Author: Paul Kane
Publisher: WordFire Press
Plot: In an alternate world where real magic exists, its practitioners are hunted down by police officers called M-forcers. But some groups are fighting back!
Callum McGuire is a new M-forcer who once worked the quiet streets of London. As an orphan, Callum has been brought up to believe that all magic is evil, but the more he sees of The M-forcers’ cruel methods (implemented by General Nero Stark, and his second-in-command Sherman Pryce), the more he begins to question whether or not they are right.
And when he unwittingly encounters a member of the rebel group called Arcana, he’s introduced to their world and realises that nothing will ever be the same again.
I received Arcana from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
The synopsis of Arcana instantly drew my attention: a reality where magic exists, a battle between good and evil where nothing is black and white and a protagonist with a haunted past trying to do what is right, even when he’s no longer sure which side of the line he is on.
I really enjoyed this book. It’s not one that blows you away, but it’s a solid read with engaging characters, a plot full of tension and romance and a strong battle between the good guys and the bad. You know who you are rooting for the whole way through and want them to overcome their limitations and save the day.
Callum is a strong protagonist. Being brought up in the orphanage has left him with scars: his claustrophobia, for one; his determination that magic must be evil and therefore those who practice it also bad people, for another. He has a heart of gold – his determination to save people and do good is what draws him into the world of M-forcers.
Callum’s conscience is a key player – he realises quickly that things might not be as clear as he thinks. When his heart ends up on the line as well, Callum must decide once and for all whose side he wants to be on. There’s some suspense, some uncertainty about what he will chose and it draws the reader in, creating an atmosphere of tension that keeps you turning the page.
Questions were a dangerous thing. You ask them of other people, you ask them of yourself. And sometimes you might not like the answers to either.
Ferne – a nurse and magic user – provides both the love interest for Callum, and his pathway into a world he had no idea existed. She was a strong character on her own: she’s been living this life all her life and has far more of an idea than Callum what is going on. She’s both his and the reader’s introduction to the Arcana (the group of magic users the police are determined to destroy) and Callum’s naivety acts as a channel for the reader to find out what is going on.
Nero – the ultimate bad guy – doesn’t seem that threatening for the majority of the book, until the final showdown at least. His second-in-command, Sherman, is far more chilling as he personally tortures – and enjoys doing so – and executes those accused of magic.
There is a great mix of characters. The good guys, the bad guys, the-good-but-really-bad, the bad-but-really-good and a few that seem to fall into neither category.
The plot progresses at a steady rate. There are a few chapters that take a detour into the past to provide some back story and a couple that follow a couple of minor characters to set the scene for later events that slow things down. But they also help flesh out the world and help the reader understand what the stakes are.
Arcana was, for me, a solid read that kept me engaged throughout. I enjoyed the character development – both personally and the evolving relationships – and the magic added an unpredictable element that made it a fun read!