Title: City of Magi
Author: Michael McDuffee
Series: Magi Stone (Book 1)
Genre: Industrial-era Fantasy
Publisher: Self Published
Release Date: July 25 2014
Edition/Formats Available: Kindle
At the heart of Astosen, the city of Dein Astos stands as a bulwark for the free world, always on alert to battle Valania’s attempts to bring the republic under continental dominance. Sophisticated and diverse, driven by magic, money, and information, this city of magi teems with tea houses, government agencies, exclusive clubs and risky districts.
Alexander Locke, a great Magi Knight and the hero of the republic, lies dead. His daughter, Zia Locke, reluctantly rises to power, unaware that her father may not have died of natural causes, as everyone believes.
That is, until she is artfully maneuvered into meeting the mysterious and abundantly self-assured Grayson Kearney. A keen judge of character and cunning magus, Grayson rocks Zia's world in more ways than one as he helps tear away the veil of ignorance from her eyes. From lifelong friends to sworn enemies, the new leader of the House of Locke is discovering that anyone could be the next to betray her. What Zia needs is a good intelligence officer at her side. But when everyone has a hidden agenda, can she truly place her trust in Grayson?
Applause started from the corner of the room farthest from both Zia and Flores, quickly spreading throughout the chamber. Zia cringed when the room began to flicker from the gallery full of reporters taking pictures of her. Flores vanished into the crowd.
Eventually, Thayer’s gavel was heard over the applause.
“Well said, Citizen Locke,” he said over the dying cheers, “and welcome to Quorum.”
Thayer read off his other reports to a far less interested crowd. As the minutes dragged on, Zia grew tired of the stares and left. She wasn’t two steps out of the auditorium when she was blinded by flashes.
“Lady Zia! Over here, Lady Zia!”
“Is it true that you have spies in the Valanian army that tipped you off?”
“Did you ignore the DoD’s requested investigation?”
“Was it easy to take control of your first Quorum?”
“Did you only argue because of the ancient rivalry between the houses?”
“Did you get a new haircut?”
“Did you address Flores by his first name as an insult?”
“Has the rivalry begun anew?”
Zia tried to raised her hand to ward off the cameras. How the hells was she supposed to get through this? Part of her wanted to knock them all over.
Keegan was usually the one who pushed her way through a crowd like this, but he was waiting back at the office. Except for the small reporters’ gallery, only Citizens were allowed into Quorum. She had figured it would be a waste of Keegan’s time to simply wait outside. She might have been right, had she not been dumb enough to stand up to Flores. Damnable force of habit.
“Over here, Lady Zia!”
She could barely hear their voices any more. Questions ran together into one incomprehensible roar of noise. One voice boomed above all the rest.
“Citizen Flores—were you attempting to undermine faith in Council for financial gain?”
For an instant, the swarm of reporters silenced. They quickly sought out the origin of the shout, a lone reporter in a dark brown coat and a wide-brimmed hat at the door farthest from Zia. He confronted an annoyed Flores. The swarm ran across the room to Flores as he exited the auditorium.
Zia’s breathing slowed. She closed her eyes and counted to five. Lesson learned: never go to Quorum without an escort. She took one more breath to collect herself, and did her best to walk towards the exit without attracting attention.
The reporter in the dark brown coat and wide-brimmed hat appeared from behind a column as she passed. Her right hand reached for the hilt of her sword by reflex. He tipped his hat and smiled. It was Grayson.
“Think you’ve got the energy to head back to the office, or would you rather just get a cup of tea and head home?”
All of Zia’s breath rushed out of her at once. “Kearney.”
He pulled off his coat and threw it over her shoulders. He was wearing a slimmer trench coat beneath it. He plucked his hat off and sat it on her head.
“I know it’s not your style, but it couldn’t scream reporter any louder. We ought to be able to get out without being noticed by the second crowd.”
“The second crowd?” she asked.
“All of those guys,” he nodded at the swarm around Flores that was starting to fan out to other Citizens as they filed out of the auditorium, “have one of these.” He tugged on a bright yellow tag hanging from around his neck. “Quorum press pass. Very hard to get—even the Observer only gets two. There are, of course, several score more reporters outside who have been tipped off about what happened.”
She didn’t object when he pushed the hat down further on her head, then looked her over. He brushed the hair back from her face, an oddly intimate gesture, and tucked it back over her ears.
“Pardon the intrusion,” he said as he stepped forward and put his arms around her to tuck her hair back under the coat, “but your hair is too identifiable. That should be enough for us to make a quick getaway. Shall we?”
She caught his fingers as he turned away. He stopped and looked up at her. “Kearney?”
“Yes, Lady Locke?”
“Oh gods,” she grimaced, “please don’t call me that now.”
He was smiling. “Then call me Grayson.”
She finally laughed. “Fine. Grayson—”
He gave a half bow. “I do what I can, Milady.”
“I said don’t—”
“I didn’t call you Lady Locke.”
She punched his arm as they made their way out the door. “Just for that, you’re buying the tea.”
Outside, the waning sun revealed exactly the scene Grayson had foretold: no fewer than forty reporters, all men, all young, and all dressed in variations of the trench coat and hat that she wore. The group looked up at them as one, a pack of hunters waiting for prey. They turned their attention back to their cameras as soon as they registered Grayson and Zia as not being people of note.
She heard a gruff, clipped, quiet voice from just beside her. “I hear Locke should be out any minute. Don’t let your camera out of her face until I say so, Jameson.”
Zia turned to look for the voice, but Grayson took her hand and nodded to the brim of her hat. From the corner of her eye she could see a small inlaid stone above her head on her right side. She couldn’t help but smile. Grayson had put an ear on the reporters. The stone continued its transmissions as Grayson led her around the corner of the block to a line of waiting stonepush taxis. Ordinarily, at this hour, the crowds would be too thick for anything but rickshaws, but the streets were cleared for Quorums.
“Just keep the flashes going. Get a lot of shots, whether we get a statement out of her or not. We’ll figure out what narrative the story needs later. I want a shot of her angry, surprised, scared, whatever you can get.”
“My gods,” Zia whispered as the taxi boy started to push off, “they’re like vultures. Who did you put this on?”
“That,” Grayson answered, “is the one and only Denny Alexander of the Observer.”
“D.A. in D.A., that Denny Alexander?”
“The very same.”
She looked back over her shoulder at the rapidly shrinking pack of reporters. “I always like reading his articles. And the editorials too—he’s one of my favorites.”
Michael McDuffee is a science fiction and fantasy author from Raleigh, North Carolina. He moved around the United States long after his formative years and spent time in Philadelphia, Seattle, and DC, before moving to the San Francisco Bay Area. His first series, Those Who Die Young, was designed and conceived to be published exclusively in online platforms, utilizing the freedom of the new distribution network to explore a story that would never have been possible before, the long-form serial.
His first feature novel, City of Magi, is a fantasy adventure set in a magically-powered industrial society. Get it exclusively on Kindle now!
*I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review
I'm not quite sure what to say other than I loved this book!
City of Magi is one of those stories that hooked me from the beginning. The characters are fascinating and well rounded. The story is filled from the first word with mystery, deception, magic, humor, aggression and just about any other adjective you can imagine. Just when I thought I had things figured out the author adds another little twist.
I love the way magic is represented and utilized in this book. While it is a force unto itself, wielding it requires cunning, dedication, and more than a few trinkets. Magic is represented differently through each character and creates a world in which I was completely emerged.
The author, Michael McDuffee, creates a world that is both ratable and magical with characters that are interesting and enthralling.