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Early Review: Stray Magic by Kelly Meding (Strays #1)

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Stray Magic by Kelly Meding // VBCStray Magic (Strays #1)
Kelly Meding
Published: Jun. 19, 2018 (Harper Voyager)
Purchase: Book Depository or Amazon
Review source: copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

Reviewed by: Margaret

Rating (out of 5): 3.5 stars

Shiloh Harrison is a U.S. Marshal in the Paranormal Investigations Unit stationed in Washington. DC. She’s just returned home from a grueling assignment when she’s called out on another case. Vampires have taken an entire trailer park hostage. Since the head of their unit is missing, Shiloh’s in charge of the negotiations. And of course it’s not a normal hostage situation. The Master Vampire says he’ll release the hostages when the team finds out who’s been abducting his vampires.

I loved the motley crew of supernaturals that make up Shiloh’s team. She’s half djinn and has a diminished version of their powers. Her teammates are an incubus, a dhampir and a skinwalker, who get some interesting twists to their mythos from Meding. And Shiloh’s parents both show up to assist her. (I’m starting to see a lot of parents who are neither dead nor evil in adult books lately.) The team also has a cool demon-designed super computer in their super secret headquarters.

But my favorite was the vampire Tennyson, who becomes Shiloh’s partner for the case. I liked the chemistry between the two of them so I hope he’ll be back in the next book. Meding kept most of the traditional vampire attributes, including the cast-no-reflection thing that most authors reject which led to a few cute moments. Like Meding’s earlier books, Stray Magic gets very dark though. There’s lots of violence (and torture and black magic) and Shiloh is frequently hurt. In fact, just using her powers causes her pain.

The mystery plot has plenty of twits and surprises, though there’s a big part of the case that’s left unresolved. It’s going to be addressed in the second book in the series that is planned for the fall. The big reveal at the end of Stray Magic (that I totally saw coming) sets up one of my least favorite tropes so I’m curious about how the series will progress.

There is also a Strays prequel story set six years before Stray Magic. “Freak House,” originally published in the Carniepunk anthology, shows how Shiloh met Julian and Jaxon and when they decided to form the Paranormal Investigations Unit. Those events are pretty well summarized in the book so I don’t think you need to read it first, but it does offer a preview of Shiloh and her powers.

I feel like old-school urban fantasy is making a comeback and Stray Magic is definitely part of that. While its not my favorite of the supernatural federal agency books Ive read lately, Im optimistic about the Strays series. I hope that it succeeds and helps the trend continue.

Sexual content: kissing, an interrupted sex scene

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