Review: Magic Burning (Carnival of Mysteries) by Kaje Harper

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Allan:

I haven’t been out with a guy in the last two years. Partly because I’m a gay elementary-school teacher in a fairly small, conservative town. Partly because I’m a sorcerer, and dating ordinary humans only leads to trouble. Sleeping with one though? That’s doable, so when my birdbrained familiar Sunny lines up a tall, muscular firefighter for me, I’m not going to say no. Just once, though. Maybe twice. I don’t need more trouble in my life.

Jason

I don’t regret moving back to my hometown and my big family. Well, not much. I’m not out to them, and I miss the anonymity of the big city, but I like the local fire house and the slower-paced life. Still, when I see my niece’s teacher, Mr. Hiranchai, in gray sweatpants talking to a mini-parrot on his shoulder, something inside me (or maybe something in front of me) perks up and says “I want that one.” I can’t have an actual boyfriend, but I sure wouldn’t mind getting laid, and Alan’s slim, dark-haired, smart-assed style rings all my bells.

It’s no surprise we turn out to be great together, even if my job and his responsibilities make it hard to find time. It is a surprise when I realize I want more than just an occasional night. But some weird fires out in the brush keep us firefighters hopping, and when this strange carnival comes to town and lands me with a pair of magical doll shoes, life gets truly confusing. There’s more to Alan than he’s telling me, and I’m getting a bad, bad feeling about all this.

Magic Burning is a story in the Necromancer universe, 60 years after Marked by Death, and is part of the multi-author Carnival of Mysteries Series. Each book stands alone, but each one includes at least one visit to Errante Ame’s Carnival of Mysteries, a magical, multiverse traveling show full of unusual acts, games, and rides. The Carnival changes to suit the world it’s on, so each visit is unique and special. This book contains a snarky, matchmaking bird, a lonely young teacher, and a gay firefighter finally coming out to his large family.

Review:

Dear Kaje Harper,

I’ve enjoyed several of your books and even when I find them flawed, I still enjoyed discussing them, so when I stumbled upon this book on Kindle Unlimited I happily one clicked.

As the blurb notes, apparently this is part of a multi-authors series where the only point of connection is that the characters at some point of the story visit a very special Carnival. Presumably, nothing else connects the stories. I say presumably because I have not read any other story in this series yet and if the selling point was the Carnival, well let’s just say that I found the visit to that Carnival to be one of the weaker points of this one.

To be more specific, if we were to delete the visit from this story, I do not believe much of anything would have changed in the narrative. I know the characters receive some Magical McGuffins at the carnival, but I mostly rolled my eyes at that and I *love* when magic plays part in the narrative.

Otherwise however, I really liked this long novella or short novel despite the fact that it is set up in the Necromancer series universe which I abandoned after reading the first two entries.

I liked both Jason and Allan a whole lot, I liked that we got to see how dedicated they both were to the jobs they had, in fact it looked like their careers were in many ways their passion and I appreciated that. I loved seeing how much Allan liked teaching, because man I see and hear enough criticism of teachers in real life lately and would love love to see more wonderful teachers as literary characters. Sorry I digressed :).

I really like how the author built the very real potential conflict between them since Jason was not out as the story begins and as much as Allan likes him, he really does not plan to go back in the closet as much as Jason’s worries may be very real. I thought it was nicely done and I sympathized with them both.

And I thought that in a way the author mixed magic and realism in the story very well, because while Allan keeps secrets from Jason about him being a sorcerer and the magical world around him, the main issue which keeps heating up is connected to Allan’s mentor being ill with a very real illness and of course the involvement of magic eventually makes this storyline explode.

I thought it was cool how coming out or not coming out did not come between them, but magical secrets did do that.

So, what I did not like? Well, it relates to the magic of this world and thank you Ami for making me realize what was bugging me. I read her review after I was finished and I figured it out. While I don’t think that magic was an unnecessary extra in this book, I don’t think that everything about magic was smoothly handled either.

I already mentioned that the Carnival and related things mostly caused me to roll my eyes. I also felt as if Allan’s power was sticking out a bit and not in a good way. I guess maybe the author plans to continue the series, but if not, mentioning that Allan cannot control his powers much in the beginning and nothing much changing in this department felt strange. B/B-

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Sirius

Sirius started reading books when she was four and reading and discussing books is still her favorite hobby. One of her very favorite gay romances is Tamara Allen’s Whistling in the Dark. In fact, she loves every book written by Tamara Allen. Amongst her other favorite romance writers are Ginn Hale, Nicole Kimberling, Josephine Myles, Taylor V. Donovan and many others. Sirius’ other favorite genres are scifi, mystery and Russian classics. Sirius also loves travelling, watching movies and long slow walks.

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