The Magpie Lord
by KJ Charles
A lord in danger. A magician in turmoil. A snowball in hell.
Exiled to China for twenty years, Lucien Vaudrey never planned to return to England. But with the mysterious deaths of his father and brother, it seems the new Lord Crane has inherited an earldom. He’s also inherited his family’s enemies. He needs magical assistance, fast. He doesn’t expect it to turn up angry.
Magician Stephen Day has good reason to hate Crane’s family. Unfortunately, it’s his job to deal with supernatural threats. Besides, the earl is unlike any aristocrat he’s ever met, with the tattoos, the attitude… and the way Crane seems determined to get him into bed. That’s definitely unusual.
Soon Stephen is falling hard for the worst possible man, at the worst possible time. But Crane’s dangerous appeal isn’t the only thing rendering Stephen powerless. Evil pervades the house, a web of plots is closing round Crane, and if Stephen can’t find a way through it—they’re both going to die.
TW: I will be discussing suicide in this review. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health or self-harm, you can find a list of UK-based resources on the NHS website here. If you’re in the US, you can visit Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and you can find a list of worldwide helplines here.
KJ Charles is an author well known for her LGBT+ historical romance novels, and The Magpie Lord is the first in a historical fantasy romance series with an m/m romance at its centre.
Upon the deaths of his father and brother, which have left him the heir of his wealthy family’s estate, Lucien Vaudrey, Lord Crane, returns to England from China, where he was exiled to twenty years before. All Lucien wants to do, however, is get straight back on a ship to Shanghai, which has been his home for the past two decades.
When it becomes clear that his horrid father and brother may have died in suspicious circumstances, and something magical and sinister is trying to do away with Lucien too, he hires magician Stephen Day, who has good reason to hate his family, to help him get to the bottom of the mystery.
I had so much fun with this novel! KJ Charles has such a brilliant sense of humour, I genuinely laughed out loud several times while reading this, and I love Lucien and Stephen and their chemistry.
I’ve seen some criticism about the romance between these two because there is a scene where the two of them fight, and seeing two people the author wants you to ship hitting each other never gives off good vibes, but I will say I personally didn’t get the sense that this is a relationship that’s abusive. Neither Lucien nor Stephen are perfect, and it’s throughout this novel that the two of them learn to talk to one another, to explain why certain things might make them feel uncomfortable, and discover how to unlearn their preconceptions of each other.
There’s no denying that this novel does go to some dark places. If you find suicide and self-harm triggering, for example, then you might find the first couple of chapters difficult to read because Lucien is being attacked by a dark form of magic that makes him want to harm himself, and Charles doesn’t shy away from talking about these suicide attempts.
Despite this, The Magpie Lord is still a quick, fun read thanks to Charles’s sense of humour and Lucien’s thirst for life and how messy it can be. If you’re a fan of historical romance, and especially historical romance with a fantasy bent, then this is a series you need to check out.