfortable at points, but if that sort of thing doesn’t bother you, then you’ll enjoy We Are Not Good People just as much as I did. The writing is engrossing, the world is riveting, and the plot is gripping. The characters are real, broken and raw. This book haunted me. It kept me up, and keeps me wondering. Somers was brave and bold with this book, and it pays off.

We Are Not Good People shocked me to my core. Dark, deep, and thought provoking, this book was absolutely unforgettable. This is the first book written by Jeff Somers I’ve read, and I can promise you that it absolutely will not be the last.


4/5 stars


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