Review | The Magpie Lord – K.J. Charles

About the Book

A lord in danger. A magician in turmoil. A snowball in hell.

Exiled to China for twenty years, Lucien Vaudrey never planned to return to England. But with the mysterious deaths of his father and brother, it seems the new Lord Crane has inherited an earldom. He’s also inherited his family’s enemies. He needs magical assistance, fast. He doesn’t expect it to turn up angry.

Magician Stephen Day has good reason to hate Crane’s family. Unfortunately, it’s his job to deal with supernatural threats. Besides, the earl is unlike any aristocrat he’s ever met, with the tattoos, the attitude… and the way Crane seems determined to get him into bed. That’s definitely unusual.

Soon Stephen is falling hard for the worst possible man, at the worst possible time. But Crane’s dangerous appeal isn’t the only thing rendering Stephen powerless. Evil pervades the house, a web of plots is closing round Crane, and if Stephen can’t find a way through it—they’re both going to die. 

204 pages (Kindle)
Published on November 15, 2017
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The other day I got my second COVID shot, and I was up all night with a fever and the chills. I had someone recommend this book to me, and I decided to pick it up while I was miserable and feeling sicker than a dog. I ended up reading the entire thing in a night. It was just the charming diversion I needed to see me through the worst of it. 

The Magpie Lord tells the story of one Lucien Vaudrey, who was exiled to Shanghai by his father and older brother. Upon learning that his father and older brother died, and he inherited their vast empire (they were earls), he returns to England to see to their estate. However, thoughts of suicide keep overwhelming him, which he knows are not his thoughts. Someone is putting them there. Desperate to see his way through this fog, he calls upon a magician, Stephen, to see if there is something interfering in his state of mind. They learn that Lucien, like his father and brother, are the target of ill will. Together Stephen and Lucien must work together to find out who is killing off Lucien’s family before it’s too late. 

So, it’s a lot, right? 

There’s never a dull moment. The book isn’t long, and there is a lot going on throughout the book. However, I was delighted at how well-paced the book was. While there never was a dull moment, there was also never a time when I felt overwhelmed by action. Like, I never once sat back and thought, “My god, when do these people breathe?” 

“I am in the process of nailing Mr. Humphrey Griffin to the wall so thoroughly that future generations will mistake him for a tapestry,…” 

There were two things that instantly pulled me into The Magpie Lord. One was Lucien’s voice, and his wry, self-depreciating humor. He had a horrible relationship with his family, and while that’s evident in every part of the book, and it’s why he ended up in China for so many years, it never overwhelms things, though it is a huge part of why everything is happening and why Lucien is suddenly the focus of such malice. His voice is caustic with a sharp edge, and once you understand his family you know why, but my god, I loved that man’s voice.

The other thing that really attracted me was the magic. The idea of someone murdering people by using cursed items to influence their mood and thus, play upon their darkest thoughts is really haunting. I also loved how this was completely Stephen’s thing that no one could understand quite as well as he did. The magic itself was just unique enough to catch my attention. While there is the whole waving hands in the air, incantations thing, there was a lot more to it than that, and I just really enjoyed how it was used throughout the book for good or evil.

Stephen, on the other hand, is everything that Lucien is not. He is small, and poor, and he’s got every reason to hate Lucien’s family. They come from very different backgrounds, and while Stephen is small and appears weak and ill-fed and all that, his power rests in his magic. He is a formidable magician. He’s also a quiet, if knowing presence throughout the book, and balances out Lucien’s voice perfectly. In fact, these two POVs are perfect opposites, each one adding something to the book that the other needs, making the entire book feel perfectly balanced. 

“If you’re going to be insolent, at least pour me coffee.”

“It’s brewing. Like trouble.” 

There’s a lot happening here, from magical manipulation (in numerous forms), family mysteries, ghosts, cursed objects, murder through suicide… so there are a lot of darker elements, but I never once felt like this was a dark book, and it was probably because Lucien’s humor mixed with Stephen’s calm control really kept all these darker elements in the book roped in and controlled. While things keep rolling at a nice clip, there are private moments, and the simmering romance between the two protagonists is always present, and while it is steamy (at times there is kissing, sex and the like) it also functions to keep everything hopeful. Things might be dark now, but the silver lining is in two men from opposite worlds finding each other. 

The historical elements of the book were just enough to make this feel mid 1800s without making it feel overdone. I got a good sense of time and place which added an intoxicating sense of regency to the entire romance that I really enjoyed. 

The Magpie Lord is not a complicated book. It’s simple and straightforward, and it’s predictable. This isn’t the kind of book you want to read if you’re into something serious that you need to spend a lot of time thinking about. It’s popcorn. Really, really good popcorn, full of magic, historical detail, romance, and characters you can’t help but love.

The Magpie Lord got me through a really rough night. It was exactly what I needed, and I will absolutely read more of this author’s work. 

I cannot wait to see what happens to Lucien and Stephen next. 

4.5/5 stars