Thirteen-year-old Oona Crateis a Natural Magician, gifted with magical powers and training to be the Wizard of Dark Street, in charge of protecting the human world should the gates of Faerie ever be reopened. She is also a detective who turns to logic and observation to solve her cases.
The two jobs are sometimes in conflict, as in The Magician’s Dream. She is meant to be preparing for and taking three tests that begin her battle training as the Wizard of Dark Street. At the same time, there has been a robbery at the local museum. Someone has stolen the Faerie Carbuncle, and clues indicate that the thieves may be the same people who killed Oona’s father. Oona is also learning about the importance of woman’s rights and trying to spend time with Adler Iree, who she hopes will get around to talking about the kiss he gave her not long ago.
Shawn Thomas Odyssey writes a well-structured mystery, intertwining Oona’s magical and detective work, keeping his heroine busy but still allowing time for discussion and thought. The magic rules of Oona’s world are still being made clear (Oona is, after all, both a child and a student), but the process is self-consistent and solidly planned. Odyssey plays fair with the mystery as well, showing the clues as Oona finds them and unfolding it in a logical progression.
The Magician’s Dream is a strong entry into middle grade fiction, with the intended audience somewhere at the earlier end of the spectrum. Oona is an active, competent heroine who is surrounded by a strong cast. The core group is a varied bunch. First, there is her near-constant companion Deacon, a talking raven who provides her with information and sometimes advice. There is also her uncle, the Wizard of Dark Street who is her guardian and teacher; her good friend/boyfriend Iree Adler, a young man studying magical law; and Samuligan, the mercurial Faerie servant. Unfortunately, Odyssey does fall into the trap of giving Oona the stereotypical shallow, catty opposite number in Isadora, who exists solely to be vain and mean. This book does, however, also introduce a good female friend, Mary Shusher, who wants to be a critic. While one suspects some of the statements she makes are Odyssey’s way of poking gentle fun at the critical profession, her desire is sincere and she gives Oona another model for the young woman who wants to chart her own path.
The setting, the Dark Street in the late nineteenth century, a place between New York and the land of Faerie, a place where magic is practiced. An illegal trade with the Faerie supplies goods no longer freely available since the Gates of Faerie were closed and runs alongside more legitimate, familiar trades. It makes for a mixed world full of possibilities. Odyssey is good at supplying information and description to build the world without swamping the reader.
The Magician’s Dream is the third book in the Oona Crate Mystery series. It functions well as a standalone, although there is a larger, overarching plot that is slowly unfolding as the series progresses.