ebook provided by the author
Magic Born, #2
June 30, 2014
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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.
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!
Witchlight 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!
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