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Dead Man's Deal
by Jocelynn Drake
Harper Voyager, TPB, $14.99, 371pp
Release Date: May 7, 2013
This is a fine urban fantasy tale. It is part of a series, the Asylum Tales, but that was not a problem for me, having not read any others before this one. The author did a fine job of allowing this story to stand alone.

In this world, humans live in an uneasy peace with many supernatural species, and all are ruled by Witches and Warlocks. Young children with magical potential are harvested from the humans and taken to the Ivory Towers to become Witches and Warlocks. Gage is an ex-warlock who left the towers as a teenager. A condition of being allowed to leave is that he is forbidden from using magic. He and his elf girlfriend run a tattoo parlor. Gage has figured out how to use small magics which give his tattoos a bit more….punch, without attracting unwanted attention from the Ivory Towers. Unfortunately, it did draw the attention of a local thug, a Dark Elf, who is blackmailing Gage into doing dirty work for him. Gage has finally had enough and is looking for a way out of the deal when his brother shows up. Gage hasn’t seen any of his family since he was taken, believing that contact with them would bring danger. He’s thrilled until he understands that his brother was sent to him by the Dark Elf, to get a special tattoo. He’s even less thrilled when he learns his brother has been made a courier of secret information about the Ivory Towers - information that the witches and warlocks would kill to keep secret. He recognizes the message – he’s to keep quiet about the Dark Elf’s affairs or his brother is forfeit.

But things get really ugly when the Ivory Towers get wind that their most closely guarded secret is out. And when they track the one they think is responsible, they level an entire city to kill him. But the danger isn’t over and when the Tower sends witches and warlocks to kill Gage because they think he is the leak, he’s forced to use forbidden magic to protect himself and those dear to him. The plot gets beautifully complex watching Gage juggle the Dark Elf, finding a way to protect his girlfriend, saving his brother, and saving the humans being slaughtered by ruthless witches and warlocks.

This was a great story, a little slow at the beginning, possibly because I was unfamiliar with the characters but when it picked up, it was great. The pace was good, the characters fun and interesting, and the end was satisfying. No cliffhanger but plenty of room for more stories, fortunately. ~~ Catherine Book

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