Don’t let the title of this review fool you. Ruthless Magic, the first in the Conspiracy of Magic series by Megan Crewe, is more than the books that came before it, inspired it, or drew your eye to it. It’s the college exams from hell with crazy trials, twists & turns, an OTP I can get behind and you should too, friendships that are just as important as the romantic relationships, and representation that feels honest and well researched.
I know this seems like a lot and you’re probably thinking that there’s no way that one book can do so much. It can. And it does.
First off, the story of Ruthless Magic, the thing that hooks you at first glance. We have two teens, Rocio and Finn, who come from two distinct families. Rocio’s is new magic in a world where the general public knows about magical practitioners. She lacks the schooling or money to train for greatness but still manages to outpace anyone in her way. Finn is on the opposite side of the spectrum. He’s old magic, destined to attend the prestigious college all magic users want to get into. Unlike Rocio or the rest of his family, his magic is lackluster and no amount of studying is going to fix that.
Like every other person their age they want to continue their education, they want to make something of themselves, and they don’t want to be burned out. Let me explain. If you don’t get into this prestigious college, you are cut off from your magic. It’s a precaution, a way to keep the magical community in check in a world where the Dulls are still cautious. If you believe that The Circle, the administration in all of this, is wrong, then you declare for the Mages exam and enter into a Hunger Games style trial to become Champion and enter college.
Rocio, being new magic, gets declined entrance and is scheduled to be burned out. And Finn, being old magic, gets accepted into the mages college. Not so surprisingly, they call bullshit and enter into the mages exam to prove to themselves and the rest of the world that through their efforts and hard work, they belong.
And that’s just the beginning.
These two, the obvious OTP of the story, lift each other up through their trials. They are aware of their abilities and their weaknesses. Sometimes they have trouble admitting it and plenty of times they have the other there to support them in whatever fashion they may need. Also, they’re both kickass in their own ways. Yes, Rocio is the stronger one and yes, Finn is ready to cheer her on with a sparkly sign that says, “Get it gurl! You got this.” But he doesn’t just sit back and not help. He provides the textbook knowledge and she the raw power to get things done. And it’s glorious to watch as they come to trust each other and develop romantic feelings.
As I mentioned earlier, the strength of Ruthless Magic doesn’t just come from the main OTP’s journey as individuals and as a couple. The friendships are a key reason why I am over the moon and in love with this book. Crewe put as much effort into the friendships as she did the romantic relationships. You can see it in the special bond Finn has with his best friend Prisha, the conflicts they go through, and the way that their bond is tested over and over again. You can also see it in the addition of Desmond, Judith, and the rest of the secondary characters. They have journeys and obstacles they must overcome just like Rocio and Finn.
When creating big worlds like this there is another obstacle that writers must face: representation. Books are a reflection of our world and as readers we want to see ourselves represented in the material we consume. Crewe definitely took that into consideration when putting together these characters. Rocio is a Latinx woman who weaves together her spells with songs in Spanish, something I’ve never seen before but that makes sense. (Not everything has to be in Ancient Latin, people.) She even slips into Spanglish sometimes and it feels natural.
I was even surprised that in a world of magic and trials such as this, Crewe also included a disabled character that fought just as hard as everyone else. No spoilers, but it’s unexpected how this disability is revealed because Crewe treats this character with the same respect as everyone else. They aren’t made a spectacle or forced to lay out how they became disabled. They just are, that’s it, let’s keep fighting and kicking ass.
And it’s all refreshing as hell!
This attention to detail when it comes to every character, no matter if they’re the OTP or best friend, in Ruthless Magic makes for a story where you become invested in every mage that crosses your way. You want to learn more about their stories, the world they live in, and what happens when the Champions are finally chosen.
I can’t wait for more.
About the Author:
Like many authors, Megan Crewe finds writing about herself much more difficult than making things up.
A few definite facts: she lives in Toronto, Canada with her husband and son (and does on occasion say “eh”), she’s always planning some new trip around the world, and she’s spent the last six years studying kung fu, so you should probably be nice to her.
Crewe has been making up stories about magic and spirits and other what ifs since before she knew how to write words on paper. These days the stories are just a lot longer.
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