ARC Mini Review – External Forces

Hello, everyone! I’m slowly clearing out my backlog of ARCs from 2022. I’m not sure I’ll get to them all before the end of the year, but I’m going to try my best… The next one up is External Forces by Shannon Fay.

A mage for the British royals matches wits with a power-mad old foe in a beguiling novel of enchantments and daring by Shannon Fay, author of Innate Magic.

London, 1957. By crafting magical outfits for his friend, Princess Katherine, cloth mage Paul Gallagher is getting ahead. It’s not a seamless path. Not since the Virtuis Party came to power. The far-right faction is using criminals to create a protective barrier around England. The enchanted uniforms the prisoners wear may beget a demand for mages, but using luckless convicts as tools for warmongering reactionaries isn’t Paul’s dream for cloth magic.

His road to success takes an even darker turn when the unexpected death of a member of the royal family plunges the country into chaos. The Virtuis Party is rising, its mysterious puppet master is gaining control, and Paul and his allies are prepared to do anything to protect the princess, the throne, and ultimately, the soul of the country. That means falling back on the innate magic Paul dreads using again. It’s illegal, dangerous, and so potent it can raise the dead.

But as the fate of the entire nation hangs by a thread, dire times call for extreme magic.

***Thank you to 47North for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***

This was such an improvement compared to the first book, Innate Magic. I liked the first book, but its meandering plot felt like it was going nowhere for most of the story. External Forces, on the other hand, had a fairly tight and engaging main story with incredibly high stakes. There was quite a bit of action in this book, and the violence and torture were graphic enough to make me squirm in my seat while reading. The story also deepened the world-building and provided a lot of interesting information about the magic system that makes me excited to see what comes next for this series. The alternate 1950’s Britain was still a fun setting, and it allowed for the exploration of some timely topics, including queer and women’s rights and the fight against fascism growing under the guise of ‘safety.’ The characters, especially Paul, seemed much more mature in this book compared to the first. Paul felt less like the stereotypical bisexual man and more well-rounded. He had to grapple with severe challenges to his morals and handled all the crises with a surprising amount of grace. He still made plenty of reckless, selfish choices too, though. I guess he wouldn’t be Paul without them. lol. One thing I love about this series is that it centers a bisexual man who primarily pursues long term relationships with women (at least during the time we’re with him on the page). This representation is sorely lacking, and it was nice to get a story where the bi guy ends up with a woman even if the romance felt a bit forced at times. Most, if not all, of the bi male rep I’ve read has the bi man experiencing a bi awakening and choosing to pursue relationships with men. So, it was a nice change of pace to have Paul confident in his identity from the beginning and not shy away from relationships with women in an effort to make the story ‘more queer’ because bi men in love with a woman are just as queer as gold star gays. ***Steps off soap box.*** The only other qualm I had with this book was the large time gap since the first book. It felt like so much character growth happened during that time, and I was a little let down we didn’t get to see it on the page. Overall, I really enjoyed this story and am curious to see where it goes next. Therefore, I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars.

2 thoughts on “ARC Mini Review – External Forces

    • Thanks. The first book definitely had some flaws, but this book was a lot stronger. I wish the romances in both books had been a little better, but I loved the world-building. The plot was much better in this one than the first, but even with all its meandering, the first book had an interesting plot too. I’d say give it a shot, but don’t be afraid to DNF if it’s not working for you.

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