Saturday, December 8, 2018

The Burning Magus (Blue Unicorn #3) by Don Allmon

JT and Austin are finally facing one of the worst demons of their lives - the wizard Firelight and the heist that went so wrong. The man who killed Austin’s sister, the man who imprisoned them, the man who experimented on them. Now it’s time for a rescue rescue - and a time to do it right

I’ve said it before, one of the difficult parts of writing a review of a series is when you love the same thing about the books - because how do you write a review without being repetitive? Take the Blue Unicorn Series - how do I write this review without repeating what I’ve already written twice before?

Because everything I said there still applies. I love this magical cyperpunk world (I am so desperate to start playing Shadowrun every time I play this game). I love the mix of the magical and the technological. I love how the internet is almost a parallel dimension with such real life applications. I love how hacking and spellcasting feel so similar. I love how we can have the combination of druids and wizards with weird sea god patrons. I love the combination of the giant, terrifying dragon and the virtual godzilla which has almost as much destructive potential even though it only exists in cyberspace. This magical cyberpunk setting is excellent

And the dystopian elements are really well maintained as well - there’s no grand “the world is over!” drama nor are they travelling a lot to show the broken world like we saw in Apocalypse Ally. But still there are references, among all the excellent high tech world building, that makes it clear the nations we’re used to no longer exist, that for all the shiny technology there’s also a lot of desperation and  poverty and evidence of things being broken - especially looking at Austin and JT’s past

I also really like the plot. This is a heist book - preparing the team, checking all their skills, balancing everyone, having everyone use their various abilities to get it all together and make it work. And then it all going wrong. Of course it all has to go wrong. But before that I think it’s really cunning and imaginative and was great fun to watch - I think I’d like to see these characters perform successful heists, no violence, just to see them succeed and all the imagination and intelligence. The heist is great.

We also have all the characters here, all prominent in various ways. I think we have a three way protagonist - Austin, JT and Dante with Comet and Buzz being prominent but taking a back seat. I think that was a good plan because this helps us delve a lot into the various character’s issues - we have Dante dealing with being both an Orc (and seen as less and facing a lot of stereotyping) and a Black woman who has also been injured and disabled. She has moments of self doubt, a lot of thinking that she’s unworthy or incapable. She feels out of place but still fights back against that and reasserts her own worth and strength while also showing off their own capability

JT and Austin are gay and in a relationship - if you can call the hot mess of them together a relationship. And I like the messiness - because the messiness definitely follows through their own issues, the issues with elven glamour, their own utter denial and fear of scaring the other away, their own lack of self worth and their own tragic childhood. I know I’m not a fan of over dramatic relationships - but usually that’s because they are usually so very convoluted and unnecessary. But these work, this drama is based solidly on their characters and characterisation - it makes sense.

Their relationship is extremely sexual, joyfully and shamelessly so and it’s definitely attractively written. And while there’s little attention to any kind of living with homophobia, there is some nice exploration not just of self-worth and tensions between sex and love but also challenging a lot of stereotypes we see a lot in gay relationships: like JT being a bottom despite being much much bigger than Austin. And even some interesting elements like JT being insecure about the size of his endowment because of the stereotypes around them

We also have Austin’s sister, a Black woman/elf/program who they are all eager to rescue: and it’s nice to see both a Black woman being the precious person to save but also a woman being someone to save without her being the love interest to one of the rescuing men. And even as Austin’s sister we’ve also got JT caring just as much about rescuing her.

These two are a hot mess, but they’re working through it and it does work. I like them, I like their story, I like their sexiness, I like their contrasts.

Part of me worries that the Blue Unicorn Series may be completed here - trilogies are the in thing after all, and the long glorious series I love so much are distinctly out of fashion. But there is a lot more to work through here - the world is huge, I want to know where the Blue Unicorn goes from here, JT and Austin have so much more to work through and there’s so much more they could do. Buzz, Comet and definitely Dante all have so much more to tell - let there be more!