Book Review – Kakistocracy

Next up is a book that I just read last month – Kakistocracy by Alex Shvartsman. This is book 2 of the Conradverse Chronicles and you can read my review of the first book, The Middling Affliction, over here (paid links). I also want to thank NetGalley for providing this book to me in exchange for an honest review.

I read the e-book edition.

Here is the blurb:

If you do it well, lying is every bit as effective as magic.

Conrad Brent has no innate magic, so he bluffs a lot and uses a myriad of magical items to protect Brooklyn from monsters and arcane threats. As a member of the Watch, the group that protects the mundane humans from such dangers, he risks his life on a regular basis. Sometimes twice before lunch. Sometimes during lunch, when he dares order his food from a street cart.

After regaining his position in the Watch which he’d temporarily lost due to the machinations of a variety of evil-doers, Conrad doesn’t want to take any risks he doesn’t have to. But now his boss is missing, there’s a totalitarian new regime in City Hall oppressing all magic users, and the mayor has aligned himself with a diabolical villain.

In order to save the day, Conrad must team up with a recovering necromancer to mediate a dispute between two ancient enemy factions, solve a mystery of a warded house adjacent to a cemetery, and stand with his friends against tyranny.

That is, if the interdimensional fae assassins don’t get him first.

I had enjoyed the first book in this series and was hopeful that the second installment would continue in the same vein. Fortunately, Kakistocracy lived up to and exceeded my expectations! This volume felt more polished with a smoothly moving plot, although I think that may be because I already knew the rules of this world and the characters.

One of my favorite aspects of this book was how the necromancer, Moira, decides to try to be one of the good guys. Like the first book, Kakistocracy continues to examine what it means to be a hero and the different ways that one can act heroically.

Even though I felt like the plot moved forward smoothly, that didn’t mean it lacked twists and complications. Conrad is pulled in different directions by his obligations, his limitations as a middling who cannot do magic, and his personal feelings. I also loved the plot device where he loses several months in the faerie realm and has to reorient himself to all the changes that have occurred to New York City during his time away.

The humor also continues in this book, but I think there may have been fewer pop culture references (if that’s your thing). The immediate story is wrapped up by the end of the book, but still leaves room for more. I expect we’ll get to see more books in the Conradverse Chronicles in the future.

Have you read the first book or any of the author’s short stories? Let me know in the comments (above).

Read more of my reviews here.

Book Review – The Middling Affliction

I was excited to read The Middling Affliction, book #1 in the Conradverse Chronicles by Alex Shvartsman because the author is a local friend who I have helped with some proofreading and other feedback (not on this book though). I previously reviewed one of his other books (Eridani’s Crown) over here.

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Here is the blurb:

What would you do if you lost everything that mattered to you, as well as all means to protect yourself and others, but still had to save the day? Conrad Brent is about to find out.

Conrad Brent protects the people of Brooklyn from monsters and magical threats. The snarky, wisecracking guardian also has a dangerous secret: he’s one in a million – literally.

Magical ability comes to about one in every 30,000 and can manifest at any age. Conrad is rarer than this, however. He’s a middling, one of the half-gifted and totally despised. Most of the gifted community feels that middlings should be instantly killed. The few who don’t flat out hate them still aren’t excited to be around middlings. Meaning Conrad can’t tell anyone, not even his best friends, what he really is.

Conrad hides in plain sight by being a part of the volunteer Watch, those magically gifted who protect their cities from dangerous, arcane threats. And, to pay the bills, Conrad moonlights as a private detective and monster hunter for the gifted community. Which helps him keep up his personal fiction – that he’s a magical version of Batman. Conrad does both jobs thanks to charms, artifacts, and his wits, along with copious amounts of coffee. But little does he know that events are about to change his life…forever.

When Conrad discovers the Traveling Fair auction house has another middling who’s just manifested her so-called powers on the auction block, he’s determined to save her, regardless of risk. But what he finds out while doing so is even worse – the winning bidder works for a company that’s just created the most dangerous chemical weapon to ever hit the magical community.

Before Conrad can convince anyone at the Watch of the danger, he’s exposed for what he really is. Now, stripped of rank, magical objects, friends and allies, Conrad has to try to save the world with only his wits. Thankfully though, no one’s taken away his coffee.

This book lived up to the playful description in the blurb and was a lot of fun to read! While Eridani’s Crown took place in an alternate world fantasy, The Middling Affliction is a solid piece of urban fantasy set in the New York City area. Like last week’s review of Perilous Times, this story looks at what it takes to be a hero, and that is not always defined by what magic or super powers one possesses.

The plot jumps from one action scene to another and the stakes keep going up with each new problem that Conrad encounters. I particularly enjoyed how Conrad manages to maintain the charade of using magic when he cannot actually do this (and then when a certain thing happens in the plot, he is in a unique place to act empathetically).

This was also a quick read (240 pages) for me and felt light-hearted (despite the dire occurrences). I’m definitely going to pick up the second book (Kakistocracy) soon!

Do you read much urban fantasy? What is your favorite series? Let me know in the comments (above).

Find more of my reviews here.

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