REVIEW by @GinnyLurcock : The Department of Magic by Rod Kierkegaard Jr.

Magic is nothing like it seems in children’s books. It’s dark and bloody and sexual – and requires its own semi-mythical branch of the US Federal Government to safeguard citizens against everpresent supernatural threats.   Join Jasmine Farah and Rocco di Angelo – a pair of wet-behind-the-ears recruits of The Department of Magic – on a nightmare gallop through a world of ghosts, spooks, vampires, and demons, and the minions of South American and Voodoo gods hell-bent on destroying all humanity in the year 2012.
Only Rock and Jazz, in the company of a ragtag team of urhobos – homeless guardians of the District of Columbia – can prevent it by resurrecting “Goddess America” in a mystical ceremony on the Fourth of July.   It’s all just a normal day on the job at The Department of Magic – where new employees entering its offices are never seen again, while mysteriously continuing to draw full salaries and benefits, sometimes for decades or even a century after.

Me: You know I never had to deal with this kind of thing before I started reading ARCs?
Phin: What kind of thing?
Me: Back then I either liked books or I didn’t… there was none of this in between crap…
Then the conversation devolved into explaining how things were in my day and about walking up hill both ways while Phin went back to playing video games, occasionally pausing to look at me and wonder if it was worth the effort to figure out what I was going on about this time.
The “Department of Magic” is… Well it was… See the thing about it is…
Ok, I’m flummoxed.  The story is great.  It has all this mythology, folklore, and the struggle that one would have trying to apply tactics used in the 1800s or even the 70s to our new modern technological age.  It’s got all these weird gadgets being used along with classic nefarious items and their modern replacements.  Then there are all these creatures, and most have not only been adapted to the modern world (and DC in particular) but also have these little encyclopedic entries at the beginning of every chapter.  I’m not going to lie, sometimes these were what I looked forward to most in the novel.
The utterly bizarreCrawleyis, well, utterly bizarre.  He’s callous, out of touch with humanity, and is way to enthralled with corpses.  It’s his belief that the ends justify the means and will do anything to protectAmerica.  Yet still, I found myself actually liking the creepy out kook.  I kept thinking “God, what must it be like to know you’ll have to forsake EVERYTHING in order to protect the country because if you don’t, who will?” Crawley, for all his lack of empathy, is a study in what a human can be pushed to in order to do what he feels is right.
Unfortunately (and I know you totally say this coming) he was the only character I liked.  As for everyone else… Well if the world that was woven here was rich and three dimensional, than the characters were the 2D stickers some jerk stuck on the top.  You know, the ones with the big white boarders so they’re sure to stand out all that much more.  I just plain didn’t like Rocco Di Angelo and Jasmine Farrah.  Period.  The end.  Every time I’d start to, or they’d do something redeeming, they’d have another one of their schizophrenic moments and I’d be back to wanting to punch them in the kidneys.  You know all the reasons you were supposed to hateCrawley?  Well that’s what the main characters morphed into, but without the touching little glimpses of humanity.
Then there was Bobbi, Tony, and Jazz’s parents.  I mean can you say convenient plot devices?  Oh, and the elderly cantankerous man who taught them how to burgle.  How did the author manage to create a thief that I didn’t love?  I always love thieves.  Well ok, I loved this one too… but he wasn’t in the story enough, so my complaint still stands.  Tinkerbell was pretty awesome.  And I guess I liked Walkie Talkie too… Alright, so I really just didn’t like Di Angelo, Farrah, Bobbi, Tony, and Jazz’s parents… but I REALLY didn’t like them.
Well until I got to the climatic end and realized that after nearly 300 pages I’d become attached to these wholly unlikable characters and now didn’t want anything bad to happen to them.  Which is when the book kicks you right in the gut.  It’s not even a sucker punch, it’s a sucker roundhouse kick.  So now I’m left clutching my stomach waiting for a sequel.  Thanks so very much.
All in all I gave the book 4 stars.  The world truly is fantastic, enough to counteract the characters lacking nearly all luster, but not enough to warrant another star.  It’s slow going at the start, but if you stick with it you’ll be rewarded.  Until the sucker roundhouse kick of course…
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