Review, Play Dead, John Levitt

Book blerb
Mason used to be an enforcer, ensuring that those magic practitioners without a moral compass walked the straight and narrow. But now he just wants to keep his head down, play guitar, and maintain a low profile with Lou, his magical canine companion. But Mason is down on his luck, and when a job with a large payout comes along, he finds the offer hard to resist-not knowing it might mean sacrificing what both man and his best friend hold most dear.

Review
Mason and Louie are back again!

I have been a fan of Levitt’s series since I picked up the first book, Dog Days, simply to fill a ‘buy 3 get 4’ pile. It turned out to be the best of the four books I purchased at the time, and Levitt has not let me down with any of the books in the series.

His main characters are so fully formed and interesting you wish you could find out where Mason is playing and swing by to take a listen. Bringing lots of bacon for Louie, of course. Levitt manages to juggle a number of diverse sceondary characters with flair, making them work well (or not) with others while still maintaining their own identity. The magic system set out in this world is exacting and well-documented, and even Mason`s innovations make sense given his minor abilities and tendency to improvise. Finally, he gives us a San Francisco that both is and isn`t so naturally that you are not all together sure that it all may not be true after all. San Francisco does have that magical quality about it, after all…

In Play Dead, Mason is once again forced to make choices based on his need to make ends meet (and haven`t we all been there), taking on an assignment from a black practitioner. It seems straightforward, but when dealing with those who deal in darker magics – and then Mason is involved – it turns out to be far more complicated, with implications that could change not only Mason and Louie`s lives, but the lives of all magic users in San Francisco. With a little au courant environmental activism and several double-crosses thrown in, this tale is one that winds tighter and tighter – like a snake – as things progress to its splashy conclusion.

The only drawback is the somewhat cliffhanger conclusion, which leaves this devoted fan desparate for more….

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Review: New Tricks, John Levitt

Book blurb
Mason used to be an enforcer, ensuring that suspect magic practitioners stayed in line. But he gave all that up for a quiet life scraping out a living playing guitar, keeping a low profile with Louie, his magical… well, let’s call him a dog. Luckily, Louie has a sixth sense for danger, and Mason knows exactly how dead he’d be without him.

It’s Halloween in the Castro district of San Francisco, which means that for once Mason doesn’t have to worry about the fact that vampires and ghosts are stalking the streets. What he does have to worry about is how his old flame Sarah became the victim of an attempted possession – leaving her an empty shell.

Mason’s only clue is the green rune stone found is her hand…

Review
Mason is not having a bad year. He’s got no girlfriend, no money, no upcoming gigs; he’s even gone back to working as a practitioner just to make ends meet. He’s in a major funk, and even partying on Castro Street isn’t helping.

When he is called on to help find a fellow practitioner who has gone missing, Mason finds himself with a new mystery to solve: what – or who – had left one of his old flame’s an empty shell.

Poor Mason. He really doesn’t have much luck with his old girlfriends does he? And things don’t necessarily get better in New Tricks.

Mason is joined in this tale by the some of the same characters found in the first book – including the required Louie – as well as some new ones who prove intriguing, though I admit I did figure out whodunit early.

Still, as in the first book, the plot is very enjoyable. We are given an opportunity to learn more about the possible genesis of ifrits, including a theory which, when acted upon, results in the creation of a horrible and deadly situation. It also begs the other questions: how far should practitioners go to help themselves rather than others, and does the end justify the means?

After reading this book I am even more invested in this series, and eagerly looking forward to more tales about Mason and Louie.

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Review: Dog Days, John Levitt

Book blurb
First in a new urban fantasy series-with a bite as magical as its bark.

Mason used to be an enforcer, ensuring that suspect magic practitioners stayed in line. But now he scrapes out a living playing guitar. Good thing he has Louie, his magical…well, let’s call him a dog. But there are some kinds of evil that even Louie can’t sniff out. And when Mason is attacked by a supernatural assailant, he’ll have to fall back on the one skill he’s mastered in music and magic-improvisation.

Review
I am a cat person. I just want to say that at the outset. I don’t hate dogs or anything, just not as fond of them as I am of cats. Having said that, I love Louie.

Louie may look like a miniature Doberman Pinscher but he is actually an ifrit and packs a mystical wallop, and is very helpful in guiding his owner/slave/companion Mason through the supernatural mess he finds himself in.

I also totally ‘get’ Mason. He is a man who has embraced that which gives him joy: playing jazz guitar, something he does a great deal of skill. He does have his shortcomings though: playing jazz guitar doesn’t bring in many bucks, and Mason is also someone who gets bored easily, only able to hack regular gigs for a while. Therefore money is tight, but he accepts that because he wants to live life the way he wants.

Oh and he also has magic. Once again, he uses it in his own way: recognizing that he isn’t the strongest user, but he is good at improvising – something he learnt from his music – and able to put that knowledge to good use when he finds himself in a jam. He is also very ethical in his use of magic, though he has a fairly laissez-faire attitude towards other magic-users.

Mason is happily minding his own business when he is attacked magically. His search to find out why leads him back to a life he’d left behind, a group of enforcers; people who ensured that magic practitioners stayed in line and, of course, the woman he’d once loved. His search for the truth behind the attack, the disappearance of magic practitioners and ifrits and the emergence of strange and mystically powerful jewels all come together in a compelling urban fantasy tale.

One thing I particularly enjoy is the way John Levitt paints a picture of a San Francisco, and its denizens, that is so close to reality. The people who have magic powers don’t seem all that different from the people you’d normally bump into: a buttoned-up but openly gay corporate type, a couple of leftover hippies, the driven and ambitious women, back-to-nature sports type, and various street people. People we would all recognize but who, in Levitt’s world, have that extra ‘umph’. Despite this, Levitt doesn’t stereotype any of them. They are archetypes we recognize but ones that don’t necessarily do what we would expect of them. Very refreshing.

This is a series that I would highly recommend to fans of the genre. If you like urban fantasy, this is one of the best examples of it.

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