Review: Rag and Bone, by K.J. Charles


cover-kjcharles-ragandboneCrispin Tredarloe never meant to become a warlock. Freed from his treacherous master, he’s learning how to use his magical powers the right way. But it’s brutally hard work. Not everyone believes he’s a reformed character, and the strain is putting unbearable pressure on his secret relationship with waste-man Ned Hall.

Ned’s sick of magic. Sick of the trouble it brings, sick of its dangerous grip on Crispin and the miserable look it puts in his eyes, and sick of being afraid that a gentleman magician won’t want a street paper-seller forever—or even for much longer.

But something is stirring among London’s forgotten discards. An ancient evil is waking up and seeking its freedom. And when wild magic hits the rag-and-bottle shop where Ned lives, a panicking Crispin falls back onto bad habits. The embattled lovers must find a way to work together—or London could go up in flames.

This story is set in the world of the Charm of Magpies series.

Warning: Contains a warlock who needs to go straight (but isn’t), a waste-man running out of patience, blood magic, bad-tempered justiciars, and a pen with a mind of its own.


Dates read:
Edition read:
March 1, 2016
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
Historical-Victorian, Paranormal, M/M, GLBT+
146 e-book pages
3rd person
Rag and Bone, book 1
March 1, 2016
Kindle Edition
See the book on GoodReads.

Rating:     ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Ratings are 1 to 5 stars and based mostly on GoodReads standards.
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I’m sitting here trying to think of new words because it seems that with every K.J. Charles book I read and review my level of praise increases. So much so, that I think I’ve nearly run out of ways to say how fabulous and amazing she and her stories are.

Or else I’m suddenly self-conscious about sounding like a raving fangirl lunatic.

Ha! I can emphatically say that no, no I’m not.

K.J. Charles and her stories are at the top of the heap, the best of the best. No doubt. The crafting is superb. The world-building, dialogue, plot arcs, nuanced characters full of flaws, insecurities, strengths, introspections, the lingering questions that get answered in due course…and all the other things I’m leaving out because I’m still in such awe…. Charles is a master. Not just in this genre of historical M/M romance, swear on my Kindle. She’s a master of this writing business, hands down.

Rag and Bone. I freaking LOVE that title. The cover? Mercy, mercy me, it’s so gorgeous it brings tears to my eyes.

This mystical Magpie World that Charles weaves? I don’t know what sort of hoo-doo she channels to get all these fine details of magic and evil (some reeeeaaally gross). Then add in the layers of all the hallmarks of the era that take extraordinary research — like the rag-n-bottle shops, waste buying/selling, the clothes, the economy, down to the cobbled streets and coal bins.

The story of Crispin and Ned is sublime. Not an unnecessary word or scene, full-to-bursting with sweetness, suspense, icky evil things, and incredible subtle humor…..gah! I loved it all.

Not only does she weave all this together to spin an incredible tale, but she legit casts in perfect snippets of poetry and song in juuuust the right places that are simply meant to be there.

Crispin has these powers, a specific talent that’s uncommon amongst his peers. Therefore, they’re leery of him and his warlockish abilities. The words Charles uses to describe Crispin’s pen strokes and flourishes are so artfully done they are crystal clear in my head. And I adore this guy who seems a bit nervous, a lot self-conscious, and tries so hard to be and do the right things.

Ned is his perfect counterpoint, a calm and stoic man who takes each day as it comes. Just his presence, view of the world and exacting moral compass are exactly what Crispin needs to take it down a notch and breathe easy.

There’s a scene (no spoilers, I swear) where Ned feels defeated, alone, angry. He’s sitting atop a pile of waste paper, head back against a wall, knees up, wrists propped on his kneecaps…and he’s tapping a flask against the inside of his leg. He’s an exhausted sort of shattered here. This was written so well, so perfectly I could feel it — his every frustrated emotion to my very core. I was him in that moment. Unreal. Gorgeous.

And my, oh my how I love these two together.

I loved the little visits with Mr. Day and Ms. Gold from the Magpie books — and it was a neat surprise to sit on a park bench next to a rapscallion from one of the others in this world I adore. (I’m keeping it quiet because it was so unexpected.)

The next in the series can’t get here soon enough.

* I highly recommend the prequel, A Queer Trade, before starting this. It shows how Ned and Crispin meet. Rag and Bone picks up with their relationship already in progress.

This review also posted on GoodReads.

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