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Part-Time Gods by Rachel Aaron

book cover of Part-Time Gods

Part-Time Gods is a follow-up to Minimum Wage Magic, which I reviewed here. This book continues on where that one left off: namely, Opal Yong-ae is trying to find ways to outwit the bad luck curse that she now knows afflicts her, so she can pay off her debt to her controlling father.

My opinion of this book is much the same as my opinion of the last one. The best thing about it is its ridiculously awesome setting, the Detroit Free Zone, a lawless high-tech society with dragons and an actively interventionist god. I still think it's the kind of place I'd love to see brought to life on screen; even reading about it in print, you know it'd be visually impressive. More than that, though, is how rich it is with opportunities for social critique, for example the natural tendency of capitalism to lead to dystopia (e.g. an ambulance that won't come to a particularly poor part of the DFZ without a hefty non-refundable security deposit being paid, or even conflict between different schools of thought about magic because one is more easily lent to neoliberal commoditisation than the other!). The high-tech, fantasy, and sociopolitical elements of this setting are all blended extremely well and I just adore it.

The story itself is a bit more mixed in quality. I do really like the core plotline, of Opal struggling her hardest to escape her overbearing, rigidly controlling father and to become the master of her own life. What did get irritating over time was how childish Opal is in many ways – and it's not like this was inconsistent or unreasonable for someone who'd grown up so heavily sheltered, it just got annoying. For example, Opal is so determined to rule her own life that she spurns perfectly reasonable offers of help multiple times during this book. For a university graduate (and one who talks casually about past boyfriends), her approach to the romance subplot seems embarrassingly juvenile. She also pushes her body way beyond its limits (minimal sleep, too much coffee, not enough food) more than seems manageable… although the fact that she treats her magic the same way becomes a major plot point, so I can't say this goes unacknowledged. It was just… you could really feel her ever-present AI Sybil's frustration sometimes.

In the other reviews I did see some criticism of the ending, but I didn't really have a problem with it. The main thing is that it does feel like it's ramping up for an epic, final third instalment, when after the first book it had seemed like this could have been a longer-running series. I guess I don't really mind though… especially since there can always be other series set in the DFZ! It's just not what I was initially expecting. Overall, like the last book, this one probably gets three stars from me for plot/characters and five stars for setting, leaving it at a thoroughly respectable four. If the next book can show Opal growing into herself into more of a confident, self-possessed adult, which it sure seems to be on the road to doing, then it'll probably be my favourite of the lot.

Books in the Detroit Free Zone series

  1. Minimum Wage Magic
  2. Part-Time Gods (you are here)
  3. Night Shift Dragons

★★★★

photo of Jessica Smith is a left-wing feminist who loves animals, books, gaming, and cooking; she’s also very interested in linguistics, history, technology and society.