In Gelia City, magic is music – a constant, ever-changing melody known as the Strains. All can hear the Strains…but not everyone can use them equally.
Leilani is Common, able to do only the most mundane “beggar magic,” but when she befriends the gifted Highmost girl, Zebedy, she is swept into the gilded world of the upper class, who can access the magic’s full potential. Behind the polished, academic façade of the Highmost manors, the girls run headlong into danger. An unknown force is consuming the Strains, leaving heartrending silence behind. Desperate to save their beloved Strains, Leilani and Zebedy soon realize that solving the mystery may cost them their friendship, or even their lives (Amazon.com).
I downloaded Beggar Magic on a whim when it was offered for free, having no idea what a treat I was in for. This is a beautifully-written fairy tale in the style of Ella Enchanted and Princess Academy, with a likable, tenacious heroine and an intriguing kind of magic, seamlessly blended together for a satisfying read.
First off, the Strains. They are written with a mystery and deftness that makes the reader feel them as much as the characters do. Furthermore, Burke threads in subtle hints of their deeper purpose as helpers sent by the Maker, that hints towards her own faith. However, this isn’t a book that preaches. Rather, it sings.
Also, I love that the story revolves around a pair of very different best friends: Zebedy Brightly and Leilani Weaver. They have a realistic friendship that both acknowledges their differences in station and personality, but also has a great deal of humor, warmth, and love. Even when guys come into the mix, the story allows for teen-suitable romance, while still keeping the story focused on these two friends.
The romantic elements for both girls make sense. While the relationships seem to happen rather quickly, Burke builds in a decent amount of backstory and connection that make the affections believable. Zebedy and Leilani are sensible young ladies, aware that they have plenty of time to settle down, so don’t expect a marriage at the end of this book. Moreover, each of the gentlemen in question are plot-relevant and have their own distinct personalities and goals.
If I had one complaint? The story built up a lot of steam, but then wrapped up very quickly at the end. I would have liked to linger a little more in the city of Gelia before having to leave, especially since this is a one-off story. Still, all the threads are sorted out well, and I finished the book content.
That isn’t to say I wouldn’t read a second, if the author was so inclined…
Final Verdict: an utterly charming, original YA fairy tale with a spunky, sensible heroine and a unique kind of magic. This is an indie gem that is suitable for teens and adults, and well worth the $3 for the eBook (although with that cover, I might have to splurge and buy a paperback copy).