Review: Firewall by Sonya Clark

firewall by sonya clarkFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: paranormal romance
Series: Magic Born, #3
Length: 207 pages
Publisher: Carina Press
Date Released: December 1, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

She was the only Magic Born to ever escape the Rangers. Now there’s a ten-million-dollar bounty for her return.

Trancehacker Tuyet Caron could have left New Corinth for good, but instead uses her magic and risks her life on a daily basis to help the Magic Born. She’s been careful to avoid capture, but a careless glance at a video camera brings her face to face with the Ranger who let her go.

Captain Dale Hayes let Tuyet walk away once, but he won’t make that mistake again. When faced with the ultimate choice, however, he chooses her with barely a thought. But that also means siding with the Magic Born and becoming a fugitive in the eyes of the law.

Tuyet and Dale plan to flee, but are caught in a deadly riot that kills innocent people. Outraged, the pair vows to bring an end to the Magic Laws, regardless of what that means for their own safety.

My Review:

trancehack by sonya clarkI have to say that I have loved every book in Sonya Clark’s Magic Born series so far (start with Trancehack, reviewed here), and Firewall is no exception. The worldbuilding in this series is chilling, scary and consistently awesome.

I read Firewall just as the deliberations from the grand jury in Ferguson were being announced, and the parallels between the society in the book and the actions of the elected officials in Ferguson was frighteningly close.

When the powers that be are unhappy that news of their abuses has gotten out of their tight cordon of control, they blame social media. This was true in the speech, and is also true in the book.

It gave me goosebumps, and it made me think. And shiver.

witchlight by sonya clarkFirewall is the final book in Sonya Clark’s Magic Born series. This is a near-futuristic dystopian world where the U.S. has made itself into a dysfunctioning, economically depressed dystopia by locking all of those born with magic into ghettos and taking away their citizenship and rights. Because anyone can have a magic born child whether they themselves are magic born or not, children are taken away from their parents in infancy, as soon as the DNA test is administered.

Needless to say, the birthrate is dropping like a rock, because no one who wants a child wants to face the possibility that the child will be taken away.

By the time of Firewall, things have reached a tipping point. The restrictions on the magic born are increasing, and the total lockdown of magic born ghettos has plunged nearby neighborhoods into economic depression. Since no one initially wanted to live near a Freaktown, those nearby neighborhoods weren’t in good shape to begin with.

Lots of people are more and more sympathetic to magic born. The younger generation is much more tolerant than their elders. And the elders want to hang onto power at all costs.

Forces collide with violence. The government wants to bring in one of the few magic users they trained who escaped their clutches. After her, they send her former partner, the agent who probably let her escape. The agent who certainly has continued to love her in the three years since she left.

Tuyet Caron feels responsible for the new repressive laws against the magic born. As a conductor on the Underground Railroad, she facilitated the escape of a woman and her magic born lover. Unfortunately for everyone, that woman was the wife of a prominent anti-magic politician, who is more than willing to use his professional clout to avenge a person wrong.

As the crackdown deepens, the violence escalates, and encompasses more people, including non-magic born. Into this volatile mix, Tuyets old partner Lee Hayes comes to either take her in, or help her escape again.

Their old enemy is right behind him.

But the climax of the story concerns the effects of the total information blackout on everything wrong in the flashpoint city of New Corinth. All info, including social media, is blocked by a firewall of tech and magic, maintained by a news corporation that wants to continue its monopoly on secret magic use.

Breaking that firewall, no matter what the cost, is crucial to bringing down the magic laws. Everybody pays dearly to make things right.

Escape Rating A+: While the love story between Hayes and Caron is sweetly done (three years of repression makes for a lot of sparkage!) I felt like the real depth in this story was the way that people came together to make sure the word got out.

Everyone in New Corinth knows that things are bad there, but because all true information from the ghettos is instantly repressed, no one on the outside knows about the police atrocities. And yes, there are definitely atrocities, including shooting unarmed civilians as they flee the violence, and otherwise deliberately sabotaging escape routes so that innocents are trapped in the kill zone, if not killed outright.

It’s brutality on a massive scale, but too many people who would be righteously opposed are kept completely in the dark and fed propaganda. It’s obscene in its way, and all too easy to believe.

They can’t beat the police – it’s not possible and it isn’t what they need. What they need, what the whole country needs, is for the truth to get out so that the situation can be repaired. Not just that the magic born can become citizens again, but that the U.S. can recover economically. The cost for disenfranchising and entire population is frighteningly clear.

It is possible to substitute the current treatment of any repressed group and come to the same sad conclusion about the potential future. That’s what made this book, and this series, so incredible for me. It was awesomely entertaining, and it made me think seriously at the same time.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Guest Post by Author Sonya Clark + Giveaway

witchlight by sonya clarkMy special guest today is Sonya Clark, author of the absolutely marvelous Trancehack (reviewed here) and today’s review book Witchlight. I fell in love with the world of the Magic Born that Sonya introduced in Trancehack, so I was over the moon when she agreed to let us in on a few of the secrets behind her world creation. (I wouldn’t want to live on either side of her dystopia, but the way she put it together is awesome).

I can’t wait for book 3 (I’m so glad there is one!!!) In the meantime, this should help tide me over. A bit.

Behind the Magic Born World
by Sonya Clark

The world-building for the Magic Born series is drawn from a lot of different inspirations and ideas. The backstory includes a bit of alternate history: in the early aught’s, hacktivists discover documents proving that the US and other governments know about the existence of magic and use witchcraft in secret. (Remember all the Wikileaks document dumps of several years ago? Yeah, that.) The revelation is shocking the world over, but in some countries the fear of magic and witches leads to violence. The US government passes the Magic Laws which essentially strip the Magic Born of all rights of citizenship and forces them to live in urban reservations. This calms the fearful Normal populace and stops the bloodshed, for the most part.

trancehack by sonya clarkBut it comes at a price: infants undergo DNA testing, and if found to have magic in the blood, they are sent to live in the zones. This begins a breakdown in families that threatens the underpinnings of society. By the time the series starts, single-child families are the norm and many of the younger generation don’t want to have children at all. Hearkening back to our Civil War history, there is a new underground railroad. This time, it helps both Magic Born and Normals who want to flee the oppressive laws and find refuge in more open countries.

In this alternate history backstory, the US is not the only country to react this way, but it is one of few. Most of the world adapts to having magic out in the open. Eventually, economic sanctions are put in place against those nations that deny witches human rights. By the time the series starts, those sanctions have been in place so long that the economy is in pretty much permanent recession, with no hope of improving.

What did I base this on? A number of things. I read about Native American reservations and South African apartheid. I also drew a little from personal experience. My father is retired military and we lived in Frankfurt, Germany when the Berlin Wall fell. After the borders opened, East Germans became a regular sight in Frankfurt. You could easily tell them apart from their West German counterparts. East Germany and the other Soviet Bloc nations had been living under horrible repression and incredibly restricted economic conditions. Several decades of that took a huge toll, but that kind of authoritarianism proved ultimately unsustainable. Seeing East Germans discover life in the open, free West made for some lasting memories. So did seeing the result of placing ideology above reality, choosing fear instead of facing change.

There’s not a literal version of the Berlin Wall in Witchlight, but this is definitely the book where life gets tougher for the Magic Born. I don’t want to give away too much spoilery information, but I will say this: it is a romance novel, and it is the middle book of a dystopian trilogy. Make of that what you will. 🙂

About Sonya Clark
Sonya Clark grew up a military brat and now lives in Tennessee with her husband and daughter. She writes urban fantasy and paranormal romance with a heavy helping of magic and lot of music for inspiration. Learn more at and sign up for her new releases announcement list at Find her on TwitterFacebook, and Pinterest.


Sonya is kindly giving away a digital copy of Witchlight. To enter, use the Rafflecopter below.

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Review: Witchlight by Sonya Clark

witchlight by sonya clarkFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: ebook
Genre: Paranormal romance
Series: Magic Born, #2
Length: 213 pages
Publisher: Carina Press
Date Released: June 30, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

In 2066, the Magic Born are segregated in urban reservations. The laws do not protect them, or their allies.

Councilwoman Elizabeth Marsden is a powerful player in New Corinth politics, but a closely guarded secret could destroy her life—she’s a hidden Magic Born. Her family has gone to great lengths to erase all her magic-related records, until a trancehacking outlaw discovers the last remaining one…

Vadim Bazarov smuggles Magic Borns through the underground railroad and threatens to reveal Elizabeth’s secret unless she helps him access blank ID cards. Elizabeth wants to hate him for having a stranglehold on her life, but can’t help being attracted to someone so sure of who and what he is.

Vadim initially sees her as a political ice queen, but is intrigued by her suppressed magical abilities. He trains Elizabeth to use her magic, and before long finds himself falling for her. But their newfound love may be shortlived; an anti-magic ordinance forces one of them to make a choice that will change both their lives for good.

My Review:

The best news I had all day was when the author of Witchlight told me she’s finishing the next book in this series. Absolutely the best!

trancehack by sonya clarkWitchlight is the second book in Sonya Clark’s totally awesome Magic Born series, after the marvelous Trancehack (grade A review here). The Magic Born series is science fiction romance gold of the dystopian variety, with an extra dose of awesome because the dystopia is completely human-created and utterly avoidable.

It’s all created by stupid people doing stupid things. If any of the socio-political-economic threads read like a commentary on current practices in the U.S., I would be willing to bet it’s intended. It follows too closely on some trends not to be deliberate.

In this world, it’s been 50 years since the Magic Laws went into effect in the U.S. and the consequences have been devastating; for the magic born, for the general population, and for the U.S. economy.

Anyone born with magic in their DNA is taken from their parents and shoved into a magic-users’ ghetto. Magic-born are licensed and restricted and face extreme prejudice in every aspect of their lives.

Magic-born children of normals are taken away from their parents in infancy and dumped into orphanages in the zone. Anyone can have a magic-born child, so many prospective parents have refused to have children to keep from facing the prospect of losing them.

But the rich are always different; there’s a black market for fake test results. Councilwoman Elizabeth Marsden is the grown-up proof of the use of those tests. Her parents paid for her results to be faked, because she is definitely a magic-user, something that magic-born are not supposed to be.

Then again, magic-born aren’t citizens. They aren’t even treated as people by the government that locks them up at birth.

The times, however, are changing. The number of magic-born is increasing in the general population. That makes the non-magic-born in power very nervous, because they know that their days are numbered. Especially as more and more so-called normals are sympathetic to the magic born, or even worse, are entranced by their magic.

Elizabeth is caught in the cross-fire when the repressive old guard begins fighting their long rearguard campaign of more suppression and more anti-magic-born propaganda.

First, her secret is discovered by the unofficial leader of the Magic-Born underground in her town. Vadim Bazaroz hunts down Elizabeth with the intent of blackmailing her for her cooperation in stealing fake papers for magic users traveling the Underground Railroad to Canada and Mexico.

He finds himself teaching her the magic that her parents made her suppress. Even worse for Vadim, as the smuggler and borderline addict who keeps the magic zone half livable between bribes and escapes, he finds himself drawn to this strong and fragile woman who hurts herself rather than acknowledge what she is.

When the evil powers-that-be attempt to blackmail her into backing their continued suppression, he helps her fight back in every way possible. Not just because she asks, not even because it’s the right thing to do, but because he’s become more addicted to having her in his life than any drug he ever tried.

Escape Rating A+: Witchlight is the middle book in a trilogy. Conditions for the magic-born get very dark at the end, which means that there will hopefully be light at the end of the next tunnel.

There is both a happy and an unhappy ending at the same time. The romance comes to a heartbreaking HEA, but the world it happens in is going to hell in a handcart on the fast track. It made complete sense that things worked this way, but I want book 3 (currently titled Firewall) NOW.

Elizabeth (Lizzie) and Vadim are a fascinating couple to feature in a romance, because neither of them is terribly sympathetic at the beginning. Lizzie is an upper-crust ice princess, and Vadim fully admits that he is a very bad man.

Except that he’s the bad man running the Underground Railroad. The more of him that is revealed, the more we see that he does very bad things for very good reasons. But he’s definitely of the “ends justify the means” school of thought and action.

His initial plan is to blackmail Lizzie to get her on board with saving their people. It’s the wrong thing to do for some very right reasons. Also, she gets the upper hand and subverts the blackmail into a business deal. She has things that she wants, too. The things that Lizzie wants include Vadim, but not just him. In order to make some peace with herself she has to deal with her magic, and not just suppress it.

I find the social, political, economic underpinnings of this world utterly fascinating. It’s not just that the author does a terrific job of portraying “Freaktown” and how it works internally, but that we are also able to see the terrible consequences of the magic-born suppression. The political actions all make a certain kind of bad sense. Those in power want to keep their power, and their power is based on fear of the magic-born. As that fear reduces, the old guard lashes out and tries to maintain their hold through fear-mongering and complete separation of the magic born from the general populace. They want to turn the magic-born into “the other” and then demonize them. The powers that be have also created a police state that suppresses non-magic born as well. They are ugly and brutal and just plain wrong. They are also fighting a rearguard action against the tide of history.

They didn’t have to be anywhere near that stupid, but then, the ones afraid of losing their unjust power often are.

As I said, I want Firewall NOW. The overall story arc is building towards an explosive (probably including actual explosions) climax. I can’t wait!

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Trancehack by Sonya Clark

Tracehack by Sonya ClarkFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available:  ebook, audiobook
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Dystopian, Science Fiction Romance
Series: Magic Born #1
Length: 231 pages
Publisher: Carina Press
Date Released: October 28, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, All Romance

It’s 2065. Those born with magic abilities live in government-run zones, without rights or freedoms. Fear of magic created this segregated world and fear keeps it intact.

A high-profile murder brings Detective Nathan Perez to Magic Born Zone 13. He’s had little experience with the Magic Born and isn’t sure what to expect during his first encounter with a witch, but he never thought he’d be so drawn to her.

Trancehacker Calla Vesper uses magic to break into computers and aid the Magic Born underground. She has no interest in helping a cop, even if he is smoking-hot, but money’s tight and Nate offers a tidy amount for help navigating the Zone. Calla’s determined to keep it all business, but sparks start flying before the investigation even gets started.

When Calla’s trancehacking and Nathan’s investigation uncover a conspiracy, Calla becomes a target. Nate can protect her by keeping her role a secret—but then who will protect Nate?

My Review:

I fell in love with the world created by Sonya Clark in Trancehack to the point where I’m having a difficult time reviewing it because of the sheer number of resonance images it carried for me. Clark’s imagery of the magic users’ ghetto, or FreakTown, borrowed from so many awesome stories and historical settings, even some she didn’t intend, AND added a sweet and white-hot love story like a cherry on top.

Okay, what is this thing, anyway? We have a dystopian society that it turns out human beings mostly made instead of an apocalypse raining down from above.

Even more screwed up, somehow “magic born” started springing up in the population, and then getting segregated into ghettos by mandatory DNA testing. Half a century later, you get the world of Trancehack.

They really are using magic, no joke. Lighting fires, playing with electricity, healing, and some other very interesting talents. But the dystopia comes from the reaction to the people who use the magic.

Religious zealots in the US are the ones who created the anti-magic laws and the ghettos. And guess what? The US became such fanatics that other countries decided not to have much to do with us after that. Even more interesting, US students who studied abroad stopped coming back, so they clamped down on US students studying abroad.

Repressive society much?

It gets worse. All children get tested for the magic DNA. Any found with the gene are automatically taken away from their parents and their records expunged. There is no appeal. Think of what that does not just to the infants who are abandoned inside the magic zones, but also to the young couples who live in fear of having babies with magic and seeing them taken away.

The cost to society as a whole.

Now we have a story. Nathan Perez is a cop who knows he’s a potential scapegoat. An unregistered magic user has just murdered a prominent research physician. There are three very interesting facts about the late Dr. Forbes: 1) he was researching the production of the illegal street drug Nightshade, 2) he was infamous for being responsible for the testing that removed magic-born infants from their parents and 3) he was best-friends with influential Senator John Beckwith, who wants the man’s murder handled quickly and quietly. Oh, and there is no such thing as an unregistered magic-born, so all the crime scene tests must be mistaken.

At least until all the people involved with ever having seen or heard of those “mistaken” tests start turning up dead.

deryni rising by katherine kurtzEscape Rating A: It’s the worldbuilding that made Trancehack so much of a pleasure for me. I kept hearing the echo of Katherine Kurtz’ ancient Deryni crying that “the humans kill what they do not understand” because part of that felt right. The non-Magic Born were afraid of the Magic Born power, so they hemmed it in and legislated it out of sight. They feared what they couldn’t understand so they attempted to control it.

It also reminded me very much of the Mage Towers (for that read Mage Prisons) in Dragon Age: Origins video game world. Again, a world where magic power is feared so much that mages are locked away, in that world by an omnipotent church that takes magic-using children from their parents.

There is also an intentional parallel to the Underground Railroad of U.S history. The Magic-Born may not be slaves, but the restrictions under which they live are designed to make them feel less than human.

Calla Vesper embodies a lot of the conditions under which the Magic-Born live. Not just by being Magic-Born, but by knowing who her birth parents were. She has created someone different, but she is able to visualize exactly what might have been, and so can we.

Nate and Calla’s relationship smacks of Romeo and Juliet, but they are both adults and well aware of the potential consequences. They see the doom going in, they just choose to ignore it for awhile. When doom catches up, they keep running.

And we have the “good cop investigating corrupt society” case in this mix too. Clark keeps a surprising number of plates spinning in the air, and does it in a way that kept this reader enthralled from beginning to end.

Must be magic.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.