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"The Wizard of Dark Street" by Shawn Thomas Odyssey

I liked The Wizard of Dark Street by Shawn Thomas Odyssey, and I hope Odyssey plans to make it the first in a series (it already has a cool website). Unfortunately, it could have used another edit.

The problem lies with the uneven tone of the novel. At times the story is serious -- and some horrible things have happened (spoilers later). But the novel also has some quirks that seem to be attempts at humor, but miss.

The heroine of the book is Oona Crate, a Natural Magician. She was born to do magic (other magicians must learn it), but after her father (The Wizard of Dark Street) was killed by the evil Red Martin and after she herself killed her mother and baby sister(!) with some uncontrolled magic, Oona wants to give up the family business and not be apprentice to her uncle (the new Wizard of Dark Street). Instead, she’d like to become a detective.

In some ways, the book calls to mind the wonderful Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clark. Dark Street is the last of the 13 “Faerie roads, connecting the World of Man to the fabled Land of Faerie.” It’s 13 miles long and at one end are the glass gates to the Land of Faerie. These gates were closed years ago after a battle with the Faerie Queen. As in Jonathan Strange, the Faeries are malevolent. At the other end, the Iron Gates separate the road from New York City. Once a night, at the stroke of midnight, the Iron Gates open to allow passage between the two worlds for a minute. Like the inhabitants of New York in Bill Willingham’s Fables graphic novels who don’t know that there are real-life fairy tale characters living in both the city and upstate New York, the denizens near the Iron Gates never notice Dark Street or venture past its gates. This is a rather nice setup that can lead to worlds of narratives (no pun intended). Also quite novel are lawyers of the Magicians Legal Alliance, who receive facial tattoos “upon the completion of every new course of study.” And Oona’s magical raven Deacon, who was imbued with all the knowledge of the Encyclopedia Arcanna, The Complete Oxford English Dictionary, and the Dark Street Who’s Who: 36 B.C. to Present.

But then there are odd things, like a bumbling police chief; the idea that everyone has English or Irish accents (or so we’re told, they’re not evident in the dialog); conniving witches who live under a hill; the too-cartoonish cover; and the stereotypical prissy Isadora as a foil to the more practical Oona.

Children (8 years old and up) will like this book and I intend to recommend it. It’s not Harry Potter, but it has charms. If Odyssey can make the narrative a bit tighter and paint the characters with less broader strokes in any sequels, it’ll be a great series.


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