Review: Strange Magic by James A. Hunter (2015 urban fantasy)

Review: Strange Magic by James A. Hunter (2015 urban fantasy)Author: James A. Hunter
Title: Strange Magic
Series: Yancy Lazarus #1
Publisher: Patchwork Press
Pages: 217
Release Date: January 16, 2015
Genres: Urban Fantasy

Yancy Lazarus is having a bad day: there’s a bullet lodged in his butt cheek, his face looks like the site of a demolition derby, and he’s been saran-wrapped to a banquet table. He never should have answered the phone. Stupid bleeding heart—helping others in his circles is a good way to get dead.

Just ask the gang members ripped to pieces by some kind of demonic nightmare in LA. As a favor to a friend, Yancy agrees to take a little looksee into the massacre and boom, he’s stuck in a turf war between two rival gangs, which both think he’s pinch-hitting for the other side. Oh, and there’s also a secretive ass-hat with some mean ol’ magical chops and a small army of hyena-faced, body- snatching baddies. It might be time to seriously reconsider some of his life choices.

Yancy is a bluesman, a rambler, a gambler, but not much more. Sure, he can do a little magic—maybe even more than just a little magic—but he knows enough to keep his head down and stay clear of freaky-deaky hoodoo like this business in LA. Somehow though, he’s been set up to take a real bad fall—the kind of very permanent fall that leaves a guy with a toe tag. Unless, of course, he can find out who is responsible for the gangland murders, make peace in the midst of the gang feud, and take out said magical ass-hat before he hexes Yancy into an early retirement. Easy right? Stupid. Bleeding. Heart.
Format: ARC
Also by this author: Cold Hearted
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*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.*


Strange Magic, the first novel in the Yancy Lazarus series, is a fun, action-packed story about a mage who gets pulled into a war between rival gangs.

Both think he has been assassinating their people, when it is really another guy who is setting him up. I never fully understood what the villain planned to accomplish by these murders or by drawing Yancy into the middle of it, but it was still entertaining to read.

Part of what held my attention was the sarcastic and conversational tone of the book. Yancy, throughout his first person narrative, likes to make snide comments and offer advice on a multitude of topics. Another thing that kept me reading was the intensity and frequency of the action scenes. If you like books with lots of physical confrontations involving guns, knives, swords, and magic, you’d probably get a kick out of many of the scenes in the book.

I enjoyed the system of magic and the variety of creatures in Strange Magic. In many ways, this is the perfect title for the book because it definitely was strange. James A. Hunter has a vivid imagination, which translated to an interesting story.

Sometimes, the strangeness was too much for me because I didn’t understand how it all worked. For example, Yancy is sixty-five years old, but looks like he is in his forties. Why is that so? Especially when he is a smoker, which is known to prematurely age people? He can’t use magic to heal himself, yet he has no aches and pains typical of someone that age. There was never an explanation for his superior health and appearance. So, that was strange to me.

I also thought it was strange that a “supernatural, man-eating, hyena-ninja” would use a gun. Also, this monster had a cell phone and kunai knives. If the creature was running on all fours, where did it put the cell phone and weapons? There isn’t any mention of clothing during this scene, just flabby skin and a mane of fur. Much later in the book, around 72%, Yancy encounters another one of these creatures. This time it wears clothes. So, I was confused about this for a long time, but it was eventually cleared up.

Overall, I did enjoy reading this book. I just think some things needed more clarity, especially the villain’s motivations. One good thing about the villain, though, was that he wasn’t all bad. Him feeling guilt about killing people gave him a little depth. He was insane and misguided, but not necessarily evil.

I will end here with a quote from the book. I think this quote exemplifies how James A. Hunter has a knack for bringing supernatural creatures to life:

“Its head was the size of a large house: black, inky-skin stretched tight over vast muscle and thick bone. A massive ridged plate ran horizontally across its great face, making me think instantly of a hammerhead shark, and beneath that sat a cruel hooked-beak the size of a car, filled with ragged tearing teeth.” (Strange Magic 2015, 74%)


About James A. Hunter

Hey all, my name is James Hunter and I’m a writer, among other things. So just a little about me: I’m a former Marine Corps Sergeant, combat veteran, and pirate hunter (seriously). I’m also a member of The Royal Order of the Shellback—’cause that’s a real thing. I’ve also been a missionary and international aid worker in Bangkok, Thailand. And, a space-ship captain, can’t forget that.

Okay … the last one is only in my imagination.

Currently, I’m a stay at home Dad—taking care of my two kids—while also writing full time, making up absurd stories that I hope people will continue to buy. When I’m not working, writing, or spending time with family, I occasionally eat and sleep.

You can visit me to find out more at

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