Sam Adams, sixteen-year-old wizard, has zero interest in saving the world—but staying out of the line of fire isn’t an option for wizards.
When a new designer drug hits the streets, giving ordinary humans magical powers and leaving a trail of bodies in its wake, it threatens to turn his city of Williamsport’s long-simmering conflict between the haves and the have-nots into a full-scale war.
The only one with the skills to protect the city, Sam finds himself thrust into a conspiracy far darker and more dangerous than he ever imagined, with tentacles stretching into the criminal underworld and the wealthy elite—and into the spirit world. Fighting for his life, surrounded by enemies, Sam has to dig deeper than ever before to keep Williamsport from going up in flames.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review
Credible Threats is a fast-paced urban fantasy that rides the line between adult and YA. I don’t typically reach for urban fantasy but I am very glad I did with Credible Threats. As someone who doesn’t read the genre very often, it may be my favorite urban fantasy I’ve ever read.
The highlight of this book for me was definitely the main character Sam. He is a teenage wizard in a small town that generally doesn’t know magic exists. Sam is a fantastically written character, the book is in first person and single POV so we are taking a ride in his head throughout the entirety of the book. Reading from the perspective of a teenager in an urban fantasy is often tedious for me but it was quite the opposite with Sam. He is sarcastic, like most teenagers, but not overbearingly so. I never got annoyed with his dialogue like I often do with YA. One of the things that stood out to me from the writing was how realistic the portrayals of Sam’s life was. For example, in most books like this the teenager tries to hide their magic from their parents and I’ve always found it hard to believe. In this one his parents know about it because in Sam’s words “when one is wandering around muttering to themselves and accidentally levitates an easy chair through a window, one can’t really hide it from one’s loved ones”. I enjoyed the more realistic and believable approach the author took to a young protagonist with magic in a modern world.
The opening scene of the book was fantastic. Sam goes to a classmate’s house to exorcise a poltergeist that turns out to be something more dangerous. Not only are we immediately thrown into the action, we also get a chance to learn how magic works, we get to see Sam’s character and personality, and it sets up the beginning of the wider conflict for the book. You couldn’t ask for a better introduction to this book. This is characteristic of the author’s writing throughout the novel. It is crisp, clean, and descriptive. From the writing alone I am committed to reading whatever the author puts out, whether in this series or something new.
Keeping in line with the writing, the pacing of this book is superbly well done. There is plenty of fighting and overall I would call this book fast-paced but there are plenty of times that we slow down and see Sam interact with his family, friends, or supernatural beings in different ways that keep the book from feeling frantic. These moments are often used for worldbuilding and character development in ways that don’t feel forced or info dumpy. I am not always opposed to an info dump in fantasy but in this setting and with this pace I think it would have thrown me out of my immersion but luckily that was never the case.
The magic in this novel was very interesting. I would say it is definitely soft magic but there are rules and limitations. It is primarily elemental magic but not completely, and the inventive ways the wizards used magic kept me hooked during the fight scenes. In my opinion the best magic systems have costs and I was not disappointed with this book. Sam basically has a reserve of magic that can be emptied, all use of magic tires him and if he pushes himself too far he can burn out and be unable to use magic at all for some time. I really enjoyed the magic but if there was one critique I had for the whole book it would be that it sometimes felt like Sam was on the edge of burning out too much, but he kept using magic and didn’t burn out. It’s more of a nitpick than anything though and didn’t really detract from my reading experience.
There is more to the magic and supernatural elements of this world that were mostly hinted at in this book, and I am very excited to explore more in future books. We find out that Sam is a kind of wizard known as an Outlaw (for as of yet unexplained reasons), that has inherit magical abilities. Most wizards draw magic from other realms through items or deals with typically dark creatures. There also exist many of our typical supernatural creatures such as vampires, werewolves, demons, ghosts, etc as well as at least one unique type of beings called the Shal’Gasa. I am very interested to see more about them, and it seems they will play a larger role later in the series. Also, Sam has a cat familiar named Catrick Swayze, I just thought everyone needed to know that.
As I mentioned earlier, this book rides the line between YA and adult. I would say it could be considered either but if I was forced to choose one I would say adult. The protagonist is a teenager but it lacks most of the tropes I find annoying in YA and much of the content, especially the violence, is more typical of adult novels. Speaking of annoying YA tropes, there is no teenage romance in this book. In fact, a few months before the start of the book, the girl that Sam was in love with died from an overdose. I thought this was an intriguing concept that was executed very well. Sam is handling it like most teenage boys would, not well. The depiction of his obvious trauma that he is trying to ignore helps add depth to Sam and I believe will be even more important as the series progresses.
As mentioned above this review I was given this book by the author in exchange for an honest review and I am very grateful I had the opportunity. I had a great time reading this book even though it probably wouldn’t have been one I picked up on my own. This book deserves so many more readers and I highly recommend for anyone who enjoys urban fantasy, and even if you aren’t very into urban fantasy like me, I would still encourage you to pick it up and give it a try.