Book Review : Minimum Wage Magic

Book Review : Minimum Wage MagicMinimum Wage Magic (DFZ #1) by Rachel Aaron, Emily Woo Zeller
Published by Aaron/Bach on November 9th 2018
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four-stars

The DFZ, the metropolis formerly known as Detroit, is the world’s most magical city with a population of nine million and zero public safety laws. That’s a lot of mages, cybernetically enhanced chrome heads, and mythical beasties who die, get into debt, and otherwise fail to pay their rent. When they can’t pay their bills, their stuff gets sold to the highest bidder to cover the tab.

That’s when they call me. My name is Opal Yong-ae, and I’m a Cleaner: a freelance mage with an art history degree who’s employed by the DFZ to sort through the mountains of magical junk people leave behind. It’s not a pretty job, or a safe one—there’s a reason I wear bite-proof gloves—but when you’re deep in debt in a lawless city where gods are real, dragons are traffic hazards, and buildings move around on their own, you don’t get to be picky about where your money comes from. You just have to make it work, even when the only thing of value in your latest repossessed apartment is the dead body of the mage who used to live there.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a new series set in the same universe as my Heartstrikers books, but you don’t need to have read those stories to enjoy this one. MINIMUM WAGE MAGIC was written to stand by itself, so if you haven’t read the others, don’t worry! I wrote this book with you in mind. I hope you’ll give it a try, and thank you so much for reading!

Whenever I’m feeling down or under the weather, Rachel Aaron’s books are a magically fun pick me up. So when I was sick yet again, I turned to her latest novel, Minimum Wage Magic, a standalone based in the same world as The Heartstrikers series. I was more than happy to revisit the DFZ, or the Detroit Free Zone, a place where everything is legal, people have cyber upgrades and AI, the city constantly moves due to the quixotic Spirit controlling it, death Gods walk among the common people, and a Peacekeeper Dragon oversees all the constant magical chaos.

 

“My name is Opal Yong-ae, and I’m a Cleaner: a freelance mage with an art history degree who’s employed by the DFZ to sort through the mountains of magical junk people leave behind. It’s not a pretty job, or a safe one—there’s a reason I wear bite-proof gloves—but when you’re deep in debt in a lawless city where gods are real, dragons are traffic hazards, and buildings move around on their own, you don’t get to be picky about where your money comes from.”

 

Opal Young-ae, a magic-wielding Cleaner, or a person who buys abandoned apartments in order to turn a profit on all their junk and well, cleans, it, is the heroine of the story. Equipped with goggles that allow her to communicate with her smart-talking AI, Sybil, she stumbles upon a corpse in one of her latest cleaning endeavors. In dire straits due to the fact that she has a massive debt to pay off to a deadly person, View Spoiler » she’s determined to make a profit off the apartment, and takes the corpse’s research–setting her on an even deadlier path that will take her to not only the seedy Underground of the DFZ, but the dangerous, ever-shifting magical labyrinth below the city, known as the Gnarls.

 

“‘Welcome to the DFZ,” I said, shaking my head. “Criminals all the way down.’
‘It is called the ‘City of Commerce,’ Sibyl whispered in my ear. ‘The place where anything is possible.’
‘And everything is sticky.’”

 

I immediately liked Opal. Unlike Marci, the ridiculously capable and talented mage we first met in Nice Dragons Finish Last, Opal is not “good” at magic. Despite having a ridiculous amount of magical education, she has to use pre-made magical scripts and brute force in order to wield her magic. I found it endearing that she was able to make the best of the ability she had. I also liked that despite her prodigious education, Opal was happy being a Cleaner, and determined not to take any other positions, no matter how well-paying, or more prestigious. I liked that she wasn’t willing to be corralled into a position she didn’t want, and continually stuck to her guns, despite pressure from her parents, friends, and AI. I was also thrilled when she refused to accept money to get herself out of debt at the expense of innocents again at the end of the novel.

 

“As a social support AI, it’s my job to assist in your mental health, and these fits of wild optimism that crumble into crushing despair when they run into reality are not good for you.

 

I absolutely adored Sybil, Opal’s AI, who cracked me up constantly. The sense of humor I come to expect from author Aaron shone through Sybil. I wasn’t as crazy about Nik, the cyber-enhanced co-worker that ends up saving Opal’s life and becoming her business partner. There’s definitely some romance brewing between the two, but the author is going the slow-burn route, which I always love. I reserved judgement on Nik, as he wasn’t a bad character at all. I think maybe the strong, silent type, with a dark past willing to do questionably moral things to make money, but with a secret heart of gold–just isn’t my type. Despite not being Nik’s biggest fan, the dynamic between the two Cleaners is complex and I’m excited to read how their new partnership works in future installments.

 

Minimum Wage Magic is extremely fast-paced and a fun-filled ride. The world-building is amazing and I loved the seamless and unique blend of science fiction and fantasy. The author does very well at explaining the complex world of the DFZ–spirits, dragons, death gods, Mana Crashes, a thriving Underground, for any newcomers that haven’t read The Heartstrikers series. She also deftly sneaks in several references to characters from the aforementioned series and it was really delightful to see glimpses of their lives after Last Dragon Standing. It is a testament to Aaron’s writing that my dragon-obsessed self didn’t even miss the dragons being the center of attention in this novel!

 

If you’re looking for a one of a kind, quirky science fiction/fantasy novel, with well-developed characters with interesting pasts, great world-building, and fast-paced adventure, look no further than Minimum Wage Magic. I’m certainly ready for the next entry in the series.

four-stars
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Book Review : Minimum Wage Magic - Blogging with Dragons

Posted March 9, 2019 in Book Reviews, Fantasy

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