Strange Ways is the second book in the Black Market Magic series. I managed to read both books, including the first, The End of the Line. Even though I’m a reader who can skip around in a series, these books are short and easy to read. So in this review, there will be no question as to whether I understood the author’s foundational ideas or intentions.
In The End of the Line we meet the primary character, Amanda Coleman, who continues on in the sequel. There is a slew of events in this first book that ends with Amanda in prison and estranged from her daughter, Michaela. Strange Ways provides a small summary to explain why, which I think is enough to continue, but if you want more detail, definitely read the first book.
I’m going to stop here and give a quick rundown of my experience with The End of the Line. Although it starts as a good foundation for Strange Ways, it’s not nearly as well executed. The characters lack some development, and the world-building leaves a bit to be desired. And while I did enjoy getting familiar with the characters and the magic-filled world Gray Williams created, it’s not completely necessary to read it.
Her reputation wasn’t just a matter of pride, it was a matter of protection. There were Abras out there who wanted to take revenge for the things she had done to them.
Moving on to Strange Ways. It starts off with a bang and ends up being a thrilling ride. Amanda is a con artist, a criminal, and a hater of Abras, the back-alley magicians of Britain. In fact, she’s notorious for being an Abra-killer, which ends up getting her into a heap of trouble. To save her daughter, she is blackmailed into taking a job to assassinate an infamous prisoner at Coldwater, a remote and ironclad prison located on an island. It houses magic-practicing inmates of a particular breed and is impossible to escape, so Amanda must get transferred from her less secure prison to do the deed. Amanda’s sordid past is about to catch up with her.
Strange Ways is an urban fantasy—it takes place in Britain, Amanda’s home. The setting is the same as the real world, but with supernatural elements, spells, charms, and other magic. Williams does a fantastic job setting the London and prison scenes with action-packed, suspenseful atmosphere.
The characters have much more depth this time around. Amanda is still fierce, keenly written, and tough as nails, but now you see a softer side as she deals with the dilemma of Michaela. Also, I found it interesting that there is social unrest, with pro-magic and anti-magic groups who protest and commit political crimes.
As I was reading, I was reminded a bit of the television show Supernatural mixed with Jessica Jones. Let’s just say I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this urban fantasy novel. Strange Ways is a fun story with a multilayered plot, so if you’re intrigued, I recommend picking it up today.