Cover Image: Gutter Mage

Gutter Mage

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an advanced copy of Gutter Mage! 
This novel was pleasantly surprising. I first heard about this book from a Youtuber I like to watch, and the premise intrigued me but I was still a bit hesitant to request it--but I'm super glad I did! Roz, the MC of this work, was awesome! She definitely had the whole hard-edged noir detective trope going on, but it just worked. There's also a lot more detective work and investigation happening in this novel than I expected; I expected the focus to be on the fantasy rather than the actual investigative work, but I was actually really enjoying the blend that this novel took on. This is definitely a great installment into what will surely be a vey enjoyable and enduring series! Can't wait for the next installment! I'm recommending this to my library as a purchase for September, absolutely!
Was this review helpful?
I received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Even after reading the blurb, I still wasn’t sure what to expect. I was expecting a fun  magic noir romp, but the resulting story and setting was so much more. The story was fast paced and the character hates her nickname (but still answers to it) that she’s gotten by helping out those who can’t always help themselves. The plot starts with a rich client trying to recover a missing heir, and turns into a race to save the kingdom. There’s a lot of world to work with here, and though this ends in a really good place, I think this would easily become a fun series as all the characters are written well, and the world leaves so much more to see and do.
Was this review helpful?
I want to sit J S Kelley down, look into their eyes and assure them that the world desperately needs a Gutter Mage series.

Okay, so maybe by "the world" I mean "I" but this book was just so much fantastic fun! Crossing an original fantasy concept with a hardboiled mystery with distinct Western elements, spiced up with excellent repartee and a bisexual heroine with equal amounts self-awareness and depth, this book just absolutely dazzled me. Our heroine Rosalind (named like all the other characters after the Shakespearean) is better known by the disparaging moniker Gutter Mage, tho no one's ever called her that to her face twice. Earning a living as a fixer with the help of her childhood friend and business partner Lysander, she accepts a lucrative job that requires more than the usual amount of discretion.

Lord Edmund of House Ariel has recently become a proud parent, but his son has been kidnapped in what looks like an elaborate plan hatched by some very skilled mages, presumably of the upstart new Alath Guild. As there's nothing more Rosalind enjoys than sticking it to some Guild Mages -- and since Lysander really wants to build up his nest egg so that he and his lovely wife Portia can finally start expanding their family -- this looks like the perfect case for them, with Lysander's brawn and social skills backing up Roz's considerable magical capabilities. But something smells fishy almost from the very start, and the further Roz and Lysander investigate, the greater the likelihood that they're being lied to, and that the mastermind behind all this is the person Roz least wants to see in all the world.

I don't want to say too much more about the plot because there are so many excellent surprises, but I can say that it thoughtfully examines trauma and rage in ways that are miles ahead of most genre literature. Roz's struggle to come to terms with her past and with her swiftly tilting present are written with honesty and empathy, and with few easy answers. The only place that the writing ever faltered was in the climax, I felt, which was given shorter shrift than it deserved. I wanted to revel in all Roz's feelings and observations, I wanted to stay and examine her every move in rich detail. While the relatively fast pace was in keeping with most of the rest of the book, I felt this was a missed opportunity to really gut punch the reader with the culmination of all the emotion that had led us to this point.

But that is literally the only criticism I have of this terrific book. Roz is so complicated and real, and the stuff she goes through so engrossing that I am desperate to read more of her and this fantasy world as it grapples with the ramifications of what she uncovers in the course of her investigations. Deep, diverse and just downright delightful, Gutter Mage has been one of the year's best surprise discoveries for me. More, more, more please!

Gutter Mage by J. S. Kelley was published September 21 2021 by Gallery/Saga Press and is available from all good booksellers, including <a href="">Bookshop!</a>
Was this review helpful?
This is such a fun, well-written fantasy story that not only was I glued to it as I excitedly turned the pages, but I started recommending it before I was even done with it. 
Roz, the titular Gutter Mage, is a give-no-fs, bisexual arcanist with incendiary fire magic who works as somewhat of a mercenary with her best friend as her partner. They get hired to rescue a kidnapped baby and it turns into a phenomenal adventure full of twists, turns, and revelations that made it impossible to put down.
The setting is the classic mildly medieval fantasy land where there are kingdoms that rely on magic and the class system is in full swing. This very familiar setting helps make all the terms used for the magic and mages and sigils an organic part of the story and there's really no need to waste space explaining things. The action takes off and everything just makes sense. That is some impressive plotting and writing. 
Overall, I feel like this one came out of nowhere and was incredibly entertaining. It's a travesty that there's no more hype around it, and I'm definitely going to be recommending it to anyone looking for a fun, adventure-filled fantasy read. 

Many very happy thanks to NetGalley and Gallery / Saga Press for the great read.
Was this review helpful?
Gutter Mage is a fun mix of a fantasy novel and a gritty detective story. Roz is hired to find a kidnapped child. Along the way, she must deal with a partner, a former lover, and an old enemy from her past. The quest leads in unexpected ways and possibly a better future
Was this review helpful?
Gutter Mage is an engaging debut noir mystery/fantasy mashup by J.S. Kelley. Released 21 Sept 2021 by Simon & Schuster on their Gallery/Saga imprint, it's 336 pages and is available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

This is one of my better speculative fiction genre picks so far this year. There's so much to like here. The protagonist is a smart but flawed outsider who happens to also be a fire-wielding mage, intelligent, (mostly) loyal, operating within her own moral code. It's got shades of a buddy-cop adventure with her best friend, a brawny fighter with a big sword and bigger muscles who's always there to back her up. They're trying to stave off a local mage guild and prevent them from unleashing the apocalypse in the company of her ex, an uptight sort-of-cleric who's on the inter-guild council. The world building is superlative, immersive and plausible. There are lots of philosophical questions to ponder and the writing is really really good. The dialogue is rapid fire and sarcastic (but not annoyingly so). There were several places during the read which actually surprised a laugh out of me.

There is some graphic violence (she's a *fire* mage and can't always control her flames and random people just keep attacking her), as well as some light sexual content. Main character Roz is bisexual and I liked that it wasn't a big deal in the text. Sensitive readers should be aware there are some content concerns: non-consensual imprisonment, body horror, discussions of infant loss and maternal mutilation, possession, smoking, alcohol abuse, and mental health issues. All those aside (and they're all in context), this is a genuinely funny book and extremely well written.

Five stars. I really really want to know what's next for Roz and co.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.
Was this review helpful?
I just couldn't get into this book. The protagonist was such a cookie cutter stereotype of so many other "hard-boiled" characters that it only made the predictable story setup even harder to swallow. Not to mention, this very much felt like a female character written by a guy.

There's a market for this type of story (just look at Jim Butcher), but it didn't work for me.
Was this review helpful?
"If it were physically possible to fuck a library, I would already be suggesting we go back to my place for a drink." -From Gutter Mage

5 stars

A fun and crass fantasy tale with a quick pace and engaging characters. The writing pulls you in from the start, and feeds you information about the world and magic system at a managble pace. You follow the with the lead Roz, who has more bad habits than good, yet I loved her. There is a half mystery, half band of misfits set out to complete a task storyline that I enjoyed. A lot of memorable, great funny lines. There is a lot of violence and swearing, so if that isn't your cup of tea stay away. 

Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
I thought this book was just a blast! I didn't realize until after finishing the book that this author has published under the name Jon Skovron before. I've actually read some of these books and enjoyed them, so I'm not too surprised that I liked the writing style again here. Generally, this is very easy to read and well paced with lots of exciting action. It does remind me more of an urban fantasy type of tone with this detective case and setting, so I was very happy about that since I love urban fantasy! This book does have some darker themes at times with elements like possession and essentially torture. There's also an interesting mystery overall, and I definitely did not predict the way things turned out.

I had (well, still have I guess) suspicions about the world that seem to be correct, so I definitely want to learn more about this in future books. I really liked the magic here as well. Mages are generally limited to enchanting things or enacting magic after carving symbols into something. Another branch of magic users essentially commune with spirits and can channel their own spirits for purposes like astral projection (and more). Roz is special though - she has sigils carved into her hands that allow her to channel fire. This seemed like a nice variety of magic going on, and I definitely want to know more about it (especially with Roz!).

I really liked Roz overall. She's snarky, blunt, and foul-mouthed, and I found her to be highly entertaining. She's had some trauma in her past and is trying to work through it. Even though she can come across as harsh and certainly leans into violence, I think she is a good person deep down inside who wants to help (and hey, if she can get booze, tobacco, or money out of it, all the better). She works with her partner and friend Lysander, and I really liked their friendship. I have FEELINGS about how things turn out between them. Their bond is very important to Roz because he's her best friend, and she really only accepts this case to begin with because she knows it's important to him.

Of course, we also meet up with assorted other individuals along the way. Some of them I ended up really liking despite feeling hesitant to begin with, while others initially seemed alright, but they've maybe made some poor decisions or aren't as good as they seem. We do have some LGBTQ+ representation here as well. Roz seems to be bi, and there's a character who may be transgender (though I don't think this is explicitly confirmed). There's actually a conversation that comes up where one person asks if this character is a woman or a man in women's clothes, and the other characters take the time to explain why it's not polite to ask about someone's gender identity and to educate him. I thought this was nicely incorporated into the story in a very natural way.

I'm so excited about the way things end up here, and I will absolutely keep reading this series. I'd highly recommend it, especially if you like urban fantasy such as The Dresden Files.

My video review can be seen on my booktube channel (around minutes 17:28-21:46 of this video):
Was this review helpful?
Hysterically funny, this is a madcap romp through a very well-realized fantasy world where everything is powered by captured spirits. There are mysteries and betrayals and adventures on every page, and I'm eagerly awaiting the next in the series!
Was this review helpful?
I thought this sounded interesting and thought I’d give it a try. I was immediately drawn into this book, and my interest didn’t really wane the whole book. I admit that this genre wasn’t exactly my favorite (sort of set in a sort of past?), but I set that aside to enjoy this book. Roz is a very complex character which I came to understand better when information comes to light later in the book. This explains some of the hardness of her character one way or the other (this will make sense when you read it). Add to it the great writing and unique universe, this gritty noir-like urban fantasy kept my interest. I’d like to learn more about the characters and Roz in future installments. Recommend. I was provided a complimentary copy which I voluntarily reviewed.
Was this review helpful?
You know, this book probably doesn’t really deserve the full five stars, it’s not an amazing and perfect book but I had a lot of fun reading it so I’m rounding up for the good time the author showed me!
It’s a fantasy/mystery blend with a very crass protagonist.  Some readers aren’t going to like the main character but I knew the author was just out to show the reader a good time from the first two sentences and then the bar brawl started.  Not every book needs to have something deep to say or be of vast literary merit some can just be entertaining and this one fits that bill.  I’m marking this author to follow on Goodreads. I want to read whatever they write next!
Was this review helpful?
Gutter Mage sets the reader up in a world with mages who can harness spirits to provide conveniences and comforts such as sky scrapers, horseless carriages, street lights and beyond. Rosalind Featherstone, an almost mage know as the Gutter Mage, gets hired on to a job to find the missing child of a lord. Along with her partner, Lysander, they discover something bigger going on and are faced with the task of stopping a rogue mage guild who wants to change life as they know it.

I really enjoyed this novel and the author has set it up to be the stepping stone in what I assume will be a series of magical mystery solving adventures. Rosalind (Roz) is a snarky fun character to follow and is just lovable and broken enough to make for some fun exchanges between characters. The world of mages and harnessing of spirits is intriguing and I feel like we just touch the surface of this magic system in the Gutter Mage. I ultimately was left satisfied with the story pacing after only one real lull while circumstances were starting to pull together just before all the pieces of the mystery started to click.

4 stars - would recommend this read to anyone who enjoys a light magical mystery/adventure.

Review based on digital copy of Uncorrected Proof from Net Galley and the publisher.
Was this review helpful?
I enjoyed this.  It starts off with a bar fight, and continues with a good amount of violence and death, but sort of with a light touch.  Roz definitely is vulgar, but clever about it and it added to rather than detracted from her character.  A lot of her supporting characters are sincere and caring, so you can tell there's more to her than the rough exterior.  She behaves badly but is a good person.  This story involves magic of several flavors, including binding spirits with sigils, possessions, and communing on the astral plane, but mostly it's a detective story.   It was a fun, quick read with good, consistent writing, and came to a very satisfying conclusion.
Was this review helpful?
Book received for free through NetGalley 

I absolutely adored this book and had trouble putting it down as the characters, scenes, and overall plot pulled me in immediately. So good and can’t wait to learn what she does and what happens next.
Was this review helpful?
I actually got my hands on a physical arc of Gutter Mage and read it before I was approved on NetGalley. I seriously loved this book. Roz is a badass and a fantastic leading character. The banter was great, the magic was fun, the world building was done really well without a ton of info-dumping. And the conclusion left me so excited for a sequel. 4.5 stars rounded up. I think this is the start of a really great series and I hope there is a lot more to come!
Was this review helpful?
Rosalind “Roz” Featherstone is known as the Gutter Mage of Drusiel, but do not let her hear you calling her that. A detective, of sorts, Roz solves problems within the magical community; although most of her clients pay in barter, but who’s counting? When her best friend, Lysander brings about the prospect of a high paying job she accepts it. As memories from her past intertwine with clues of the case, she wonders if she will be able to break it, or if it will break her.

Hidden behind the crass of the main character’s reputation, an eccentric, tough, yet deeply loving character is brought to life in J.S. Kelly’s "The Gutter Mage". The quirky banter alone keeps the reader interested. Throw in a fascinating rendition of mages, deception, plus adventure and this book quickly becomes difficult to put down.

None the less, there is an abundant amount of crude, raunchy, and profane language throughout. Add in several spelling and grammatical errors, and the rating of 4 out of 5 stars is given. 

Be aware, there is smoking, drinking, and drug use described within. There is also some sexual content included, although the details are left to the reader’s imagination. If triggered by any of these actions, please take caution while reading.

All in all, a must read for anyone who enjoys losing themselves in the wonder of magic, mystery, and mayhem. Cannot wait for Roz’s next situation.

Thank you to #NetGalley, #GutterMage and #SagaPress for the opportunity to voluntarily review this book.
Was this review helpful?
This was a fun read.  The author is adept at world building and the MC is flawlessly depicted.

Hopefully this is the start of a series, especially as there was no true resolution to the plot. 

I hope in future books the secondary characters are more defined as they have much potential.

I was given a free ARC.  I am leaving my .honest review
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for this arc. 

And thank you, J.S. Kelley, for this masterpiece. I teared up reading the “Acknowledgments”. I couldn’t imagine not getting the chance to read Roz’s story. 

Yaaaaas.!! Sold.! That’s all that needs said… this book was flipping fantastic. I’m ordering myself a copy right after writing this review. Roz was an amazing character. All the characters were interesting. The plot wasn’t super definitive or multi-layered. There was a trail to follow, but it didn’t lead you on a big chase. But it worked out well. I’m fairly certain this was a standalone, so you wouldn’t have wanted something convoluted and all over the place. The magic was interesting. I love mages and sigil stuff. The story ended at a good place, but I think ill always want more. I’d love more “Gutter Mage” adventures. I want to know what happens with the spirits. I even want to get more on Lysander. It was just one of those amazing reads that don’t let you go.
Was this review helpful?
Gutter Mage is the debut novel of J.S. Kelly, and guys: consider me hooked. I loved this novel, and I loved the writing. I'm adding J.S Kelly to my list of auto-buy authors.

Rosalind Featherstone is a woman of many names. Her friends call her Roz, and anybody looking to get punched calls her the Gutter Mage. She's worked hard to make peace with her lot in life and has cut a career for herself.

While she's never taking on a case involving a kidnapped infant, there's a first time for everything, right? Only nothing is what it seems, and Roz quickly finds herself up to her neck in danger and magical politics. What fun.

“There were people at various points in my life who had told me that I shouldn't fight dirty. That there was a right way and a wrong way to right, and punching a guy in the eggs fell squarely on the wrong side.”

If you love your magic books laced with a hefty dose of noir and sarcasm, then you're going to love Gutter Mage. I know I did. I want so much more – more information about the world, the characters, and especially the magic.

Roz is arguably the crassest magical being I have ever had the joy of reading about – and that's saying something. I can see why she got the nickname Gutter Mage – and it isn't just because of her magic or the type of clients she prefers.

I love how dark and gritty this novel was. Even the magical system had a darker tone, which fit nicely with the overall noir aesthetic. It also suited Roz's personality for obvious reasons. Personally, I think it did a fantastic job of making this world and story stand out from the rest.

Gutter Mage was a fun read because it had a lot of elements blended into one story. It's a magical noir world, where the main character has taken up a new case (mystery) to solve. Throw in personal conflicts, political scheming, and some surprises twists – and a lot is going on in this book.

I'll confess that it took me a little while to get into the narrative – Roz is abrasive, which makes it harder to appreciate what's going on. Still, it wasn't long before I was fully invested, and by the time the book ended, I wasn't ready to let go.

To sum it up: I adored Gutter Mage. It was a unique and fun read, and I'm already crossing all of my fingers and toes that there will be a sequel. Pretty please?
Was this review helpful?