Rating: 3.5 stars
I believe The Magpie Lord is a rare kind of book: the kind that has many unique ideas and concepts. A (five foot) magician with "champagne hands," an English lord that was exiled to China for twenty years, and magic of the type that exists as a current in the air. The writing is smart, and the plot was simply riveting as the mystery reached a peak towards the end.
Despite all this, I couldn't seem to really get into both characters. Lord Crane was an interesting enigma to me at first, but he couldn't seem to hold my interest as he played spectator throughout the book while his magician partner did all the leg work. At the same time, Stephen Day didn't really pop out as an interesting guy, even though he's a magician. To me, Day was the one doing all the work while Lord Crane was just a nice piece of furniture in the background. Both characters were just "there" for me, and not much else.
To me, The Magpie Lord is a great historical fantasy story with great writing, an interesting mystery and fun (and not-so-fun) magic. I just wished I could connect with the characters more.