The novel follows the fortunes of two college students as they attempt to break the bank in Vegas using magic. Jackson and Bill arrive in Sin City with plans to slowly, and as subtly as possible, win as much money as they can from the all the casinos. Needless to say their plans go awry and in a little less than a twenty-four hours they are way out of their depth and embroiled in the midst of a magical turf war.
The pair discover that Vegas is the center for all magic in the United States, and that stage magicians are actually real magical practitioneers hiding in plain sight. The majority of the city is controlled by a mysterious figure known as Mr. Weiss and Jackson and Bill's get rich quick scheme brings them directly to his attention. He makes them an offer that would be against their best interests to refuse.
By this stage in the proceedings I was thoroughly engrossed, and just when I thought I couldn't enjoy things any more, that's the moment that the author unleashes the zombies. As an aside, I have often suspected any novel can only be enhanced by the addition of rampaging hordes of undead. I should note that their presence in the novel is not done randomly. They are a necessary plot element and I was surprised and pleased by their unexpected inclusion.
I found myself rooting for Jackson and Bill as they moved from one disastrous decision to another. Both have differing motivations for going to Vegas. Jackson is not well off and in need of cash to continue his college education while Bill is wealthy and just in it for the thrill. During the novel the pair occasionally come to loggerheads, and this added a nice undercurrent of tension between the two.
When I started reading the novel I was reminded of a short I read many years ago, The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar by Roald Dahl, which has a similar premise, but Matt Forbeck quickly goes in a completely different direction from Dahl and creates something that is uniquely his own. As a reader I was drawn in by the vivid descriptions of the glitz and glamour of the city but the author also takes time to expose the dark, magical underbelly of Las Vegas. I admit I was disappointed when I realized I only had thirty pages left to read, as I wanted the story to just keep going.
If Hollywood is listening, someone needs to snap up the rights to the movie version of this sharpish. It’s a sure fire winner. I've never been to Las Vegas but if I did go there I would be heartily disappointed if it wasn't exactly the way it's described in Vegas Knights.
Vegas Knights is published by Angry Robot Books on March 3rd 2011.
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