By day, Catherine works in a print shop. At night, her boss sends her to the cemetery to raise the dead and give families a final hour with their loved ones—but each raising takes an hour off her life. It’s an unfortunate bargain, but Catherine is at the mercy of her employer, who can toss her out on the street at any moment—and he does when Catherine and her friend Guy, a watchmaker, fail to unearth a magical timepiece buried in a boy’s coffin. Instead, they inexplicably revive the boy permanently. Though he can’t remember anything about his life, the boy is their only link to the timepiece, and finding it is the only way they can save Catherine’s livelihood.
Set in an alternate Victorian England, Magic Dark and Strange combines mystery, magic and a touch of the macabre while underscoring the harsh conditions of the working class. Catherine depends on her employer for income and lodging, and her quest for the timepiece gains urgency from her fear of destitution. Guy and his father struggle to keep their shop afloat, and the revived boy must find an apprenticeship or risk the poorhouse.
A lack of rules to govern the magical elements of this story may frustrate detail-oriented fantasy fans. Nonetheless, the novel’s moody, gothic atmosphere, appealing romance and brisk mystery plot will satisfy readers who enjoy storytelling that blends genre conventions with ease.