06 November 2018

Review of City of Broken Magic


Mirah Bolender's fast-paced, adventure fantasy debut, City of Broken Magic, features a bomb squad that defuses magic weapons.

Five hundred years ago, magi created a weapon they couldn't control. An infestation that ate magic--and anything else it came into contact with. Enemies and allies were equally filling.

Only an elite team of non-magical humans, known as sweepers, can defuse and dispose of infestations before they spread. Most die before they finish training.

Laura, a new team member, has stayed alive longer than most. Now, she's the last--and only--sweeper standing between the city and a massive infestation.


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Set in 1233 in the city of Amicae, the city is broken up into Quarters," like a massive tiered cake". Job and status determine which quarter a person lives in, with First being the richest, and Fifth being the poorest. There's a Sixth Quarter which is where the army lives. Each city is isolated from the others and travel is dangerous between them. Technology is equal to the modern day. Magic is real and used for various purposed in amulets. Amulets are made by artisans in many shapes and sizes and occasionally need to have their magic refreshed.  

Our heroine, Laura, is apprenticed as a Sweeper. We aren't talking literal broom sweeping. Laura is learning to clean up monsters created by broken magic. Created as an anti-magic defense system against the other kingdoms, the creators lost control of the system, were killed by the monsters, and the malicious magic has spread. The only problem is the city has hidden the existence of the infestations creating these monsters and blames the destruction on the mob. Now you have a career that precious few know about and even fewer that choose to do it. It's a dangerous trade and none of the past apprentices have made it. Suddenly, the monsters are becoming sentient and more. They are learning as part of a hive mind. Enter Laura.

Laura is a dreamer. She learned about Sweepers from a book about the capital city and decided that one day, she would be a Sweeper too. She lives with her aunt and hides the dangerous side of her job from her aunt and cousin as part of the hush deal required by the city. Every day, she goes to the Sweeper shop to learn what she can from Clae about what it takes to be a Sweeper. Brooding and secretive, Clae doesn't make it easy for Laura. Then something happens to Clae, and it's up to Laura and the newest apprentice, Okane, to save the city from a massive infestation growing underground.

The world building is very unique and takes a bit of getting used to. If you are the type of reader that expects the technology of the time that the book is set to be identical to what it actually was during those years, you may not enjoy City of Broken Magic. If you can suspend your expectations of the time period, I think you'll really like it. It reminds me a lot of Lockwood and Co. series by Jonathan Stroud or Constable & Toop by Gareth P. Jones.

As a side note: I obviously didn't look closely at this cover when I got the ARC. I thought it was a manhole cover oozing supernatural goo. It's not. It's an amulet that's been broken. (Duh, Valerie.) That in itself gives insight into the story. Although the manhole misinterpretation would work as well, now that I think about it.




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About the Author

Mirah Bolender

Mirah Bolender graduated from college with majors in creative writing and art in May 2014. A lifelong traveler, she has traveled and studied overseas, most notably in Japan, and these experiences are reflected in her work. City of Broken Magic is her debut fantasy novel.