Confession time: I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this book as much as I did. A period piece novel set just after the Great War with some Downton Abbey society vibes, a murder mystery, oh and magic. Yes! Magic! “Magic Most Deadly” follows Maia and Lennox as they bump into each other at a roaring house party, only to stumble across a murder, a plot to bring Britain to its knees once more, and that not only is magic real, but it’s been working in the shadows to keep society from going off the rails for decades, if not more. Now Lennox, who was undercover to try and discover the plot Maia witnessed, finds himself partnered with the fledgling magician—who is also a fiercely independent woman who constantly keeps Lennox on his toes. The tone of the characters fits so flawlessly with the time period and setting that I was immediately swept away and ended up adoring these characters and the rather cozy mystery they embarked on, while also trying to teach Maia about magic—oh, and keep it a secret from everyone else, naturally.
The shining star of this novel is truly Maia and Len’s dynamic. She’s a sassy woman a bit out of her time in terms of what was considered acceptable for a woman in both social standing, and how they were expected to behave. Lennox is a war scarred veteran who just wants to work alone, and is a typical male for the time period, so their clashes are both fun and add a realistic bit of drama on top of the mystery. I loved watching these two characters grow—both as individuals and how they grew on each other—and they truly sell the setting of the glamorous, roaring 20’s house party that serves as a back drop for all the mayhem. Really, it felt like a scene from the Great Gatsby in terms of setting, but, you know, in the countryside outside of London. Bates is fantastic at creating an authentic atmosphere, I don’t think that can be stated enough. The magic is also pretty light, so if you aren’t a huge fan of fantasy, don’t worry. This is much more a cozy mystery where the magical elements serve only to provide a nice twist to the tried and true.
I will say that the mystery doesn’t really become more prominent in the story until about the 60% mark, at which point it gets exceedingly hard to put down! Not that the mystery isn’t there, the action on that starts early so the story is engaging from the get go, but more you have a lot of Lennox and Maia butting heads, learning about magic, and drama with Maia’s younger sisters and the men they try to woo. We get a lot of Maia’s character arc, her growth as someone who shakes off the burden of her family and pursues her own life, her own dreams, and it’s lovely. Even for the time period where you have several characters telling Maia what she can and can’t do because of her gender, I found this novel to be empowering as Maia never lets that stop her, and proves to all the men that she is more than capable, and someone they should not only listen to, but welcome as a valued member of their organization. It was a nice touch, one that is done where it never felt preachy, either, in case you were worried about that for some reason?
I could keep praising this book, but really, you should just read it for yourself. The only thing that I felt a little let down by was where the story ended with Maia and Len, I’ll say no more than that to avoid spoilers. But remember: this is much more a cozy mystery, so know that going in because if you are expecting some crazy magic or a thriller, that’s not what’s nestled in these pages. But for a period piece with some light fantasy mingled with a cozy little mystery, this was excellent! A well-deserved 5 stars in my opinion, and thanks to the author for providing me with a copy for an honest review!
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