Minimum Wage Magic (Book 1)
By: Rachel Aaron

Quick-take: Poorly Titled Interesting Fantasy.

Dan's Review

Opal Yong-ae is working from inside the DFZ (Detroit Free Zone) where there is lots of magic and very few rules. She has a risky job as a "Cleaner". She bids on evicted apartments to clean them out for the next resident. As payment, she can resell or keep the belongings. She has a critical debt payment due at the end of the week, but the past 5 months of Cleaning have not gone well. All her bids have gone bust. However, this latest one has a very interesting lead that could be a big payoff. During her investigation, she teams up with another Cleaner, Nik, and the two continue on with their adventure.

The setting has a bit of Cyberpunk meets Fantasy, favoring a bit more cyberpunk so than with Nice Dragons Finish Last, which this book is set inside. Perhaps this is because Opal is not a very good mage. There is a mild Heartstriker dragon cameo, and the book makes some references to that other series, but no previous knowledge is required. This book sits comfortably on its own. For those curious, and based on my own deduction from clues in this book, the DFZ series takes place a short time after the Heartstrikers series.

I could definitely tell this was a Rachel Aaron book. The story moves quickly with good story-telling and believable characters. A clue would send the two somewhere and another would move them along. All along, they are in the crazy DFZ. The DFZ can undoubtedly be considered a player in this story. I would think the story is a bit too quick. Opal has less than a week to make her payment, but yet they are traveling, deciphering clues, and are having meetings in various places. Nothing happens that quickly.

Pairing up a young bachelor and young bachelorette in a novel targeted at young adults... it is obvious where things will eventually lead. I am pleased this did not happen here. The story was all about the clues, mystery, and bad deals with dangerous characters. There was no romance in book 1. I am sure that will happen in a later DFZ book. Towards the end there were hints the two cared about each other.

My biggest complaint is the ending. I did not care for it. I would write why, but I don't know how without dropping serious spoilers, so I will leave it there. Score 3/5. The book was not what I expected, but it was still interesting.

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