Skip to main content

The Baddest Bitch of Shadow Around – Review of An Unkindness of Magicians by Kat Howard

By February 2, 2020January 28th, 20232 Comments

“But there was a type of terror that didn’t care about reality, a fear that lived in secret places, and it clawed at her soft insides.” 

Kat Howard, An Unkindness of Magicians


There is a dark secret that is hiding at the heart of New York City and diminishing the city’s magicians’ power in this fantasy thriller by acclaimed author Kat Howard.

In New York City, magic controls everything. But the power of magic is fading. No one knows what is happening, except for Sydney—a new, rare magician with incredible power that has been unmatched in decades, and she may be the only person who is able to stop the darkness that is weakening the magic. But Sydney doesn’t want to help the system, she wants to destroy it.

Sydney comes from the House of Shadows, which controls the magic with the help of sacrifices from magicians.


  • ebook 
  • 352 pages
  • Published September 26th 2017 by Saga Press
  • Original Title An Unkindness of Magicians
  • ISBN1481451219 (ISBN13: 9781481451215)
  • Edition Language English
  • Series An Unkindness of Magicians #1

Literary Awards

  • ALA Alex Award (2018)

My Thoughts

“It was the beginning, and all would be different until it was time for the world to be remade again.” 

Kat Howard, An Unkindness of Magicians

An Unkindness of Magicians by Kat Howard seems like a straightforward dark magic story, but it is anything but. If you are just reading the description of this story, on the surface it looks like a pretty common plotline about magic users and magic competition. An urban fantasy story set in the already magical New York City. But what you don’t know, and you learn in the first few pages of this novel is that it is so much more than that. This is a dark and nuanced story involving political machinations, abuse of power, and privilege.

Those who have the power abuse those who are considered expendable.

The story opens with a seemingly innocent, but still amazing feat of magic. Sydney, the stories protagonist lifts cars with magic, “The cars around her, as one, lifted gracefully into the air. Sydney held them there, rust-stained taxis and sleek black sedans with tinted windows, courier vans and a tour bus blaring the opening number of the latest Broadway hit. Ten feet above the ground, floating through the intersection like some bizarre migration of birds. A smile stretched, bright and wild, across her face. If the people in the cars could have seen it, they might have called it exhilaration. They might have called it joy.” Was it joy or was it a necessity? We won’t know till the very end of Sydney’s journey.

This story has a multiple POV narrative. Often authors fail to write definitive voices when using this narrative style, but Kat Howard’s characters are clear and definable from one another. Sydney goes through a bit of a badass transition into an incredible force of will and magic. She will change society and win The Turning (a magic competition) or die in the process.  The Turning itself, takes on a type of dark mob war mentality. We have Ian formerly of House Merlin, who plays a good counterpart to Sydney. Laurent, the man who is highers Sydney to represent him in The Turning is also a force of good in the story. It is refreshing and wonderful to have a story that is mostly trope free. Sydney is a badass. Just that. She doesn’t need anyone to save her nor make ridiculous mistakes that are out of her character for the sake of literary convention. No. She is just a badass. I loved it, and you will too.

The narrative and plot arc are fast-paced. The story comes at you in the first chapter or so and doesn’t stop. The narrative takes place over a short amount of time so this helps keep up the action.

I’ve read quite a lot of Urban Fantasy and it is one of my favorite genres. I can say this is one of the better books I have read representing the genre. I am certainly looking forward to a second book to continue Sydney’s story. Good characters, great world-building, interesting magic system. You can’t go wrong.



I read and listened to this on Scribd.

About the Author

Kat Howard lives in New Hampshire. Her short fiction has been nominated for the World Fantasy Award, anthologized in year’s best and best of collections, and performed on NPR. Roses and Rot is her debut novel. You can find her on twitter at @KatWithSword. 



Leave a Reply