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Rites of Passage

by M. D. Presley

Corbin James has never been so lost. Able to dowse since a kid, he’s adept at finding missing things. But after weeks on the run from the FBI, the teen’s luck has finally run dry.

Enter the enigmatic Mister with a tempting find an enchanter who has disappeared inside the mysterious Harmon House. Recruited into a reluctant crew of motley magicians, Corbin only has days to navigate their shifting loyalties to earn his freedom by entering the Inner Circle.

Lucky for him he’s got his trusty dowsing rod, a defaced 50-cent piece, and enchanted iPod.

SPFBOX – Our Reviews

John Mauro

“Those of us who can do magic—I prefer the term magicians, but you can call us whatever tickles your fancy—do the impossible on the daily.”

Rites of Passage is a contemporary urban fantasy by M.D. Presley starring Corbin James, a young man trying to escape scrutiny from the FBI who ends up joining a society of magicians.

Magicians in Rites of Passage are divided into two main groups with different philosophical approaches toward magic. The larger of the two groups is called the “Circle” to emphasize equality among members, most of whom are city dwellers. The others are a loosely connected organization called the “Territories,” mostly living in rural areas.

Magicians in both groups follow a set of three rules to keep their powers hidden from non-magic users, to follow instructions from superiors (yes, a rule to follow rules), and to wear sigils indicating which group they belong to. However, there is also a group of rogue magicians called Orphans, who belong to neither the Circle nor the Territories, and reject all their rules.

The worldbuilding in Rites of Passage is contemporary American society overlaid with a secret class of magic-users. Following Ursula K. Le Guin, the power of magic is enhanced by knowledge of true names.

The prose in Rites of Passage is easily digestible but a bit rough around the edges. There are plenty of pop culture references, which I think are intended to be edgy but give the novel an overly self-conscious feel. The pop culture references in Rites of Passage work best when they are more subtle. For example, each chapter title in the book is named after a song. There is plenty of indie music representation here, including two of my favorite bands: Stars and Broken Social Scene. In a nice touch, there is even an enchanted iPod with a cracked screen and a mysterious playlist.

Despite these enjoyable aspects of the book, Rites of Passage never really gelled for me as much as I would hope. Much of the plot seems arbitrary, such as the gratuitous orgy that just comes out of nowhere, and the characters are never given enough depth to seem more than two-dimensional caricatures. Although Rites of Passage is a cut from SPFBOX, readers who are interested in a fresh take on urban fantasy may wish to check this one out.

Team Decision: CUT

Team Decision: CUT

Team Decision: CUT

Team Decision: CUT

Team Decision: CUT

Team Decision: CUT

Team Decision: CUT

Team Decision: CUT

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