Story Rating: 4.75 stars
Audio Rating: 4.25 stars
Narrator: Cornell Collins
Length: 6 hours, 25 minutes
I first read The Charm of Magpies series way back in 2013. It was my first exposure to K.J. Charles’ fabulous writing and, while I have loved so very many of the author’s books since then, this series has always had a special place in my heart. So I was very excited when I had a chance to grab this series on audio and revisit the books in a new format.
This first book introduces us to Charles’ magical world. Lucien Vaudrey, Lord Crane, has just returned from a 20-year exile to China (courtesy of his father putting 17-year-old Lucien on a ship with the hopes he would die in transit). It quickly becomes clear that someone has been magically attacking him to the point he is barely surviving. Stephen Day is a magic practitioner who is quite predisposed to hate Lucien, given Lucien’s father and brother’s misdeeds. But when he sees how bad things are for Lucien, Stephen can’t help but do all he can to stop the attacks. It then leads into a thrilling, at times terrifying, adventure as the men attempt to discover who is after Lucien and how to stop it. It also starts to build this wonderful world that grows across the trilogy and into the related stories in the larger world.
I absolutely love Stephen and Lucien together. The story starts as a strong enemies-to-lovers, and slowly moves into a true friendship. There is such a great dynamic between them and I love that sense of surprise they both seem to have as they realize how much they truly like one another. For a full overview of the story, as well as my detailed thoughts, check out my original review for the book.
I listened to this in audio with narrator Cornell Collins and, as usual, he does an excellent job. The cast of characters comes from various backgrounds and social classes and the different accents come through well. Often in audio we can get generic “British,” but here the characters feel distinct and their voices fit them well. Lucien is a particularly interesting character, as he was raised aristocracy, but has spent the last 20 years living rough in China. So he is a man who can turn on the posh, entitled air of a lord, or the rough, casual demeanor of a working man depending on his needs, and Collins captures that well. The pacing and the tone of the story feel spot on, and both the quieter moments and the more intense scenes come through well in audio. Overall, I think Collins does a great job with the narration.
As a note, this story ends about an hour before the end of the audiobook, and things finish off with Interlude with Tattoos. The short story is officially book 1.5 in the series and appears to only be available on Smashwords, where it is offered for free. I didn’t have a chance to finish listening to it, so I am not including thoughts about it in this review, but I am looking forward to hearing the short story. [ETA: I have finished the short and found it fun. It takes place after the men return to London and there is a bit of playfulness regarding Lucien’s tattoos. The story is followed by what seems to be the first two chapters of the second book in the series, so the short doesn’t take up the full remaining hour after The Magpie Lord ends.]
Overall, I am so happy I got a chance to jump back into this world with this first audio in the series. I have the rest of the trilogy in audiobook and can’t wait to dive into them. I just adore this world and can highly recommend both this book and the series.