Editor Adam here . . . Each time I get to talk about Jeff Somer’s Ustari Cycle books, I get a big ol’ smile on my face. And with New York Comic Con kicking off this week, what better time than now?
This is for two reasons—one, because Jeff is an amazing storyteller with a wry sense of humor, meaning he’s not only entertaining, but that all my teachers were wrong and about seriousness being a prerequisite for gainful employment. And two: reading the friendship between down and out blood mages Lem and Mags is touching, poignant, and really fun. It’s like reading Of Mice and Men, but within the underworld of New York City spellcasters.
I could really stop there (partly because it’s creeping up on 5:00pm, and I really should go to the gym).
But I can’t! I love this series too much and want to share it with you all.
The first book in the series, We Are Not Good People, just has it all right there in the title. With the Ustari books, you are entering a noir-inflected world of magic that exists just below society’s awareness. It’s a creepy, crawly world, but what really makes it enjoyable is watching how Lem and Mags try to participate in this underworld without letting it completely drag them down with it.
Their first line of defense? They won’t use anyone else’s blood to cast their spells. They only use what they can produce themselves. (They also don’t shed blood except in self-defense, they are basically grifters who just want a hot meal and some peace.) This from two people who really could use the power of the Universe to make themselves wealthy, powerful, and feared. There are mages who commit atrocities to get enough blood to fuel their schemes, but not these two. They do they best just to get by (and end up a little lightheaded and on the wrong end of many adventures because of it).
Their second line of defense against the cruel world out there? Their friendship. Like George and Lennie in Steinbeck’s novel, Lem and Mags are a duo with different strengths. Lem is the “brains” of the operation (air quotes his). Mags is the heart. And the brawn when need be. But mostly they are friends. And in the epic, sprawling events of We Are Not Good People, what ultimately drives the action is these two character’s love for one another. It’s really a great thing to see, and Jeff pulls it off well.
(Note, I will not insult his characters by calling it a bromance—can we please just stop with that word? And girl-crush. Can’t we all just be friends???)
By the end of 2017, we will have published one full-length novel and four shorts stories in Jeff’s series, and I love every one of them. In the latest one, Last Best Day, we get a glimpse of what happens when Mags has to rescue Lem from being kidnapped, and, not knowing what to do makes a decision that might alter their friendship forever. It’s a great little story, and none too expensive for anyone interested in checking out a fantastic series that will make you want to go on an adventure with your good friend.
Read on, readers!