A new SF/fantasy book from a new author. I got an Advance Readers’ Copy (ebook) from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Publication year: 2016
Format: ebook
Publisher: Harper Voyager Impulse

Quinn Bradley is a stage magician in Las Vegas but not in one of the largest casinos. In fact, for a long time he has dreamed about working in the best casinos. He has just done his best performance ever and the talent scouts of the big employers are really noticing him. But after the show everything seems to go wrong: the talent scouts just take off, leaving Quinn with a couple of strange military people. They offer Quinn a lot of money for a gig which would last only for six months. The catch is that Quinn isn’t told anything about what the gig will be or where he will be performing. But he doesn’t really have a choice.

The mysterious people fly him off Vegas immediately and Quinn finds out something fantastic: their company, CASE Global Enterprises, has found a portal which leads to another world. They’re keeping really quiet about it and have draconian non-disclosure agreements. The world, called Alissia, seems medieval in technology. Happily, everyone who goes through the portal can speak the same language so that’s not a barrier.

The reason why they want to hire a magician is that Alissia has real magic. Now, their top anthropologist has gone missing and CASE is sending four people to retrieve him and all the high tech gear he took with him. The mission has two military people Kiara and Logan, and an anthropologist Veena Chaudri in addition to Quinn. The other three are very familiar with Alissia but Quinn is very much a duck out of water.

This is a fast-paced adventure with likable characters. Real magic actually enters the story quite late, for a good reason. Quinn and his team have some high tech gear which helps them communicate and defend themselves against the Alissians. Quinn doesn’t know how to use a sword but he practices while the group travels and his sword is made from a very light and durable material. In fact, the Alissians would probably call the high tech items magical.

The Alissians aren’t shown as stupid, even though they don’t have modern tech. In fact, they seem to be more egalitarian so a woman wearing a sword and leading a team is normal.

Quinn is quick-witted and charms people for a living. Once he knows what’s going on, he’s quick to adapt. He’s very good with his job and the company outfits him with gadgets to create illusions of magic. He’s a likable protagonist.

Logan is the second point-of-view character in the book. At first glance, he’s a tough, experienced soldier but he’s a bit more nuanced than that. Kiara is another tough, experienced soldier. She’s the leader of the team and she keeps to the orders and rules even when it would be easier for everyone to bend them a little. Chaudri is very enthusiastic about Alissia and she’s happy to show Quinn around.

The only thing I didn’t really like was some of the treatment of the horses which the characters ride all the time. For example, the company has made a drug which makes it possible to ride the horses hard for several weeks non-stop. Of course, this isn’t a horse manual but a fantasy book.

The book has a clear ending but several things are left open. I’d be happy to see more of these characters and the setting.