"With the fast-paced first Conradverse urban fantasy, Shvartsman (Eridani’s Crown) delivers a laugh-out-loud, snarky adventure, throwing out pop culture references and wry observations with dizzying frequency....His supernatural New York City is vibrant and authentic, and Conrad fits right in with wisecracking fan favorite heroes like Harry Dresden and Simon Canderous. The result is a thoroughly satisfying romp."—Publishers Weekly
What would you do if you lost everything that mattered to you, as well as all means to protect yourself and others, but still had to save the day? Conrad Brent is about to find out.
Conrad Brent protects the people of Brooklyn from monsters and magical threats. The snarky, wisecracking guardian also has a dangerous secret: he’s one in a million – literally.
Magical ability comes to about one in every 30,000 and can manifest at any age. Conrad is rarer than this, however. He’s a middling, one of the half-gifted and totally despised. Most of the gifted community feels that middlings should be instantly killed. The few who don’t flat out hate them still aren’t excited to be around middlings. Meaning Conrad can’t tell anyone, not even his best friends, what he really is.
Conrad hides in plain sight by being a part of the volunteer Watch, those magically gifted who protect their cities from dangerous, arcane threats. And, to pay the bills, Conrad moonlights as a private detective and monster hunter for the gifted community. Which helps him keep up his personal fiction – that he’s a magical version of Batman. Conrad does both jobs thanks to charms, artifacts, and his wits, along with copious amounts of coffee. But little does he know that events are about to change his life…forever.
When Conrad discovers the Traveling Fair auction house has another middling who’s just manifested her so-called powers on the auction block, he’s determined to save her, regardless of risk. But what he finds out while doing so is even worse – the winning bidder works for a company that’s just created the most dangerous chemical weapon to ever hit the magical community.
Before Conrad can convince anyone at the Watch of the danger, he’s exposed for what he really is. Now, stripped of rank, magical objects, friends and allies, Conrad has to try to save the world with only his wits. Thankfully though, no one’s taken away his coffee.
"Shvartsman delivers real magic action and surprise twists...You're going to want more."—Esther M. Fiesner, Nebula-award winning author of the national bestseller, Warchild.
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|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)|
About the Author
Over 120 of his short stories have appeared in Analog, Nature, Strange Horizons, Fireside, Weird Tales, Galaxy’s Edge, and many other venues. He won the WSFA Small Press Award for Short Fiction in 2014 and was a two-time finalist (2015 & 2017) for the Canopus Award for Excellence in Interstellar Fiction. His political fantasy novel Eridani’s Crown was published in 2019.
Alex’s translations from Russian have appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Clarkesworld, Asimov’s, Apex, Strange Horizons, and other venues.
He’s the editor of the Unidentified Funny Objects series of humorous SF/F, as well as a variety of other anthologies, including The Cackle of Cthulhu (Baen), Humanity 2.0 (Arc Manor), and Funny Science Fiction (UFO). He’s the editor and publisher of Future Science Fiction Digest, a magazine that focuses on international fiction.
His website is www.alexshvartsman.com and his Twitter handle is @AShvartsman.
Alex has resided in Brooklyn, NY for over 30 years and draws on his experience as a New Yorker in writing The Middling Affliction where Brooklyn is more than merely a background.
Read an Excerpt
My job that morning was to banish a demon, but I was determined to finish my cup of coffee first.
I sipped my java in front of Demetrios’s warehouse in Sunset Park, enjoying the panoramic view of the Manhattan skyline and New York harbor. I stared at the Statue of Liberty, which appeared the size and shade of a toy soldier at this distance. A warm breeze caressed my face. Next to me, Demetrios was shaking like a leaf.
"What in the world are you thinking, Conrad?” Demetrios spoke in his typical rapid-fire fashion. “You’re just going to go in there, alone, to face this infernal thing? Without any help or backup from others at the Watch? Without even a priest? This is all kinds of crazy." "I can handle it," I said, projecting casual confidence. "You did ask for this to be resolved quickly, and it’s not like I haven’t dealt with an occasional demon before."
In fact, I’d never even seen any demons. I was not in any way whatsoever equipped to deal with a supernatural being of that magnitude. That was the bad news. The good news was, in my two decades with the Watch, I’d never once heard of a demon show- ing up in Brooklyn. Even if one arrived, it wouldn’t be slumming in Demetrios’s warehouse. And if, by some miracle, a major baddie from Down Below decided to take up residence there, Demetrios wouldn’t have survived the encounter long enough to come crying for my help. Something else was going on, but if the guy with the thick checkbook expected the job to be extremely dangerous, who was I to dissuade him?
“Quickly, yes,” said Demetrios. “You wouldn’t believe how far this has put us behind on deliveries. My customers are screaming bloody murder. On top of everything, there’s a shipment of Sumatran per- simmons that is already beginning to rot. I hope you really know what you’re doing. I don’t relish the thought of having to scrape what’s left of you off the container walls.”
“That’s the Demetrios I know and love. Sentimental to the end. Here, hold this.” I handed him the empty foam cup and headed for the entrance.
The warehouse was packed with every kind of package and crate imaginable. The huge metal shipping containers were clustered in the center, with just enough room left to maneuver them in and out. Around the edges, mountains of smaller parcels occupied every available nook and cranny, arranged in an order apparent only to Demetrios and his staff.
I primarily knew Demetrios as a wholesale trader in magical goods, but that was only a fraction of his business. Metal racks in his warehouse were crammed with imports, everything from Ecua- dorian melons to Taiwanese vacuum cleaners. The place looked like the world’s most overstocked Costco. There were plenty of nooks for whatever was haunting the building to hide in.
I walked past a tower of knockoff toys destined for dollar-store shelves. Boxes labeled Tackle Me Emo and Hangry Hangry Hipsters stretched toward the warehouse ceiling atop the sturdy foundation of cases of Poke-a-Moon cards. A pungent odor of rotting fruit wafted through the aisles.
Since I didn’t know what sort of trouble to expect, I brought as many weapons, charms, and amulets as I could carry without making my reliance on such tools apparent. I’ve made a lot more enemies than friends over the years, and having any of them learn that I was powerless without my trinkets would be incredibly dangerous.
Only one out of every thirty thousand people is born gifted. Those lucky few can perceive auras, recognize supernatural beings for what they are, cast spells, and imbue their magic into artifacts by enchanting physical items the way batteries store electricity. I could perceive perfectly; casting was another story. I could use stored mag- ic as well as any gifted but could never recharge the metaphysical battery of even the simplest of charms. In a secret world filled with superheroes and supervillains, I was the magical Batman: a grumpy and possibly somewhat unhinged vigilante with no special powers, who relied on his gadgets to keep up with the super-Joneses. Except I didn’t have Batman’s riches, or a mansion, or even a butler. Them’s the breaks.
Not even my superiors at the Watch knew about my disability.
They wouldn’t have kept me around—possibly with extreme preju- dice—if they’d ever found out. So, I pretended to be a badass wizard and did my job well, giving no one cause to think otherwise. One day I hoped to find a cure for my condition. Or, failing that, a damn good explanation for it.