A review by skjam
I Am Magical (magnifiqueNOIR, #1), by Briana Lawrence

3.0

Review to follow.College life can be hard to balance. There’s classes, social life, maybe a part-time (or even full time) job, and of course fighting off monster attacks. Or at least that one applies to gamer girl Bree Williams and her friends in MagnifiqueNoir, a team of black, queer magical girls that defend the city. Now known as Cosmic Green, Bree’s pixelated powers are an essential part of the team’s tactics.

This series is heavily inspired by the “warrior magical girl” tradition started by the Sailor Moon series. Young women in brightly colored costumes, magical jewelry, awesome powers, and vile monsters. That framework has been clothed with the author’s own life experiences and those of the women around her to match their interests.

Bree isn’t the first member of the team. That’s Marianna Jacobs, aka Galactic Purple. A baker by avocation, this plus-size and very responsible young woman was recruited by the mysterious Gold Blaze to be the leader of a new iteration of MagnifiqueNoir when monsters began attacking the city again. She and Bree (who’s more of a “seat of pants” person) have some difficulty getting along when the latter is recruited.

Before the end of the book, the team’s also recruited kickboxer Lonnie Knox, aka Radical Rainbow, and met the enigmatic seamstress Prism Pink, who seems to be on their side.

Good: The girls (and Gold Blaze) have an interesting mix of personalities that keeps the dialogue and character development moving right along. The personality flaws are not too off-putting, and the protagonists try to work on them.

There are full-color illustrations, many in a comic book page format; they greatly enhanced my ability to visualize the characters and provide extra little jokes.

While racism,sexism, and the difficulties faced by black women in American society do come up (particularly with one specific monster), they’re not a primary focus within the text. This is a “black girls are magic” celebration.

Not as good: The geeky references are all “real world” things, despite the unnamed city being clearly fictional, and are going to date this book terribly in a decade or so.

While the book’s slow introduction of each new character certainly allows it time to breathe, I felt it dragging frequently. I also felt that too much of the background premises were left off for the next volume. Where do the monsters come from? Why are they attacking? (It seems random at first, but later attacks are clearly not random.) Why did monsters stop attacking for a couple of decades and then start again recently? Is there an actual enemy behind the monsters or are they spawning due to natural events? What was Gold Blaze doing during the fallow years? All these questions and more are met with shrugged shoulders.

I should note that the book is very well put together for a self-published volume, but the full color and special typography (MagnifiqueNoir is always in a specific font) have driven up the price. If you have a color e-book reader, you may want to purchase the downloadable version instead. The protagonists are in college, but the story feels more aimed at the older end of young adult and should be okay for senior high readers and up.

Recommended primarily to magical girl fans who are looking for something a little different.