The debut novel of Cris and Clare Meyers, Playing with Fire is an urban fantasy, supernatural heist story that follows protagonists Renee and Stone. Both main characters are Talents, individuals who have access to certain streams of magic. They use these abilities to enhance their particular skill sets - primarily stealing things from people - to become very successful thieves. One job gets personal, however, as Renee and Stone get the opportunity to steal from someone who had betrayed them both. So let’s breakdown Playing with Fire.
The novel follows Renee and Stone, freelance thieves who are introduced to each other in a job that goes bad. Renee is an expert thief, complimented by her lithe frame and her ability to access ether magic in addition to her normal talent. This particular class of magic allows her to alter reality, disguising herself and making her and others invisible. It is no surprise that such an ability comes in handy when she makes her living by taking things that aren’t hers. However, she is not dependent on the magic, it merely complements her already impressive skills. One of the traits that I particularly liked about Renee was that she would slip into speaking French every now and then, but the authors would not always follow the dialogue with a translation. It added a depth of realism to the situations, where other characters in the scene could not understand what she had said. I can understand how some people might not like this approach, but it was one of my favourite parts of the book.
Stone is quite the opposite of Renee. He is a former mercenary, a gun-for-hire whose efficacy is only enhanced by the fact that he is a fire Talent. Where Renee is quiet, Stone is loud. Where she is elegant, he is abrupt. The two are direct opposites, but those differences act as complements for each other. Sometimes creating an exit with an explosion is much easier than sneaking around and finding one.
Because Playing with Fire takes place in the modern era, in modern locales, world building in its most basic form is not particularly necessary. Where the world building does come in is the formation of the magic system, in the Talents, shapeshifters, rituals, and other key aspects that flesh out the magical world that exists within the one that we already know. For some, magic is a thing of fantasy, to others it is like an academic subject - something that exists, but is not necessarily their field. At one point there were even a group of people pretending to do magic, though it was as effective as me trying to be a doctor. But to a handful of people, magic is part of everyday life. This world of magic has been introduced, and we have received a glimpse at the world and workings that exist beyond our main characters. It will be exciting to see how the world will grow as more books in the series come along.
The characters and world building were definitely the strongest aspects of the story, but there is more to it as well. The dialogue is generally strong. Occasionally I did get have to read a line or two twice, though that is the case with a lot of books; dialogue is one of the most unique aspects of a particular writing style. As I mentioned previously, I liked that Renee would slip into her native tongue every now and then, but I have seen a review that stated the contrary. Furthermore, my foray into urban fantasy has been marked with a lot of action, save more maybe Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. Let it be clear that, while this is urban fantasy, it is not an action-packed adventure. At its core, Playing with Fire is a heist thriller in an urban fantasy setting. It has bursts of action here and there, but do not read it expecting action at every turn - sometimes Renee’s approach of inaction or subtlety is a more logical route.
Since this is my first review on this blog, I have been trying to think of ways to differentiate my review from other ones you may read. If you want to see where this averages on a scale of 1-5, feel free to check out Amazon or GoodReads. Here is what I can tell you: Should you read Playing with Fire? If you are a fan of urban fantasy, witty characters, magic, or heist stories (or any combination of the above), then definitely. Overall, I say Playing with Fire is worth the read.
On top of that, I have been told by Cris and Clare that Playing with Fire is now available in print! You can buy a print or eBook copy by clicking on the link below!