Every now and then, I stumble across a book I never would have ordinarily picked up, and I end up liking it a lot more than I thought I would. This happened just a few weeks ago with The 100-Year-Old Man that Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared which I thought was very humorous - a fun read, and one I would happily recommend to people that enjoy lighthearted books that play with modern history.
It happened again with one of the Audible Originals from a couple months back titled Minimum Wage Magic, by Rachel Aaron. I expected it to be another hum-drum halfhearted urban fantasy. Instead, I found a story with good worldbuilding, good pacing, vivid characters, and my favorite kind of damsel - the one that never stops trying to un-damsel herself.
In a high-tech near-future world, magic has returned after millenia of absence, turned the whole of human society on its ear, and managed to keep them well on their toes, especially in the Detroit Free Zone, or the DFZ, a city almost entirely without laws. Almost.
The fact that the author put so much thought into what Americans specifically would do when magic suddenly returned was not only gratifying but extremely entertaining. In addition, the main character is markedly NOT American, and the depiction of her interactions with her family leave me in no doubt that she views herself as an outsider in so many ways, I can't even count them. This is the sort of woman I can get behind.
But on top of all that (but wait, there's more!) we need to take a look at the elephant in the room. This is not a YA novel. The narrator makes no effort to avoid subjects of drugs, death, sex, theft, and many other "gritty" and "realistic" topics. There is some swearing, but not in such a way that it seemed extraneous or unnecessary, and though she spends some time thinking about how attractive her partner is, there were no explicit or even suggestive scenes that made me uncomfortable, which usually means it's pretty safe.
I really appreciated that, even though there are liberal hints at romantic interest between the main characters, it doesn't take away from the actual focus of the story. With that in mind:
I'm giving this book 5/5 stars for a story that kept me interested and invested from beginning to end, and worldbuilding that left me eager for more.
If you liked books like So You Want To Be A Wizard? for its unique urban fantasy twist and The Thirteenth Child for its escalation of stakes and willingness of the main character to fight impossible odds, then this is the right book for you.