But then I got into reviewing books on a more formal basis in order to discover new authors and stories of interest since a lot of my favorite book franchises tend to involve authors who have passed on and thus are unable to write more stories. And when I get lucky, I find books that feel like stuff that I genuinely want to continue following.
Flex is feeling like one of those book franchises indeed. It's a novel spin on the whole magic bit that feels distinct from the likes of The Dresden Files and yet genuinely feels like a clever innovation on the genre. Instead of relying heavily on what had been done before or dredging up concepts from mythology, we have a new exploration of magic that feels fresh and quite exciting.
Synopsis: Flex is the first book in the 'Mancer series by Ferrett Steinmetz. Despite my being in the Angry Robot Army review program, I actually had to buy this book since I only have review copies of the succeeding books. It was totally worth it.
Paul Tsabo is a policeman turned insurance investigator, and he has a knack of sniffing out claims that actually involved magic. Magic, or 'mancy as it's called, is highly illegal, especially after a catastrophic incident in Europe. But more and more a sort of drug called Flex is putting mancy in the hands of everyday people unprepared for how to use it. It's a sort of condense 'mancy that can imbue the powers on someone else. But 'mancy means defying the laws of physics - and the universe tends to fight back with Flux, the backlash from wild use of this magic. Paul Tsabo is a great investigator, but he has also recently discovered that he may have a flavor of 'mancy of his own. And when his daughter's life his threatened, he finds himself without any other choice but to use it.
What I Liked: Flex has a GREAT concept behind it if you can get past the need for the apostrophe in the term 'mancy. And the apostrophe is there since everyone's magic is unique and their version of magic tends to define the name. Paul quickly reveals to us readers that he has something he calls bureaucramancy, a magic that finds strength in Paul's belief that systems and paperwork make the world go round. His beliefs define his magic and also its limitations - such as how bureaucracy isn't fast and thus his magic must be well planned and thought-out.
Throw in an easy to follow yet pretty detailed writing style, the book is a pleasure to read with some great characters and exciting sequences. Some bits seem a little wobbly, but for a first major book in what has become a continuing series. And I really enjoyed this book from start to finish.
What Could Have Been Better: I could quibble about some finer points about how the plot was constructed or maybe how some supporting characters could have been fleshed out. but it doesn't seem all that important given how the book ultimately flowed. The book had it's opportunities, but in the end the overall experience helped get past that stuff.
TL;DR: Flex is a great read with some fun ideas about what magic could be like and what forms it may take. And ultimately his magic is all about passions, interests and obsessions, and all that makes the magic feel that much closer within reach. Thus the book gets a great 5 amazing displays of good-natured 'mancy out of a possible 5.