Title: Touched By Magic (Razor’s Edge Chronicles Book One)
Publisher/Author: Celine Jeanjean
Apiya is a barber. She is also Touched — that is, she is human but with just enough magic to be aware of the Mayak (supernatural) community that is hidden in plain sight. Living and working on the South-east Asian island of Panong, but raised in the United Kingdom, she straddles multiple communities; and while she loves her job and her family and her friends, she can’t help but feel like an outsider among the Mayak. To them, Touched individuals such as herself are almost worse than humans; they’re mongrels, pests to be ignored or eaten. As such, Apiya is more than surprised when a pair of pari-pari (reclusive forest fae) walk into the shop and beg her to care for their egg. Unfortunately, such eggs are rare and highly sought-after, and Apiya isn’t sure that her minuscule magic will be enough to protect it until it hatches. It’s a good thing that she has friends … and just a little bit of magic ….
Touched By Magic came across my tablet on a list of recommendations based on my previous purchases. It looked cute, so I downloaded the sample. And then bought the book.
The first volume in Jeanjean’s series is just plain fun. Apiya is a fantastic character. Of Panong descent, she was adopted by a Caucasian couple. Her parents encouraged her to explore her birth culture and they were fully supportive when her magic began to manifest. They might be academics, but they don’t care what she does (barber) or what she wears (ripped fishnet stockings) or that she dyes her hair an eye-jarring pink; they just want her to be happy. And they raised her to be respectful of other cultures, other people, and other not-human people. They also raised her to have a big heart and a fierce sense of justice.
Apiya is also incredibly down to earth. She’s all about hereness, nowness, building relationships and keeping her loved ones safe. That is reflected by her magic. As Apiya explains
My magic feels more like I’m making suggestions and the objects respond. It tends to work best when I know the objects well, and when my suggestions are compatible with the object’s true nature. If I’m in a completely new setting, there’s very little I can do. But here, on my territory, things just … cooperate with me.
All of which serves Apiya well, but also gets her into trouble when various bad guys try to coerce, threaten, and steal away the pari-pari egg. Sure, she has a motorcycle, but she’s not some badass, sword-wielding action heroine. She’s a barber who’s really good at, well, keeping her house clean.
It was also a real treat to read an urban fantasy that was not based around European or pseudo-Christian mythology. In addition to the pari-pari, we are introduced to garudas, kitsunes, door guardians, polongs (mindless servants made from blood), mandurugo (vampires), and even Mucalinda, the king of the nagaraja. Interestingly, the various Mayak don’t care how they are referred to in Mundane mythology. As Apiya explains at one point, the kitsune are not Japanese; they just happened to like that part of the world and interacted with the Mundanes who lived there. Similarly, Kali is not a Hindu Goddess; she is a Goddess, and the humans in one part of the world claimed her as their own. (Nor do supernatural beings recognize human political borders. They prefer natural boundaries, such as rivers and mountain ranges. As such, they see the Ural Mountains as the European/Asian border.)
Touched By Magic is a great introduction to a fun urban fantasy series. While it can be read as a stand-alone, it is very clearly part of a larger story arc that is continued in the following volumes (currently standing at five); and I for one can’t wait to read them.
Highly recommended to fans of RJ Blain’s Magical Romantic Comedy (With a Body Count) books, Annette Marie’s Guild Codex series, The SPI Files by Lisa Shearin, and Twilight Run by Daniel R. Potter.
[Reviewed by Rebecca Buchanan.]