Cover by Tomas Almeida
In these days of effortless online shopping, it still pays off to visit your local bookstore.
Yesterday I did exactly that, with my regular Saturday trip to our local Barnes & Noble in Geneva, Illinois. There I picked up my usual batch of magazines (Asimov’s SF, Analog, F&SF, and Interzone), and spent 20 minutes browsing the science fiction section. I’m pretty good about keeping on top of new releases in the industry, but the staff stocking the shelves at B&N always manage to surprise me — and they didn’t disappoint. I found nearly a dozen new titles, including a few that insisted they come home with me. Top of the list was Unnatural Magic by newcomer C. M. Waggoner, which Martin Cahill treated with a rave review over at Tor.com.
Unnatural Magic, a debut from author C. M. Waggoner, is utterly delightful.
It has all the elements of a parlor room mystery, with the depth and complexity of any sturdy secondary world fantasy, with just enough sense of humor, danger, and reality to round out the whole book into a startling sort of debut. Waggoner has created a world set at about the turn of the century, with a feel of industry sitting alongside a pastoral and intimate world, one which humans share with the mysterious clans of long-lived trolls, who hold a different sort of magic away from their human neighbors. Both have opinions on the others, as human and troll culture are wildly different from the other, but this world exists with mostly respect for each other, until the murders begin….
Unnatural Magic contains something for everyone. It has gentle, but efficient worldbuilding, with a colorful cast of characters… It has lush prose, with poetic turns of phrase scattered throughout. It has romance, certainly, and daring in heaping amounts. It has magic, and it has a mystery at its core. But mostly, what this brilliant debut novel has, is a massive amount of heart. It made me smile and it made me happy, and mostly, it made me very excited to see what Waggoner has cooking next. If it’s anything like Unnatural Magic, sign me up now. She’s absolutely an author to watch.
Unnatural Magic was published by Ace Books on November 5, 2019. It is 390 pages, priced at $16 in trade paperback and $11.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Tomas Almeida. Read an 8-page excerpt from Chapter One here. See all our recent coverage of the best new science fiction and fantasy here.