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REVIEW: Hex and the City by Nazri Noor

Stolen Hearts: Hex and the City by Nazri Noor

Leon Alcantara is a real son of a witch. The last in a proud line of witches, he’s come to test his small magic in the big city. Stealing enchanted artifacts pays the rent, but the competition is fierce. And handsome. And great at magic, too. But Maximilian Drake and his dark, brooding glances are the least of Leon’s problems. A chain of anomalies surges through the city, strange distortions in reality that threaten both Dos Lunas and its people. Suspected by the arcane authorities, Leon is forced to work with his nemesis to clear his name. But Max is so secretive over his shrouded past. Can he even be trusted? Leon must decide before the anomalies destroy the city — and his entire life.

Nazri Noor quickly became a go-to author since A Touch of Fever back in 2021. Many of his books are urban fantasies set in an alt-universe centered around a magical Black Market that moves all over the globe and beyond.

His latest series, Stolen Hearts, is another urban fantasy. I haven’t heard mention of the infamous Black Market, but I’m pretty sure it’s set in the same universe.

Book 1, Hex in the City, stars the feisty Leonardo Alcantara, green carded into the US from the Philippines by his mother. Leon comes from a long line of bruha or witches, the magic passed on from women to women. He is the first witch boy and, so far, the last Alcantara.

A winning combination of spells, street smarts and naivety, Leon currently ekes out a living as a finder, moving from city to city where there is work. In one heist, he butt heads with another finder, the tall, dark, and broody Maximillian Drake, who is also after the magical object he’s tasked to find.

Dos Lunas is a city with a magical underground and many magical law-enforcement agencies, one of which are the Masks. As you can guess, their agents wear certain types of masks depending on their rank, and I immediately wanted to be one when I grow up. Another group that fascinated me are the Spiders, information mongers who dole out jobs to finders like Leon and Max.

One very intriguing aspect are the old magical families like the Brilliantes, powerful and influential enough to be given a lot of leeway by the Masks. The characters have different types of magic as well. Leon’s traditional magic can amplify what is already there. Later, he got a power boost courtesy of certain ancient entities. Max’s magic has something to do with crystals. His friend Tina is very handy with her machete, while the Jade Spider lives and breathes secrets.

I find many of the author’s works fun but wordy. Here, his writing hit the sweet spot between the sass, the info-dump, and the rest of the elements. This is a fast-paced plot with fast-talking characters that skillfully balanced the romantic development, Leon’s Filipino background, the snarky dialogues, world-building, the mystery, and the high-octane, anime-style fight scenes that I am crazy about!

The only reason I didn’t give this a 5-star rating is that the romance on the generic side. I’ve already seen this style of rivals to lovers done in the author’s other books. Apart from that, Stolen Hearts offers a rich magical world I’d loved to get lost in, characters I’d love to hang out with, and more quests and adventures to conquer.

So yeah, Hex and the City would make a great onscreen series. And we all know fictional gay couples have the best and most devoted fandom. We already have angels and demons, princes and first sons, and of course, pirates. About time we have mages and witch boys, so please, if Netflix or anyone could turn this or any of the author’s books into an anime or live-action drama, it would be simply brilliant!

4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

Soundtrack: Diamond
Artist: Angelina Jordan
Album: Old Enough

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