The Department of Magic by Rod Kierkegaard, Jr. (Curiosity Quills Press, 2011, 296pp.)
Jasmine Farah and Rocco Di Angelo work in the Department of Magic, an obscure organization in the U.S. government. America has enemies, all right, but it’s not so simple as ordinary terrorists. Think creepy things that go bump in the night, the kind that ooze some kind of slime or sprout fur. But the job’s not as glamorous as you might think. Jazz and Rock spend most of their time at the beck and call of their newly deceased boss, Crawley, and stealing historical artifacts of supernatural importance (most recently, George Washington’s deathbed dentures). All is in preparation for the fight against America’s enemies, like Aaron Burr.
“Wait a minute,” you may ask. “Isn’t he dead?” Not so, here. In Kierkegaard’s portrayal of the ill-fated third vice president, not only did he shoot Alexander Hamilton in a duel, he also was a fanatical devotee to an ancient god that seeks to destroy America. Did I mention that “America” is also the name of a goddess?
Obviously, there’s a lot of fun stuff here, though I wouldn’t exactly call it “Harry Potter for adults,” as the dust jacket summary claims. Kierkegaard’s brand of magic involves blood, and lots of it. No, The Department of Magic is more like Supernatural Noir, which I reviewed last year: entertaining, but kind of dark in some areas. So, the verdict? Kierkegaard’s novel combines American history with urban fantasy to create an original, bleak portrait of the real fight for our country’s freedom. Not recommended for casual fans of fantasy.
This post will also appear as a guest post on Book of the Week.
- Supernatural Noir, edited by Ellen Datlow