Dark Alley Magic was a really nice surprise. I’ve never read anything quite like it: a juicy mash-up of low fantasy and the mafia, wrapped up in a coating of female emancipation. It doesn’t sound like it would work, does it? Well, it does!

The main reason it makes for such an interesting read is the protagonist is so well-written. Yusi, a young mother in an abusive relationship, grounds the story in a melancholy realism. The poor woman is put through the wringer both mentally and physically (this may be a good place to point out there is some physical abuse and strong allusion to rape), before being charged for a crime she did not commit and torn away from her children.

From there the plot takes some twists and turns, and I found myself drawn into Yusi’s quest for justice and retribution. The fantasy setting doesn’t detract from the story, we get to see a colourful cast of secondary characters, from goblen (human-sized, cockroach-like insects) to vampyren, to a magical cat named Aug who, to be honest, seems more intelligent then all the rest put together!

I have a few very minor quibbles. There were a couple of typos and editing mistakes, the occasional overuse of certain words (one character “vows” a lot, while another speaks several times in an “oily” voice). I think there may have also been some references to earlier novels I didn’t quite understand, but that’s on me for starting the series with book 4! In any case, nothing major and certainly nothing that stopped me enjoying this fascinating mix-up of genres.