When journalist Levi Lawson works his news beats, he’s not seeking quotes at City Hall or rifling through filings at the district courthouse. His reporting typically takes him to darker corners of the city: the secret sites of arcane rituals or a wizard’s workshop—or face to face with powers and creatures most people consider the stuff of legend and imagination. See, his job is to report on his city’s covert community of magic users, a job that’s made even tougher by the fact that he’s not one of them.
In M.N. Jolley’s clever and brisk novel The KC Warlock Weekly, Levi (pronounced “levy”) is the owner and publisher of the newspaper from which the book draws its title. Even on a “normal” day, Levi’s job is sure to put him at odds with all sorts of spellcasters and supernatural beings, all of whom operate within a shroud of illusion that hides them from their non-magical fellow residents of Kansas City, Mo. From the opening of Jolley’s novel, subtitled Book One: Accused, it becomes clear that the day is anything but typical for Levi. He’s being interrogated by a pair of counsellors (“wizard cops,” as Levi explains) as the prime suspect in a murder case. As the book unfolds, Levi finds himself working to exonerate himself, identify the actual murderer—and all while trying to get the latest issue of his paper to the printer on deadline.
Through Levi’s first-person narration of the story, Jolley effectively introduces readers not only to a resourceful, clever and even charming lead for the series but he also immerses readers into a world of magic hidden in plain sight from the rest of us. He builds this world, explains its rules, and adheres to them in ways that make for an enjoyable read. As Levi hardly is alone in his adventures, Jolley offers a diverse cast of supporting characters, most of whom are crafted in ways that make a reader hope they will turn up in subsequent stories. Dialogue is smart and punchy, evoking the feel of an old-school, hard-boiled whodunnit with contemporary spins. The story’s plot moves quickly, with every fresh turn carrying some surprise. Another fun surprise: Jolley’s choices and descriptions of story locations will ring very true to readers familiar with Kansas City.
Jolley’s book is a terrific and rewarding escape—think Fletch meets Harry Potter. The KC Warlock Weekly is a fun, funny and fast-paced introduction to an intriguing world that’s just a sidestep apart from our own.—Kevin Dilmore
KEVIN DILMORE has teamed with author and best pal Dayton Ward for nearly 20 years on novels, shorter fiction and other writings chiefly in the Star Trek universe. A contributor to publications including the Village Voice, Amazing Stories, and Famous Monsters of Filmland, he works as a senior writer for Hallmark Cards.