There’s a good chance you may be unfamiliar with Kat Howard, but I don’t think you will be for long. The author of last year’s Roses & Rot–her debut novel– Howard’s short fiction has garnered good press and reviews, and in her latest novel, An Unkindness of Magicians, she has come into her own. An Unkindness of Magicians is the story of Sydney, a mysterious woman suddenly appearing in the “Unseen World” of magicians in modern day New York City. Wrapped up in the details of Sydney’s shadowy past are the sudden failures of magic plaguing the Unseen World and the generational competition between the magical Houses that control that world. It’s an enrapturing read that pulls you along while exploring the nature of power, the way societies treat their weakest members, and the sacrifice that life so frequently demands.
If you’d like a rounded understanding of what Howard so often explores in her fiction, this is a great place to start. Reminiscent of her short stories “Hath No Fury” and “Haruspicy and Other Amatory Divinations,” Howard layers in magic, vengeance, and clear, beautiful prose into An Unkindness of Magicians, along with a taste of Ursula K. Leguin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” and a Tolkien-esque eucatastrophe to tie it all together.
I started this review by talking about Howard’s burgeoning significance in the Fantasy genre. Although I certainly have no magical powers or any ability to read the future, Howard’s been a writer I’ve been keeping my eye on for several years now. She does not seem to be inclined towards the big fantasy epics that are popular right now, ala Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice & Fire, but if you’re a fan of Neil Gaiman and other dark fantasists with a sharp sense of prose and keen insight, you’re in for a real treat.
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