It’s not a good month without an indie novel or two. Today I’ll be reviewing Dead Magic by Kara Jorgensen. Last week, I shared my review for The Earl and the Artificer, and this novel takes place just after those events, and serve as the fourth novel in the Ingenious Mechanical Devices series. Check out the review below and make sure to give your two cents in the comments section if you’ve already read the book, too!
Rating: 5 stars
Dead Magic switches back and forth between Immanuel’s attempts to recover from harrowing events surrounding Lord Rose, and Emmeline’s desire to further her station in life by rising in the ranks of the spiritualist society. Immanuel has a nice job, an excellent flat mate (Adam Fence), and a budding affinity for magic—which becomes an interesting topic that he and Adam have to come to terms with.
Meanwhile, Emmeline feels sure that she’s going to get the proper Victorian woman’s future by securing a relationship with a dashing suitor who is also a respectable member of the spiritualist society, but promises to help her get into a more elite institution that will finally respect the abilities she craves to exercise.
Despite their awkward soul attachment, Immanuel and Emmeline have to work together to ensure darker magic doesn’t come back to bite them—and destroy London along with it. Both of them receive help along the way, including friends in the background who understand and respect their magical abilities.
What I enjoyed:
As you’ve noticed in my reviews by now, I’m a sucker for novels that tell a good story, but also broaden my understanding of the world. I like learning new things about people and life, even if it’s a fiction novel. Jorgensen’s series is really my first look into novels featuring gay characters as prominent main characters. And I feel like my first impression was a very balanced and enriching one.
Readers get a real in-depth view of how these relationships work, and how the partners have to talk through insecurities and doubts just like any other partnership. Immanuel suffers from PTSD from the events found in The Winter Garden and his insecurities about his abilities to be a lover and attractive mate suffer. Jorgensen’s characters model realistic dialog between all types of couples that have issues to sort through, many of which the readers will recognize and appreciate.
Also, Emmeline is perhaps the most realistic, and therefore annoying, teenage character I’ve ever met. Ohhhh my days. After everything that happens to her, she still takes on an upper class, privileged take which baffles me, but also fits with her character. She hangs out with a very odd cast of people, considering the Victorian lifestyle they rebel against, so it’s funny to watch her try to jive with these characters and mentally reject their viewpoints, even though traditional Victorian customs have failed her over and over again.
There’s something appealing about a unlikable character that is well thought out and portrayed. As in, you can totally see her train of thought and why she would feel abandoned and unloved, even though the reader’s perspective still shows that she’s rather spoiled and privileged. It hearkens back to my teenage years, so I can’t talk! I dunno—maybe some of you like Emmeline! But there were moments when I thought Eliza was going to finally lose it.
My Final Thoughts
If you’re into inclusive writing that taps into characters with a wide spectrum of true-to-reality problems, get your eyeballs all over this series, and especially this book. I’m a firm believer that books should reflect the real world, even if the events are otherwise fiction. Jorgensen mentions a lot about Emmeline tapping into the spirit world to connect with those on the other side, and I feel this is a metaphor for what Dead Magic—and the series itself—achieves for the reader.
I will say that there is extensive description of foreplay, so be aware of that if you’re not into that. I appreciate that Jorgensen uses it as a way for the characters to overcome their inhibitions and self-doubt, rather than purely for entertainment.
I’ll also throw this out there: Adam and Immanuel get a new house pet—and it was a joy to discover and just fitting for the series. I’ll let you read the novel to discover what it is.
If you’d like to learn more about Kara Jorgensen and her work, you can catch up with her via social media:
Have you read this novel? Do you have your own thoughts about it? Share with me in the comments!