Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Reviewer: Ulysses, Paranormal Romance Guild
About The Book
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.
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.
When the Carnival of Mysteries appears in this second book of the series, it takes us into the world of Kaje Harper’s great Necromancer series—but set today, sixty years after the events take place in that series. Here, in a world that is already filled with magic—even if that magic is kept largely secret from ordinary mortals—the Carnival stands out as special; wild magic with its own purpose.
Jason Miller is a big, handsome fireman, a romantic archetype. He moved back to small-town eastern Washington from Seattle to be near his sprawling and close-knit family. His older brother is his boss at the Shadecliff fire station. But Jason has a secret. He’s gay, and has made it into his 30s without coming out to either family or co-workers.
Alan Chiranchi is another romantic archetype: petite, pretty, an elementary school teacher who is magic with children. He faces prejudice in eastern Washington, both for being Thai and for being gay, but he’s strong, and he deals with it. But he, too, has a secret. He’s a sorcerer, and while his power seems to be strong, he has never been able to control it neatly, so mostly he keeps his secret, except from his closest magical friends. He relies on the Great Spell (called the Great Ward in the Necromancer novels) to help him hide who he is and keep the magical world safe.
And then, as happens in romances, they meet. And as also happens, they realize that their attraction seems to be more than a one-night-stand might warrant. Alan, however, knows that sorcerers can’t maintain relationships with non-magical humans—a point driven home by the Upheavals of the 1990s. Jason, for his part, figures he has no future with this beautiful Asian man because Alan’s apparent gayness would shatter his own smokescreen.
It’s a wonderful, complicated, elegantly woven story, bringing in the Carnival of Mysteries in a perfect, unnerving way. I particularly liked the way the Carnival is described by Kaje—a magical place I would love to experience.
Blood family and chosen family are important, as is personal integrity. Harper brings all sort of modern issues, from comedic to heart-breaking, into the mix with dexterity and her own brand of tenderness. To link this story more firmly to the Necromancer books, she gives Alan a marvelous familiar—a conure (small parrot) named Sunny.
When several characters from the earlier series make important cameo appearances—a device as telling and emotionally charged as anything else in the book—my eyes go all weepy. Harper manages to give us a deep insight into the events of the sixty years preceding this story. She also seems to open up Alan and Jason’s story to the possibility of a sequel.
Wouldn’t that be nice?
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