The Department of Magic

The Department of Magic
By Rod Kierkegaard Jr.
Published by Curiosity Quills Press
Published on December 12, 2011
Source: Netgalley

Summary from Goodreads:
It’s hate at first sight.
Jasmine Farah and Rocco di Angelo are competing for the same job in a dusty office in a secret Federal agency run by the mysterious, menacing Jefferson Davis Crawley – “Creepy” Crawley, as he’s known.
When Crawley is murdered in front of them after their first day on the job, Jasmine and Rocco are left to figure out who killed their new boss, and exactly what a job in the so-called Department of Magic entails. And magic, it seems, is nothing like it seems in children’s books; it’s dark and bloody.
What follows is a nightmare gallop through a world of ghosts, spooks, vampires, demons, and the minions of South American and Voodoo gods hell-bent on destroying the world and subjugating all America in the year 2012.
Only Rock and Jazz, in the company of a ragtag team of urhobos – homeless guardians of the District of Columbia– can prevent it by resurrecting “Goddess America” in a mystical ceremony on the Fourth of July, as the story reaches its bittersweet and unforeseen climax.
My thoughts...
There are a lot of things going on in The Department of Magic.  There are a lot of demons, vampires, ancient gods, etc. to keep track of.  There's a small cast of supporting characters, a lot of mythology, a lot of traveling around... it's very easy to loose track of what, exactly, is supposed to be happening.  The whole universe that the author creates is very disorienting.  Fortunately, it's just as disorienting for its two main characters, Farah and di Angelo, who took the job without having any idea what, exactly, the Department of Magic is -- and without having any belief that any of those things even exist in the first place.  We learn a lot about this new, unknown world, right alongside our leads, who are pretty bewildered by what they're seeing.

Things change quickly, though, and Farah and di Angelo find themselves learning -- and believing -- more about magic than they'd ever thought possible, largely from their un-dead boss Crawley.  The duo quickly find themselves thrust into their roles, learning all about the dark, magical history of the United States.  They also have to learn to become expert thieves, since they will need to steal many historical artifacts in order to resurrect the Goddess America.  Of course they will.

I felt like The Department of Magic was just one of those books where the back half didn't live up to the first half.  If I'd stopped reading midway through, I probably would have been more satisfied, even if all of the plotlines hadn't been resolved.  As it was, the ending was just a big setup for a sequel, anyway, so many of the more interpersonal plotlines didn't resolve themselves, anyway.  There were very few actual shocking moments, and at least one plot twist that was hinted at so heavy-handedly that I saw it coming a mile away. 

Ultimately, the biggest failing of the book was that I couldn't bring myself to care about the main characters or what happened to them, at all.  Farah exhibits repeated personality changes and vast mood swings for no real reason, which are supposed to signify her growth, but it didn't work for me.  Di Angelo just seems to let things happen around him and never really shows much spark.  Their dynamic had the potential to be interesting -- with di Angelo being more of a doormat, it allowed Farah the chance to be a strong, courageous, no-nonsense leading lady -- but, again, by the back half of the book, even that had stopped working for me.

It had its moments of being a fun read, but I also found myself rolling my eyes and checking to see how much further I had to go.  This isn't a YA book, so readers should be aware that there is frequent strong language, violence, and adult themes. 

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