Graphomancer Crispin Tredarloe and waste-man Ned Hall first appeared in a short story A Queer Trade (sold separately for $0.99 now). I am not sure whether reading that first is necessary but maybe it will give readers insights of how Crispin and Ned met for the first time. It might also makes readers understand why Ned really doesn't like magic.
Unfortunately, because I've also read that one, I was a bit annoyed with how the story dragged for the first half. Crispin and Ned argued about Crispin wanting to learn magic and Ned not trusting magic. Crispin had problem with his magic because he used to do it one way, which was the wrong way, and he struggled to do it right this time. For Crispin, magic was who he was and what he could do and it was frustrating for him, not being able to do it as he was told. While for Ned, magic was dangerous, he saw evidences of it, and he didn't trust magicians. Even if he knew that Crispin could do good with his magic.
So yes, the arguments (and sometimes Crispin's whining) were tiresome for me..
At least after half way, the story picked up quite nicely when Ned's life was in danger. However, I also thought the villain in this case was a little bit predictable. It was like he was using a huge neon sign pointing at himself with the words, "I'm up to no good!", which took out the fun of trying to figure out who was responsible for the death of few rag 'n' boners, including Ned's own neighbor.
For me, this one didn't have the same magic as the other stories in the Magpie Lord universe, even compared to Crispin and Ned's own short story. Nonetheless, I look forward to more adventures of Crispin and Ned. The offer from Stephen Day at the end of this book definitely opened possibilities for these two men.
The ARC is provided by the publisher via Netgalley for an exchange of fair and honest review. No high rating is required for any ARC received.