March 05, 2024

Three Kinds of Lucky

By Kim Harrison
Review by
Kim Harrison’s Three Kinds of Lucky is an immediately compelling urban fantasy with an intricate magic system and complex world.
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In Three Kinds of Lucky by Kim Harrison, author of the bestselling Hollows series, magic has its own specialized sanitation service: Sweepers, who pick up a byproduct of magic called dross. If left unattended, dross can attract shadow, a dangerous, somewhat intelligent life-form that can easily kill mages, sweepers and normal humans alike.

Harrison wastes little time getting down to business; the story kicks off in St. Unoc, a fictional city set east of Tucson, Arizona, where mages congregate to learn, research and test their skills at St. Unoc University. While tackling a messy dross cleanup, our narrator and protagonist, sweeper Petra Grady, discovers she has the rare ability to manipulate shadow itself. Petra is soon drafted into a research project on dross that could upend everything she thought she knew about St. Unoc. 

Three Kinds of Lucky revolves around its distinct class system: The magical equivalent of janitors, sweepers cannot use magic, and most mages ignore or sneer at them. However, unlike mages, the sweepers can directly handle dross with no ill effects. Harrison uses Grady to personify this complicated interplay. Her struggle to balance her pride in her work with the fact that some people would rather spit on her than acknowledge her is a key pillar of the story. What’s more, jealousy over the mages’ ability to craft and manipulate magic has always burned in Grady’s heart, despite her sense of duty as a sweeper. As her role in St. Unoc evolves, she learns more about the origin of the two separate classes, discovering sins so old that the mages don’t remember their existence.

Three Kinds of Lucky will immediately pull readers in with its fast pace and efficient storytelling; the entirety of its nearly city-shattering events all happen within a few days. Sometimes, however, the character development fails to keep time with the speed of the plot, resulting in frustrating moments where one wishes that Grady and her companions would adapt more quickly to what’s happening around them. However, the mechanically intricate magic system and complex world Harrison has created makes this series opener well worth the read.

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