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The DFZ, the metropolis formerly known as Detroit, is the world’s most magical city with a population of nine million and zero public safety laws. That’s a lot of mages, cybernetically enhanced chrome heads, and mythical beasties who die, get into debt, and otherwise fail to pay their rent. When they can’t pay their bills, their stuff gets sold to the highest bidder to cover the tab.
That’s when they call me. My name is Opal Yong-ae, and I’m a Cleaner: a freelance mage with an art history degree who’s employed by the DFZ to sort through the mountains of magical junk people leave behind. It’s not a pretty job, or a safe one - there’s a reason I wear bite-proof gloves - but when you’re deep in debt in a lawless city where gods are real, dragons are traffic hazards, and buildings move around on their own, you don’t get to be picky about where your money comes from. You just have to make it work, even when the only thing of value in your latest repossessed apartment is the dead body of the mage who used to live there.
Author’s note: This is the first in a new series set in the same universe as my Heartstrikers books, but you don’t need to have heard those stories to enjoy this one. Minimum Wage Magic was written to stand by itself, so if you haven’t listened to the others, don’t worry! I wrote this book with you in mind. Thank you so much for listening!
The Audiobookworm's Review
Rating: 3.5 Stars
I chose Minimum Wage Magic from an Audible 2-for-1 sale. I had just finished One to Watch and knew that I needed something completely different from it in order to survive the inevitably massive book hangover.
Because of the sale, I went ahead and purchased the sequel to this audiobook as well. I normally don't take such a risk, buying a sequel before I have even heard the first book, but I could tell from the summary and sample that Minimum Wage Magic was probably a safe choice.
And I turned out to be mostly right. I enjoyed Minimum Wage Magic. I liked Opal as a main character. Her job was really fascinating and I wish the overarching story had revolved more around that, rather than it just being a catalyst.
I was most intrigued by the world Rachel Aaron created. The DFZ is an interesting concept and Aaron does a good enough job of explaining her system of magic. The world building was adequate and so was the character development. But there was a lot to unpack in this one installment. Between Opal's job, the info dumps about the gods, magic creatures, cyborg body parts, her enemies-to-lovers romance, and all the drama with her family, it was just… a lot. Oh, and let's not forget the dragons!
I think that's what kept me from enjoying this as much as I could have. Rachel Aaron is definitely a talented writer, but I think her style could use a little finesse. Maybe I'm just a slow absorber, but I was never really able to fully connect with a character or process a certain thing before something else major was thrown at me. It's like a dinner where there are so many different rich foods that you make yourself sick trying to eat everything and end up with a massive tummyache and a bad taste in your mouth (a.k.a. American Thanksgiving).
With that said, a massive tummyache has never stopped me from digging in again at the next Thanksgiving and it certainly didn't stop me from heading straight into Book #2, Part-Time Gods after finishing this one. I'm glad I did that because we do learn more about Opal's family in the second book, which gave her character more depth. It also advanced some of her relationships with characters we met in the first book.
There's a third book in the series, but despite adding it to my Audible wish list, I can't see myself spending a credit on it. However, if it should ever pop up in another sale, I would probably grab it.
Narration review: I know I've heard Emily Woo Zeller narrate before, but I can't remember exactly what book it was. I'll have to do some digging. Whatever it was left a residual positive impression in my mind, because seeing her name as narrator of Minimum Wage Magic made this an instant buy. My subconscious must know its stuff, because Woo Zeller gave a great performance here. She conveyed a light, fun tone for Opal that immediately made me like her. If you're into Urban Fantasy and/or dragons, this is probably a safe bet for you. And I highly recommend it on audiobook. ♣︎