I think that I'm far less forgiving than I used to be. I'll keep my original review, because it was how I felt at the time - and it's still mostly true - but I'm going to add some thoughts to it.
Allie is a character that rides two sides of thought for me. One moment I love her - she's strong, independent, smart, and kick-ass; the next she's making out with some guy while running for her life (whom she doesn't even really know), not taking basic precautions to ensure her safety, and falling in insta-love.
I said below that the world is well-realized, and I'm not sure what I was thinking. There is a TON of potential in this world, it's fascinating and I'd really love to see it developed. But it's confusing as hell. Half the time that magic was being done I had no idea what was going on, why, or who was doing what. I still don't know who half the players in the story were.
The central mystery isn't completely solved in this book. Partially, yes, but it seems like it's going to be an overarcing plot-line through at least a couple of books.
I still enjoyed the potential here. I liked Allie enough to want to continue - and I have assurances that the series does get better. I'm putting a lot of the above issues down to first-book-syndrome, and going to give the second one a chance.
I gave it 3.5 stars originally, I think I'm closer to 3 stars now. I liked it, with some reservations.
Original Review below:
Devon Monk has given us a world where magic exists, but it's not a pretty world. There are steep prices for using magic of any sort, and as always, there are ways to circumvent the system. Allie's gift allows her to track those that would wish to hide their magical doings. She prefers to go her own way, forgetting the blood she shares with the man who made harnessing magic possible - her father.
When the story opens it's Allie's birthday, and she's determined to do something nice for herself. Unfortunately, her plans go awry and she ends up getting called out the Hound when a boy gets deathly sick. When that hounding leads her to believe her father is responsible for this illegal Offload, Allie goes to confront him. Seven years since she's seen him last, and all the old bitterness and disappointment comes back so easily - especially when she finds out her father has hired a man, Zavyion Jones, to trail her. She thought she had all the shocks that would come her way, but she was wrong. It was just beginning.
I really enjoyed that the world the Devon Monk created was gritty. The use of magic left a residue that you could smell and feel in the air, the earth, the water. The characters can set Disbursements that allow the magic offload to be handled in a specific way, sometimes through proxies and sometimes through specific effects on themselves. It's a well realized world, filled to the brim with possibilities. I think there's a lot of room for us to see more here.
I really enjoyed experiencing this book through Allie. She's a strong, stubborn, honorable person. She likes helping people, using her magic to protect and do good, and has her own set of code that she tries to live by. I also really like that she can at turns be impulsive, rash even, and at others she can be extremely cautious. She doesn't mind paying the price for using her magic, accepts it as the cost of living how she wants to. I find this admirable, but I have a problem with it too. One of her major costs of doing magic is memory loss - hours, days, weeks, months? I'm not sure if I can trust her to be a reliable narrator, to actually move forward into any sort of life, and the one thing measure she's taken to make sure she doesn't forget forever is writing in a notebook. But the notes she writes are inconsistent, vague, and not detailed enough, in my opinion. However, this is a minor complaint.
There are some alternating third-person point-of-view scenes in this book too, but they felt unnecessary unless that character comes to be more important in the future.
Then there's Zavyion. Allie was very drawn to him from the beginning, even against her own better judgement. He's an intriguing character. I feel like we didn't get to know enough about him as he spent a good portion of the book evading answering any questions. But I do know that his actions spoke fairly loud and I want to know him more.
The pacing of the story felt a little slow to me. While I was curious the entire time I was reading, it took me about 90 pages to really get interested in what was going to happen. What I didn't like is that there seemed to be far too much talk, and little action. Allie does some magic and then spends the next 75 pages talking about what she learned, what it could mean, what she should do now. I would have liked some more action. Though I can appreciate that a first book in a series is going to take some time setting everything up.
Overall, I enjoyed this intro to Allie Beckstrom's world, though I felt there were some areas that could have drawn me in even more. If you're looking for a gritty world with depth, and a strong heroine, then I'd definitely recommend trying Devon Monk's Magic to the Bone.