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DFZ #1

Minimum Wage Magic

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Making a living is hard. In a lawless city where gods are real, dragons are traffic hazards, and buildings move around on their own, it can feel downright impossible.

Good thing freelance mage Opal Yong-ae has never let little things like impossibility stop her. She’s found a way to put her overpriced magical art history degree to use as a Cleaner: a contract municipal employee who empties out abandoned apartments and resells the unusual treasures she finds inside for a profit. It’s not a pretty job, or a safe one--there’s a reason she wears bite-proof gloves--but when you’re neck-deep in debt to a very magical, very nasty individual, you can’t be picky about where the money comes from.

But even Opal’s low standards are put to the test when the only thing of value in her latest apartment is the body of the previous tenant. Dealing with the dead isn’t technically part of her job, but this mage died hiding a secret that could be worth a lot of money, and Opal’s the only one who knows. With debts she can’t pay due at the end of the week, this could be the big break she’s been waiting for, but in a city of runaway magic where getting in over your head generally means losing it, the cost of chasing this opportunity might be more than Opal can survive.

This is the first in a new series set in the same universe as my Heartstrikers books, but you don’t need to have read those stories to enjoy this one. MINIMUM WAGE MAGIC was written to stand by itself, so if you haven’t read the others, don’t worry! I wrote this book with you in mind. Thank you so much for reading!

293 pages, Kindle Edition

First published November 9, 2018

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About the author

Rachel Aaron

35 books2,681 followers
Hello, my name is Rachel Aaron, and I write the Heartstriker books, a new Urban Fantasy series about misfit dragons, starting with Nice Dragons Finish Last. I also wrote The Legend of Eli Monpress fantasy series for Orbit Books about a wizard thief and the poor bastards who have to try and stop him. PLUS I'm also the author of the new, rolicking fun Science Fiction romance Fortune's Pawn under the name Rachel Bach.

I was born in Atlanta, but I currently live a lovely, nerdy, bookish life in Denver, CO with my lightspeed son, perpetually understanding husband, and far too many plants. Besides my own books, the internet knows me best for writing very fast. The best way to get to know me is probably to read my blog or follow me on Twitter.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 688 reviews
Profile Image for carol..
1,535 reviews7,865 followers
April 20, 2020
Every now and then I've seen one of Rachel Aaron's books come across my feed, and I usually pause to consider whether or not I want to read it (trying to keep my TBR somewhat realistic here). I was finally tempted by her DFZ series, and by the lure of 'minimum wage.' Because who doesn't want to read about trying to make it in a magical world as low-wage jane, right? Come to think of it, many of the ones I've read have minimum-wage protags: a merc, a tour guide, a mechanic, and a waitress.

Anyway, the hook is that Opal is a Cleaner, meaning she basically is one of those people from Storage Wars, bidding on evicted or empty properties, earning money by selling the stuff and cleaning the unit. She's been very good at it, until today, when she discovers a dead person in her latest acquisition. Desperate for money, she agrees to take whatever she can, which includes a set of complicated magical formulas. Before long, she's in a race against time to identify the formula and protect herself from the goons trying to kill her.

With a chase plot and a formula McGuffin, Aaron keeps the pace moving quickly, so it's easy to get sucked into the book. Opal seems pretty pragmatic, and as she's tracking down leads to the dead man's other properties, she has a fortuitous run-in with Nik Kos, a competitor and co-worker of sorts. Though the relationship seems antagonistic, there is clearly some spark there. But this isn't a PNR storyline by any means; Opal is focused on her financial objective, as well ostensibly staying focused on isolating herself for her longer-term independence.

It's good that the plot and characters are interesting, as the more I learned about the world, the more puzzled I became. It's apparently a blend of both technology and magic--tech enough that Opal can have an AI, Sybil, that uses her goggles to interface with the world and be a virtual 'emotional support AI,' and magic enough that Opal has her own brand of magic that doesn't conform well to how magic is currently practiced. The A.I. is occasionally shrill, often funny, and occasionally orients the reader, so it's generally an useful device here. Oh, and there's a serious cyborg lady in here, cyborg enough that she doesn't eat like a human.

As far as concrete surroundings (ha, ha), there is the city of Detroit; after a couple of big events, it now has it's own goddess who is prone to moving buildings and skyways around on a moment's notice. It's not clear how this is done without severe loss of life, only inconvenience, because, magic, but I confess I was extremely curious. It's a fun concept. Events require Opal and Nik to go deep into Underground; at first I expected something on the order of the Labyrinth, but it turns out it was more an M.C. Escher painting crossed with Martha Well's floating islands in the Raskura novels. I.Don't.Even.

I think Aaron started to lose me here. Although this might have tied to something from another one of her series, what it mostly seemed like is that she wasn't squaring her world up. It's funny, because I had just been in a brief discussion bemoaning how some authors seemed to be choosing fantasy, perhaps because they think the world-building 'rules' are easier to follow than sci-fi. I'm not saying they have to go Brandon Sanderson on it, but as discussed in tvtropes, the author pushes the suspension of disbelief too far.

The ending was decent, with some good and bad. There was an extended soliloquy, for those that might miss The Message, but I agreed with it, so preaching to the choir, I guess. I like that Opal talked something out with Nik. I felt like resolution regarding a revelation was poorly done, and could have been problem solved, but since it becomes the basis for the next book, I guess I get what Aaron is doing. She's a curious author, that's for sure. Some parts I like, some parts I think are too simple, and some parts seem to be thought out, while others don't seem to be thought out at all. Perhaps that's because there's more ahead?

Two and a half quarantine masks.
Profile Image for Montzalee Wittmann.
4,559 reviews2,312 followers
February 12, 2019
Minimum Wage Magic by Rachel Aaron and narrated by Emily Woo Zeller is a fantasy book with magic, gods, and dragons. The world building is fabulous and so original! The characters are well developed and amazing. There is a lot of magic in this book, a sentient town where the town shifts around, and powerful Dragon families. There is a magic puzzle that needs solved that could lead to something important and people and mages are trying to kill for it. This book is witty, has suspenseful action scenes, emotional connection between characters, a snappy AI, and an alternative world that is fantastic!
The narrator is magnificent at performing all the various voices needed and all the emotions! Great job! Loved this ...Will have to get more books by this author!
Profile Image for Robin (Bridge Four).
1,607 reviews1,481 followers
November 28, 2018
This review was originally posted on Books of My Heart

This book answers the question what if Storage Wars was mashed up with a world where ‘gods are real, dragons are traffic hazards, and buildings move around on their own’. Minimum wage magic is a spin off series set in the DFZ (Detroit Free Zone) of the Heartstriker Series. You do not have to have read the prior series to enjoy this, it is completely new and set after all the events of the HeartStriker Series.

Minimum wage magic explores the DFZ in an entirely new way through the eyes of Opal a cleaner. She basically bids on units based on pictures hoping to clean out the stuff left behind in hopes of making some money so the housing can be turned around and rented again.
The Master Key was a sacred object and a Cleaner’s only real identification. It had been made for me by the Spirit of the City, and it could open any door in the DFZ if the city believed you had a right to be there.
That last bit was the tricky part. Unlike every other city in the world, the Detroit Free Zone was alive. Literally alive, with her own soul, mind, opinions, and, occasionally, off-the-books real estate deals.

Opal might be a mage but she has struggled with conventional magic. Here style is a bit more slapstick, but hey it gets her by. Or at least it did until she bid on a unit that might have a bit more of a mystery tied to it when she also finds a dead body.

I really enjoyed this book. There are mages, dragons, humans and some augmented humans (that’s cyborg right…I think there are cyborgs). Anyway, Opal NEEDS a lot of cash, fast, and she has stumbled onto something that might pay out huge if she can solve the mystery and find the magical treasure.
“I think you’re letting your optimism run away with you again. Even if you’re right, and there is a pot of gold at the end of this wild goose chase, the DFZ is a hundred and ninety-four square miles that move around. The chance of you finding one mage’s circle in all of that is practically zero…”

Good thing she has found someone who knows the underbelly of the DFZ and is willing to help her for a price that is.

Nik is another cleaner who usually acts as Opal’s competition but he might just come in handy and with the deadline she is on, she’ll need more help than her virtual reality assistant. As they work together both learn an appreciation for each other and although there is no smooching in this book, that doesn’t mean in the long term that won’t happen.
“Oh, honey,” Rena said, giving me a wink. “He’s got features. Not surprised you haven’t seen them, though. Nikki likes to keep his cards hidden, but I’d bet he’d show you if you asked nicely.”

There are a few mentions of The Peacemaker, The Spirit of the DFZ and the Nameless Wind for those of you who have read the Heartstriker series but this is definitely a new bag of tricks and those were just bonuses for the readers of the other series.

I really enjoyed the new character Opal and Nik and how each brought something to this new forged partnership. I also enjoyed the premise of the story and what Opal is trying to escape from. This was an entertaining story of trying to find the missing treasure with the clock ticking. I’m looking forward to seeing what Opal and Nik come up against next as there are more books to come in this world.
Profile Image for Niki Hawkes - The Obsessive Bookseller.
724 reviews1,202 followers
January 23, 2019
[4.5/5 stars] Minimum Wage Magic was such a delightful read!

Even though it’s a spin-off of Aaron’s Heartstrikers series, it felt completely fresh, going a long way towards reinvigorating my love of this author (the last two books of HS were a bit too repetitive and drawn out for my tastes). I loved the premise – “cleaners” in the DFZ (magically altered Detroit) buy abandoned/reclaimed living units and turn a profit from what’s left inside. If any of you have spent entire days binge-watching Storage Wars (guilty), you’ll understand why this concept is incredible appealing to me lol.

I really liked Opal as the main character. She had a lot of YA fun infused into her personality, but remained “sophisticated” enough to pull off the lead in an urban fantasy. I especially loved her backstory and how pieces of it came together throughout the book. Discovering the many surprises was the highlight of the experience, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store next.

Although this can definitely be read as a stand-alone, you’d be missing out on the cool magics behind the DFZ (a living entity in its own right), and a lot of the significance surrounding the dragons and how they affect the world around them. Heartstrikers gives MWM a lot more depth and robustness. However, without it, it’s still a fun, if slightly lighter read.

Series status: I waited an extra few months for the audio release (worth it), so I’m hoping this time next year I’ll have another installment to dive into. I loved it enough that I will be continuing as soon as the audio comes out.

Recommendations: within this world Rachel Aaron has created a fun fusion of genres – fantasy elements (dragons, magic), urban fantasy plot and settings, all told with an exuberant YA feel (without any unfortunate YA tropes or issues). If you’re sick of the same old stuff, let this author give you a breath of fresh air. :)

Via The Obsessive Bookseller at my link text

Other books you might like:
Nice Dragons Finish Last (Heartstrikers, #1) by Rachel Aaron Legend (Legend, #1) by Marie Lu The Rithmatist (The Rithmatist, #1) by Brandon Sanderson Blood Engines (Marla Mason, #1) by T.A. Pratt Twelve Kings in Sharakhai (The Song of the Shattered Sands, #1) by Bradley P. Beaulieu
Profile Image for TS Chan.
699 reviews869 followers
March 28, 2019
I would to thank the author for giving me the opportunity to read and review an advanced reading copy of Minimum Wage Magic.

Rachel Aaron has become one of my go-to authors when I need a pick-me-up. She has such an uncanny knack of writing stories that are just so effortlessly engaging, immensely enjoyable and just plain fun.

Minimum Wage Magic is the start of a new series taking place in the DFZ, a huge metropolis setting first introduced in her self-published Heartstrikers series - my current favourite urban fantasy of all-time. In Heartstrikers, the author's characterisation was possibly the best part of the storytelling.  Couple that with the most interesting worldbuilding in urban fantasy that I've come across, and you will get an addictively fun ride with great characters that you either want to root for.  Or alternately, strangle with your bare hands.

In this new book, we are introduced to Opal Yong-Ae, a young Korean woman who is a freelance mage working as a Cleaner.  This means that she bids for contracts to clean out abandoned apartments and profit from the sale of any valuable items found within. Down on her luck with all her recent deals, Opal is running out of money and has a debt coming due very soon to a formidable and dangerous individual. When her latest apartment only availed a dead body and a potentially lucrative secret, she followed her instincts in a desperate attempt to seek out the 'hidden treasure'.

Even though this is a fairly short and fast-paced book, I feel that I've known Opal quite well by the end of the story. Written in the first-person perspective, Opal's character is well-fleshed out and developed as the narrative gradually teased out her backstory. Stubborn, reckless, and determined, her personality is the sum of her unusual past. While I found Opal likeable and quite funny at times, the character that I found most compelling was a supporting one, Nikolas Kos. Ruthless but with hidden depths and sensitivity, I love characters who appear morally grey but is deep, deep underneath a pretty decent guy. His is a backstory which I am dying to find out.

The worldbuilding of the DFZ post-Heartstrikers does remind me a bit of what Sanderson is doing with Scadrial post-Mistborn.  Coming from an obsessed fan of Sanderson, this is a compliment. Twenty years have passed since the epic and climactic event in Last Dragon Standing, the conclusion of the Heartstrikers. Instead of taking the tricky path of extending the stories of the characters in Heartstrikers, their presence in the narrative only comes in the form of references of past deeds, and by titles instead of names.

The continuity and progression from the after-effects of Heartstrikers are executed excellently in my opinion. The manner in which human technology has continued to advance after the return of magic seem fitting and natural. It is like a futuristic science-fiction fantasy. The DFZ is also portrayed in vivid descriptions of the fascinating and chaotic vertical metropolis; from the dense slumlike Underground to the dizzyingly modern Skyways. As much as I would like to talk about the unique aspects of the DFZ, some of these may be considered spoilerific for those who have not finished Heartstrikers.

In conclusion, I love what Rachel Aaron has done with this novel to expand her stories within this unique world of her creation. I have developed a trust in her ability to write engaging stories of great characters which I feel most comfortable and eager to spend time with, and this book is no exception.

You can purchase a copy of the book from Amazon

You can also find this and my other reviews at Novel Notions.
Profile Image for Emma.
2,434 reviews828 followers
April 22, 2019
I never really got on with the Heartstrikers series but this was fantastic! Very impatient for the next in series.
461 reviews396 followers
January 13, 2019
I’m a die-hard fan of the Heartstrikers series, the first series set in this world known as the DFZ, or the Detroit Free Zone. It’s a rebuilt version of Detroit set about a hundred years from now and it’s overflowing with ambient magic allowing for the largest group of mages, magical creatures, dragons etc in the world. This is set after the events of Hearstrikers and can be read totally on its own, there’s a whole new cast of characters and despite references to the first series, you definitely don’t have to read the first series to get into the second series.

Opal is a “cleaner”, or someone who comes through after tenants break their payment agreements and she sorts through all of their stuff searching for things she can sell at auction to make money. She still relatively new to it, she’s only been in the profession for about a year and a half. She grew up in Korea and to escape her father’s extremely controlling ways, she moved to the DFZ to get a degree in Art History. She’s been forced to ostracize herself from past friends to keep them safe as she owes a debt to her father, and he’s not to be trifled with.

She’s been on her own for a while, and she’s just hit her first slump after a series of bad luck incidents that left her broke. She gets a gig for an apartment that’s been defunct on payments for 30 days and is pretty happy about it since it came so cheap, she’s bound to make her money back and then some. When she goes into clean the apartment, however, she finds a dead body. Furious, she calls her booker and gives him an earful – cleaners can take what’s in the apartment if the tenants are still alive and behind on payments, but once people are dead inheritance laws comes into effect. Due to her extinuating circumstances, she’s been given the go-ahead to search the apartment anyway and grab what she can that doesn’t look sentimental. She comes across an enchanted box that has a recipe for a massive conjuring hidden away under the bed. She has no idea what sort of thing this recipe would conjure, but since the ingredients alone cost about 200,000 dollars she figures this is a big deal. She goes to investigate and finds further clues as to what this may entail and why someone would come up with a recipe with such a high cost. It leads her into a lot of danger and she’s forced into teaming up with a guy named Nick who saved her from some assassins who were watching the apartment she was cleaning out. Together they try and unravel the mystery of what this professor left behind while trying not to die. The audience only knows how much Opal knows, so it keeps us guessing what’s going on with the recipe, what does it make, why would anyone take the time to put that many expensive ingredients together, who this dead professor was etc.

I liked Opal, she’s spunky and independent and is trying her best to be ethical and also make a living in a less than ethical city. There certainly is a theme of shitty moms in her books, Opal’s mother is a biiiittcchhh. She gets her clothes a size too small for “encouragement” and her father is a manipulative sociopath who’s doing his best to make sure she goes defunct on her payments to him – that way she’s forced to move back to Korea as was their agreement. Opal has an AI that’s very human-like, she has an advanced emotional response system that although isn’t genuine, sounds genuine enough to Opal for her to get attached, despite her knowing it’s just a program. I liked Nick the more I went through the book, he’s a very stoic and quiet character so it takes a bit to get to know him – but he comes in handy and together they make a good team, watching each other’s backs as they navigate the dangers of the DFZ. It looks like Aaron is going for another slow burn romance as well, and if I’m going to read and enjoy a romance it needs to be slow going – so that was a big plus for me. This book has a rather small cast, and I’m wondering like in the first series if that cast will expand with each subsequent book. It does allow you get to know the characters really well and get behind them and their journey.

The world building is basically the same as the first series but just a little further into the future. The biggest change from the first series is that the spirit of the DFZ is running the show now, and not Algonquin, the spirit of the Great Lakes. Algonquin was an insane water spirit that smashed the original city of Detroit out of anger since they polluted her waters so badly. The spirit of the DFZ took a different approach and started building larger than life skyscrapers – some of which are a quarter mile across at their base. There’s also “a dragon” help running the DFZ known as the Peacemaker. It’s a place where dragons who are feuding and typically would rip each other apart upon crossing paths can sit down and try and come to an agreement. The Empty Wind comes back for a couple brief cameos as well – he was a big part of the last series and is in charge of keeping the souls of the forgotten safe. So, there are tie-ins to the first book. I was hoping for a little more in that department, but who knows, maybe in the next one, I’ll get to see some of my favorite characters again. Or, maybe not, I guess we’ll find out.

This is a really fast paced book, there’s not a lot of side diversions or fluff since this one clocks in at less than 300 pages. It kept the reading light and I got through it in just a few sittings. People looking for quick books that work as palate cleansers should take a look at this one. Like many other Aaron books, the main character was very moral, worried about ethics, and was overall a good person. It’s a running theme in her books for characters to try and talk it out rather than kill everything that moves and ask questions later.

I really liked the audiobook for this one, at first I was a little disappointed it wasn’t Vikas Adam, but it wouldn’t make sense since this was a single pov from the viewpoint of a 26 year old woman. Emily Woo Zeller did a great job with it and I definitely recommend it to people fond of audios. I will definitely be continuing on with the rest of this series.


urban fantasy
lots of magic
quick books – less than 300 pages
female main character
AI characters
slow burn romance


Plot: 12.5/15
Characters: 12.5/15
World Building: 13/15
Writing: 12.5/15
Pacing: 13.5/15
Originality: 12/15
Personal Enjoyment: 8/10

Final Score: 84/100 – 4.5/5 stars – recommended!
Profile Image for L.L..
Author 16 books319 followers
March 20, 2019
It gives me physical pain that I am unable to rate this any higher than five stars! This. Was. My. Jam.

Wait, I'm British. This. Was. My. Cup. Of. TEA!

Wondrous world-building, compelling characters, p... perfect plot? Okay, so it wasn't perfect, but it's been a long day and my alliteration game isn't quite up to par right now.

I love world-building, characters, and plot in that order. I can deal with a plot full of holes as long as I like (at least) one or two of the characters. I can deal with unlikeable or unrelatable characters as long as the world-building tickles my fancy - and the more magical or fantastical the better.

Rachel Aaron has now become one of my insta-buy authors. I discovered her Heartstrikers series last year and became so engrossed, I refused to wait for my next Audible credit when I'd finished one, and simply paid full price for the next book.

It was a similar story with Minimum Wage Magic. Sleep became an irritation, because I had to pause the story. I listen to audiobooks during my commute to and from work as it's a drive of reasonable length. More than once, I ended up sat in my car on my driveway, refusing to go inside, because I was listening.

There's something about her writing style that just sings of intrigue. Whatever happens, there's always something else you have to know. For me personally, Rachel Aaron has this down to an art form.

It's a short read that's faced paced and full of action, suspense, and emotion. Despite being less than ten hours as an audiobook, there's SO much packed into it. It's my own fault that I wish it were twice or three times as long, just so I could spend more time with the characters and the world.

Having read the Heartstrikers series, I immediately found the DFZ to be familiar ground - although there's so much more to it in Minimum Wage Magic. You're discovering new places, jobs, myths, and as it's set a little while after the end of Heartstrikers, there are some great nods to that series, too, which were just beautiful.

The ending provides plenty of closure, but also an uncontrollable urge to find out more. So many questions need to be answered, so many details need to be revealed, and I'll be buying the second book as soon as it drops.

There are two - three, really - main characters and a handful of side ones. They're all given perfect voices that are unique, fully fleshed out, and utterly compelling. I sympathised with an AI, I screamed at the speakers when characters did or said - or almost did or almost said - things. I was gripped from the first sentence until the end, and never did I feel bored.

Opal is a fantastic protagonist. She has plenty of spunk, sass, and determination. She's also flawed in so many ways (not all of her own doing) and my heart went out to her so many times. Her recent run of bad luck (five months' worth) has left her bank account precariously low, and she takes riskier and riskier steps to get back into the black. She's got $10,000 to find by the end of the week, or she'll be screwed. Things spiral out of control when she finds a dead body in a unit she buys, and it turns out the deceased professor had a very interesting project on the go. Thus, Opal is thrown into a spiral of a hunt to find out what the work was, if it's worth anywhere near enough to cover her debt, and why on earth there is now a team of mercenaries shooting at her.

Sybil, her AI (and I apologise for any typos, I had the Audible version), is a fantastic companion who spoke so much sense and also irritated me at certain points, but I couldn't help but love her. A social companion AI, Sybil tries to keep Opal on the straight and narrow - or at least keep her safe while she gets herself into deeper and deeper problems. She was fab.

And then there's Nik, who I think has shot up to the top of my favourite characters list. I'm DYING to know more about him and his story. A fellow Cleaner with more than a few secrets of his own, he complemented and clashed with Opal in brilliant ways. Although appearing at first as a cookie cutter character, the amount of depth - and mystery - that builds around him as the story progesses is entrancing.

Rina is also an interesting side character whose more cybernetic than human, and even though we only spent a few minutes with her, she has so much presence that I'm keeping my fingers crossed she reappears in the sequels. I can't not mention the Empty Wind, God of the Forgotten Dead, one of the multiple death gods now roaming the world, who was fantastic. A favourite character of mine from Heartstrikers, having him reappear and play a role in this fiasco was brilliant.

I don't want to give too much away as far as the other characters go for fear of spoilers or ruining the twists and surprises (two of which I predicted, the rest were all "holy shit" moments), but I cannot recommend this read highly enough.

I've found urban fantasy - especially with well-timed, well-written humour - is fast becoming a favourite sub-genre for me, and I implore you to pick it up (or the Heartstrikers series) if you want a light-hearted, fast-paced, fun read. They work well as palate cleansers after denser stuff, too.

Absolutely superb and really kept me going during some tough days at work where I felt rubbish.

Love. Love. Love.
Profile Image for Eon ♒Windrunner♒  .
421 reviews467 followers
February 26, 2022
A fun, easy read, Minimum Wage Magic once again proves that Rachel Aaron writes some of the most accessible and entertaining fantasy today. Definitely one of my favourite authors and another entry on my auto buy list.
Profile Image for Soo.
2,598 reviews257 followers
May 29, 2019

I like the setting & the ideas behind the world + magic. I'm not on board with the character because the author didn't make her a believable Korean. It's hard to get to know a character when you keep thinking, "That's wrong. Nope. That sounds dumb. Well that's a big editing fail. That should be Korean. Not Korea."

It did not help that the MC came across as whiny and (intentionally ignorant) about magic.

I like the world though and willing to try out the next book when it comes out. The plot was fun. I just had to cut out all the parts that touched on being "Korean". =P
Profile Image for Mihir.
645 reviews296 followers
November 8, 2018
Full review over at Fantasy Book Critic

Overall rating = 3.5 stars

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Rachel Aaron is a special talent and it has been highly evident with all of the sixteen books she has written so far. With this book, she does something unique as she writes a sequel series for the very first time since she started writing professionally nearly a decade ago. While also making this new series more grounded within its genre and less of the eclectic genre mixes that she’s known to write.

The story opens up with Opal Yong-ae, a sub-contractor for the DFZ’s Habitation Management. The DFZ being the Detroit Free Zone which was created by Algonquin the spirit of the great lakes. She was brought back to life by the sudden reappearance of magic after a millennium in 2035. She razed the city of Detroit and in its place stand the DFZ, a city state that was ruled by Algonquin for the next sixty years. Things however have changed thanks to the events seen/read in the Heartstrikers books and now DFZ is its own beast wherein Peacekeeper aka the Dragon of Detroit also resides (readers of the Heartstrikers saga will know who this is). Set twenty years after the events of Last Dragon Standing, the readers are introduced a completely new DFZ wherein things are wilder and crazier than before.

Opal is one of its nine million residents, a cleaner who basically buys up delinquent properties in a city wide auction and then proceeds to sell of the possessions to make a profit. This being the DFZ, things are zanier than usual and one never knows what one might unearth. Opal’s most recent acquisition has a dead body of a mage rotting in the sub-subbasement that she bought in an auction. Unable to find anything of value and needing to pay ten thousand dollars as part of her debt (within a week’s time). Things look very dire for Opal but there might be a way and it might involve getting her hands dirtier than usual. However faced with resolving her debt or losing an important part of her life, Opal will try do the impossible, but soon she finds out how much of a big quagmire she has landed in.

This is a super fun entry in to the city of the DFZ and marks a return to the world of the Heartstrikers. While this is also the first time that Rachel Aaron has written a sequel. This book is a complete standalone story that doesn't require any background knowledge of the events showcased within the Heartstrikers Saga. The author purposefully set out to craft a tale that would explore the craziness of the DFZ and she does this very strikingly.

Featuring a mystery of a murdered mage, and the main mystery of to whom Opal owes a debt? Minimum Wage Magic is a solid urban fantasy thriller that excited me and kept me turning the pages. The plot pace was smooth all the way as we along with Opal slowly get to know who the murdered mage was and what he was up to. I consider Rachel Aaron to be one of best storytellers alive and she doesn't disappoint with this low key (as compared to her previous works) thriller plot that is all about living in a hyper-capitalistic city wherein anything and everything is allowed. This book came with a very high set of personal expectations as it was set in the same world as the Heartstrikers and being one of Rachel Aaron's creations. Though the author wonderfully cuts these expectations by making this book a very different read than any of the Heartstriker titles and also more of a traditional urban fantasy read. The plot focus is very tightly kept on Opal and her misfortunes. Unlike all her previous books wherein the plot usually explodes to an end of the world scenario. This one stays on a personal level through out and the stakes while being raised aren't the world-shaking kind.

This book also explores the DFZ and I mean really explores it. We get to see its subterranean grottoes, the newer formed religions and cultures it cultivates and also how traffic is bungled when several buildings and locations get moved magically. Plus dragons who now are welcome in the DFZ can cause several log jams and many more zany things. Previously the author had mentioned how she always wanted to give the readers a more on the ground look into the city and we get it in spades in this opening volume. Opal as a protagonist is an interesting person, in the start while we don’t know much about her except that she’s of Korean descent and in a huge debt. I really didn’t understand her motivations and was annoyed by her pertinacity as it seemed that she's just making things harder for herself unnecessarily. It’s only when the main reveal goes down, that’s when you realize her line of thinking and I for one, really enjoyed her character arc. Unlike Marci Novalli, who has a similar strange background, Opal’s persona is much different than Marci’s and maybe unconsciously I was comparing them both. Opal even while being reckless and foolishly stubborn, has reasons and once they are made clear. The readers will truly root for her as she strives to overcome Herculean odds.

The best side character was Opal's AI Sibyl as she/it frequently tries to provide help, comfort & even scold Opal for her silly mistakes. There are two other characters (Peter and Nik) who are introduced within the plot and are equally intriguing. I would love if the author further explores their background in the future sequels. Peter is a priest for the Empty Wind and Nik, who is also a mercenary/cleaner and a Luddite to boot. Their interactions with Opal add to the comedic tones and also introduce some interesting romantic set up. There are a few other characters introduced but we don’t get much about them. Now onto the big question, are there any cameos or appearances from the characters we love and have read about before? I’m not saying anything but you will be surprised when they are referenced or make their appearances. This book is quite on the smaller side and comes with a solid dose of comedy as is the precedent with Rachel Aaron's writing. This book was a much different read than what I was expecting but it was one that I enjoyed reading. I hope the author explores more of the DFZ geography and showcases its unique nature.

Things that didn't work for me were just a couple of things, primarily the protagonist is slightly unlikeable and does redeem herself by the end but many readers might find her a bit jarring from all the protagonists come before. Secondly this story structure and plot focus is very narrow and sometimes I wanted it to expand beyond its tight structure. Lastly I miss the characters who we have read in the Heartstrikers saga and here I was left bereft of their presence while only hearing or catching glimpses of them.

CONCLUSION: Minimum Wage Magic is a lively start to a brand new series in a world that’s very familiar to her fans. The story, the plot and setting are refreshing so that newer readers will find things get excited about Rachel Aaron and older readers will jump along for the ride because they know how awesome her books are. A catchy title, a plucky protagonist and a maximum effort by the author, honestly readers can't ask for more in the urban fantasy genre.
Profile Image for Anna.
249 reviews97 followers
April 17, 2020
This was fun! Exactly what I needed to get out of a reading slump.

Technically, AIs don’t have actual emotions, but Sibyl was a top-of-the-line social companion bot, and she did a good job of sounding legitimately horrified. “You can’t start digging through a dead guy’s stuff while he’s still lying on the floor!”
“Why not?” I asked. “It’s not as if he’s going to complain."
Profile Image for Mitticus.
1,004 reviews208 followers
July 2, 2019

Cyberpunk plus magic.

Opal Yong-ae works as Cleaner in the magical version of "Storage Wars". They auction the content of houses or units when the rent is unpaid; only in this case the riches are magical artifacts or rare books, and the place could be warded or booby-trapped by nasty magics. A hazardous, but mostly profitable work. But Opal is now almost broke and need desperaly money to paid a debt. Her sidekick is an AI named Sybil in her googles that irritated me since the beggining.

Though this is an spin-off of the Heartstriker series, there is only the location to link it and a few mentions of the Peacemaker Dragon of Detroit. DFZ is certainly a big protanist here - a heavely magical No-law zone managed by a Spirit who change skycrapers and highways at random (or so it seems) . There is undergrounds, and tunnels, hotels and passaways created by citizens with no-regulations at all. Escher-alike style. All kind of shady business prosper and tourist spots, but beware to no enrage the spirit of the city or the others gods to inhabited there.

Also, since only 40% of the humans have some magic, the rest scramble to compensate with cyber enhancement of all kinds. AIs controls cars and stuff, and all without magic is automatic.

Cars couldn’t even drive on the streets down here. It was just an ocean of people surrounded by a neon- and LED-lit canyon of closet casinos, souvenir shops, vending machine bars, single-use joy parlors, and card-operated VR brothels. There were pawn shops with human organs for sale in the windows and pet stores full of animals that were banned everywhere else in the world. There were fight bars, topless bars, drug bars, bars where you paid interesting people to pretend to be your friends. The whole place was a chaotic, unregulated, booze- and drug-soaked nightmare of greed, hedonism, and reckless ambition. It was simultaneously the worst of humanity and the height of human ingenuity and creativity as shopkeepers fought to one-up each other

That is one of my problems. Magic and Tech... they can work together? Fandom wisdom teach us that is a big no-no; with the exception of very very few technomages in another fandoms cof Bab5 that never explain' actually.
Even Nik -the other Cleaner along for the ride- is exceptic, but never is exceptic, but Opal character brush all aside with the justification that she is a mage equivalent of a sledhammer (just brute force) with no knowlege of the finesse spell work after all those college years and tutors... what?

The bleeding was not intentional,” I said, or thought I said. The ringing in my head was making it hard to keep track of words. “It was… I didn’t properly account for… force it would take to break through steel.”
That halting explanation definitely wasn’t my greatest, but it seemed to satisfy Nik. Sibyl, however, was another matter entirely.
“You didn’t ‘properly account’ for anything!” my AI screamed in my ear. “You didn’t even look at the metal! You just grabbed whatever was slightly less than the amount of power needed to kill yourself and used that! You are seriously going to turn your brain into mush if you keep pulling stunts like this!”

The plot is straitghforward, with no big surprises, I can predict all very early Personally I think Opal was sloppy and a fool.

But it was entertaining and I would read the next one.
Profile Image for Shree.
124 reviews18 followers
November 12, 2018
The most under rated author in urban fantasy genre. Her works need more recognition. Heartstrikers series is one of my favorite books in urban fantasy.
DFZ series takes place in the same world as Heartstrikers. The story is kinda simple in it's essence but the narrative is awesome. Anyway it's a strong debut in the new series, hints at even more interesting things to come in the future.
Profile Image for Lukasz.
1,309 reviews209 followers
November 8, 2018
I missed DFZ and dragons. It‘s good to have them back in my life. 

In Minimum Wage Magic Aaron revisits and develops the world. We discover the city and its secrets through eyes of Opal Yong-ae - prestigious magical university graduate who works as a Cleaner. If you’ve ever watched Storage Wars, you already know what Cleaners do. They sort through all sorts of junk hoping to score a great deal. Opal used to be the best in the business. But recently, everything she touches turns into a disaster. Things go from bad to worse when she discovers a dead mage in one of her units.

The story focuses on new characters living in DFZ around forty years after the events of Last Dragon Standing. Magic and science mix. People use AI, self-driving cars and cybernetic enhancements. DFZ, a sentient, constantly changing (literally - DFZ likes to shuffle whole districts and change their physical location on the map) city is recklessly modern, although she still keeps some older buildings.

Where Julius had mommy issues, Opal has daddy issues. For a reason you need to discover yourself. I assume some readers won’t like angsty and reckless Opal, but I liked her instantly. Her supporting cast doesn’t lack charisma and I would definitely like to read more about her unexpected business-partner (a true outcast living off the grid in a digitalised world).

If you hope to meet Bob or Amelia as much as I hoped to, I have to disappoint you. Well-known characters (except for one) appear only as cameos/are mentioned along the way. Minimal Wage Magic stands on its own and requires no previous knowledge about the world. And it does it very well. I like the focus on small-scale events and read the book practically in one sitting.

Highly recommended.

ARC through Fantasy Book Critic
Profile Image for Ezi Chinny.
2,531 reviews414 followers
April 4, 2019
I really liked this spinoff although it felt like a whole new series.
Opal Young-Ae is a cleaner who is trying to survive and maintain her independe by paying her bills on time. Opal stumbled on to a house with a dead man, but his notes indicated that he died protecting a valuable secret.

While it’s set in the DFZ, we don’t get a major crossover with The Heartstriker clan although there was a mention of the dragon who protected the City. Opal lays a foundation for her own journey towards freedom from parental interference just like Julius and she also makes a key ally with another cleaner Nick. I like the subtle attraction the author intimated with Nick and Opal so I look forward to some romance in book 2.

If you loved Heartstriker series, then you will love this one as well because the creative storytelling and plot is the same. The characters are likeable and you want to root for them. Rachel Aaron is quickly becomes an autobuy author for me.
Profile Image for Sade.
312 reviews218 followers
September 16, 2022
1.5 Stars rounded to 2 cos of goodreads shit star rating system.

If ever there was a book that needed to be plastered with a big disappointment sign in front, this book would be on the list. No questions.

As much as i sometimes crap on books and read books I know I won't enjoy just for the hell of it, this book was actually one I'd put in my TBR and actively planned to read if it went on sale. Hello, Kindle Unlimited and I could finally read it. Yay! Not😒.


I've read one Rachel Aaron book, Nice Dragons Finish Last and while I did not particularly love the story on account of it having quite bland main characters, the writing & story were actually quite decent. Meh but decent.

Minimum Wage Magic on the other hand, was terrible. I kept asking myself if this was the same author that wrote that book. The plot was long drawn out and quite frankly when you get to the whole crux of the matter, extremely ludicrous. You mean I slugged through 200+ pages because someone Really?? Like this book, dead ass had Opal and Nic decrypting a cyborg arm, entering some weird ass place in the DFZ, getting shot at, this book had Nic doing all those crazy fight moves, had Opal and Nic getting a bounty on their heads because
You sef check it now. If I say I was gob smacked when I finally reached what should have been the payload in this book would be an understatement.


"My father's hand clenched, his pale elegant, claw-like nails shredding the money I'd handed him into confetti"

Like, what???
Look. I'm the first to admit that a story might not work out, but the writing can still be really good. Story aside, this book was painful to read.
I don't even want to go into the obvious love story brewing with Nic and Opal because in what world does it make sense for that dude to just show up like that?

Anyways, peak disappointment but on the bright side, i didn't spend money on this, so description
ALSOOOOO: Does this character on the book cover actually look Korean???? Or am I tripping? Compare with the book cover image for the rest of the books in the series and I feel like I'm being validated.

Profile Image for Kitty G Books.
1,551 reviews2,937 followers
June 1, 2021
As always with Rachel Aaron I've come to expect just super fun reads, and this was not a disappointment. I always find the first book takes a bit of settling in, although in this one less so as it's returning to the world of the DFZ (which we know from Nice Dragons Finish Last). I'd say once again Aaron has delivered a great start point and I'm looking forward to continuing and seeing where the story goes in the next books.

We follow Opal who is a poor Cleaner in the DFZ trying to make enough money to pay back a debt. She's a hardworker, but seems to have hit a bad luck streak, and recently it's become clear this could be her last month where she may be able to make the ends meet. Hopefully she can find something in the new building she's bid on to Clean (a.k.a clean it out for the next person after someone has moved out/died and sell on any valuables she finds there), but it doesn't start well...

As always, I enjoy Aaron's urban fantasy as it's filled with wit and humour which works well for me here. She has a similar tone in this book as those of the Nice Dragons ones, and I certainly think the world has so much to offer I can see more and more soon off series being set here. There's a ton of magic and dragons, spirits and gods and more all woven into the fabric of the world, and seeing some recurring characters was good fun too :)

Overall, the story is a fun one, but probably just the start of something bigger and I'm intrigued and excited to continue. 3.5*s.
Profile Image for Lisa.
490 reviews53 followers
May 18, 2019
When I heard Rachel Aaron was writing a new series set in the same universe as her Heartstriker books, I was ecstatic because I love those books so much. So I definitely had my expectations high for this new book, and I have to say, my expectations were met.

One of the things that Aaron does best as a writer is make you care about her characters. Opal is an easy character to connect with even though you don’t find out some of her backstory until much later in the book. She’s got flaws, but you root for her because she’s likable. Maybe not quite as instantly likable as Julius Heartstriker, but then, who is? Opal is hard working, determined, and resourceful–all things I love in my protagonists. So what if she’s not that great at magic?

The other main character of the story is Nik, a fellow Cleaner and Opal’s biggest rival. Due to circumstances Nik and Opal are forced to team up to work on this one job which ends up being a much bigger deal than either of them had bargained for. Nik is one of my favorite types of characters. He’s all tough guy persona, loner, mysterious, keeps things close to the vest. But he has a soft underbelly. He’s a complete opposite from Opal in a lot of ways but I think that’s why they work so well together, once they stop irritating each other.

The concept of Opal and Nik’s job is really neat too. I love the idea of Cleaners–people who bid on people’s old spaces after they default on rent and take over their old belongings to clean out and sell. You never know what you might come across in a job like that. I loved when Opal got into a bidding war with another Cleaner at auction–it really had me having flashbacks to Storage Wars (aaaa-yup!).

Since this story takes places several years after Heartstrikers, we’re dealing with some future technology in this one, which I thought was cool. There are cybernetic enhancements, and the extent that humans (and others) can rely on technology to run every aspect of their lives from driving their cars, to organizing their day to day activities through light AI is even more staggering then it is today. And a point is brought up that perhaps this technology is relied on too much. I appreciated Nik’s take on this (although maybe he takes it to an extreme in the other direction).

The plot was pretty good and kept the pace going. At heart there’s a mystery to solve and other problems that they have to get through because the clock is ticking–Opal’s on a deadline. The stakes were high for Opal, you could really feel the weight of completing this task and what it meant for her. I liked that there were multiple things going on, which made the story have more layers to it.

Overall, I really loved this book. It’s fun, fast-paced, and full of the kinds of characters I love. Can’t wait to read the next one! 4.5/5 stars.
Profile Image for Christa.
860 reviews67 followers
April 12, 2019
The things we create in this life are so much more important than our names.

Yay! I finally got around to reading this one. I borrowed it on kindle unlimited the day it came out (November last year) and just got around to reading it. This was a book I knew I would love when the time was right to read it.

Opal is a Cleaner, which means she goes into abandoned complexes in the DFZ and cleans them out, selling the stuff left inside for profit. Think fantasy Storage Wars. She’s also a mage, but not a very good one.

She finds a body in one of her units, and gets pulled into investigating his murder. It’s got action, murder mystery, and dragons. What more can you want?

But I’d seen every season of DFZ Sewer Hunters, so I knew all that stuff about giant alligators and lampreys and rats the size of dump trucks wasn’t just made up to sell tours.

This is a spin-off of one of my favorite urban fantasies, the Heartstrikers, which starts with Nice Dragons Finish Last. But if you haven’t read that series, you won’t be too lost in this one. There are references to events and people in that series, but this book can stand on its own. But you should go read Nice Dragons right now if you haven’t, because it’s a hilarious and well developed urban fantasy that’s free on kindle unlimited.

I’m glad the author is continuing books in the DFZ. It’s a unique world she’s established with a lot of stories to tell. I’m just hoping Justin makes an appearance at some point. I’m assuming Julius will, but Justin was a favorite and he’s awesome. As a matter of fact, I’d love a Justin book. But until I get my Justin book, I’ll happily read about Opal and her adventures.

Five stars - free on kindle unlimited
Profile Image for Andrea.
1,691 reviews1 follower
May 11, 2020
But though he’d outmaneuvered, outgunned, and outmaged me in every possible way, there was still one place where I was still champion. One thing no one could beat me at. I could outcrazy anybody.

This book was right up my alley!

Great world building, a fun mystery, and interesting characters-So much fun!


Also, I really enjoyed Opal and Nik's characters and I'm looking forward to seeing how they get around her

Profile Image for Maja Ingrid.
448 reviews131 followers
November 24, 2018
While it feels so so good being back in DFZ, I kinda miss having a first row seat in the dragon drama in Keeping up with the Heartstrikers, also missed our favourite Nice Dragon™ a lot. I almost screamed at the bus when he was mentioned first time in the book. Could have been more dragons in general. But I'm not going to be petty and knock of stars because of that and hopefully the future books holds more dragons. Other than that though, I adored the book. I fell in love with Opal immediately and the plot was so fun and I need book two like now.
Profile Image for Kristen.
578 reviews110 followers
November 29, 2018
Full review is here, on my blog!

This book/series takes place in the same world as Rachel Aaron's Heartstrikers series (which I loved. Like... a lot.), which means I could hardly wait to get my paws upon it. It takes place about 20 years after Julius and Marci's story ended, and shows the city that came to exist because of them, but it's not at all necessary to have read the Heartstrikers series first. This one makes mention of things that are... perhaps resulting from those events, but never in a way that gives things away for either series.

This is the story of Opal Yong-ae, who is a Cleaner. What this basically means is that she makes a living bidding on the right to clean out apartments whose renters have failed to pay their rent. It's sort of like storage wars, but with cybernetics and magic in the Detroit Free Zone, or DFZ, a moving, living city that has a spirit of its own.

One day, Opal unlocks the apartment she recently won (read: she blew the door off of it by accidentally tripping a magical ward), and finds a dead body in it, some very well guarded papers, and hoarder levels of boxes of various magical history information.

So, she's going to find out what those papers say, because anything that well guarded is very likely leading to something worth tons of money, and Opal is in quite a bit of debt and that could be tons of really helpful money.

While I didn't love this one quite as much as I loved Heartstrikers, it was still a pretty fantastic read. I liked Opal as a character, and I cared what happened to her. I also really liked Sibyl, who is her 'social support AI' - an often snarky voice in her ear, more or less. 

On her adventures, Opal ends up teaming up with a bit of a rival Cleaner named Nikola Kos, and he is a character with a mysterious and dangerous history, who takes Opal into places she wouldn't otherwise go. I really, really liked Nik and just the relationship between him and Opal. Teamwork makes the dream work.... most of the time. :D

There were twists and turns I didn't see coming, and while I'll admit that this one took a little time to really grab me, once it did, it really grabbed me and I was making time to read whenever I could. The last half of this book I consumed all in one sitting, because I just couldn't put it down. 

I can't wait to see where this one takes me. It sounds like things are bound to get more and more interesting!
Profile Image for Lindsay.
1,260 reviews222 followers
March 7, 2020
This one is set in the same universe as the Heartstrikers books, but 20 years after the events in that series and sharing no characters in common. Additionally, the author explicitly calls out that these were meant to be read without having read the first series, and I think she was quite successful.

Opal Yong-ae is a Cleaner in the Detroit Free Zone, a job that combines magical scavenging with repo work and for people who know what they're doing and get lucky, can be very lucrative. Which is something Opal desperately needs in a job, but in recent months she's been far from lucky. When her instincts twinge on one last job before she runs out of money and hope, she bites off far more than she can chew. While working the situation she picks up fellow Cleaner Nikola Kos as a fairly shady partner and a reluctant romance blooms throughout.

Opal is an absolute expert in making atrocious decisions, but gambling on which bad decision will leave her alive and free is the essence of the book and makes it a roller coaster of a book. This is a excellent start to this new urban fantasy series.
Profile Image for Kalyn✨.
465 reviews59 followers
August 30, 2019
The world building in Minimum Wage Magic is phenomenal. The DFZ is a wacky, sentient city where most things are legal, magic is abundant, dragons are real, and— did I mention the city is sentient?

Due to unforeseen circumstances, cleaners Nik and Opal are forced to work together on a job that turns out to be much, much bigger than either one of them were expecting. I wasn't a big fan of the accent the narrator (who did a good job otherwise) gave Nik, and the "they're just animals" lowkey ruined his character for me. I also didn't buy his "tough dude with a heart of gold" shtick, because he just forces Opal to submit to his deals (40/60, anyone?) because she has literally no other options other than taking whatever he offers, or giving up her freedom. And the "they're just animals" comment didn't help, obviously.

Also, Opal is a badass who owns my entire heart. That is all.
Profile Image for Sarah.
832 reviews231 followers
December 29, 2018
Minimum Wage Magic was a whole lot of fun, and I expected nothing else of a Rachel Aaron novel! Her work would likely appeal to fans of Ilona Andrews, as this book is a fast-paced urban fantasy novel with excellent world building and a strong heroine at its center.

Although Minimum Wage Magic takes place in the same world as her Heartstriker series (start with Nice Dragons Finish Last), this series has an entirely new cast and is set twenty years after the previous series. You could read Minimum Wage Magic first, but I would still suggest reading the Heartstriker series first. If you read Minimum Wage Magic first, that will mean some spoilers for the big picture stuff of the Heartstriker series, mostly regarding some reveals about magic.

Now that all that’s out of the way, Minimum Wage Magic follows Opal Yong-ae, a young woman whose barely making a living given a terrible streak of bad luck. She lives in the independent city of DFZ (previously Detroit), where almost everything is legal and life is risky but full of opportunities. Despite her expensive degree in magical art history from one of the best schools out there, Opal works as a Cleaner. A Cleaner is… well you know that TV show about people who make a living biding on the contents of storage lockers? That’s essentially what a Cleaner does, only for houses and apartments in the DFZ.

Opal’s got a problem. She desperately needs money to pay her way to freedom (read the book to find out more), but her bad luck means she keeps buying lots full of nothing but useless junk. Take the most recent one. All she finds are a bunch of papers and a dead body… but just maybe some of those papers could prove valuable, as one looks to be some sort of highly complicated spell involving all sorts of expensive ingredients. Finding them may be Opal’s only chance at making her payment.

As usual, the world building was excellent. The DFZ is a place like no other, ruled over by a sentient spirit that arose out of the city itself. The city owns itself and rearranges buildings as it sees fit. The series combines urban fantasy with near-future science fiction elements, so you’ve got both mages and cyborgs. It’s a delightful melding.

Opal was an enjoyable protagonist, and I appreciated her smarts and her grit. She’s willing to live rough and dive through dirt if it will allow her freedom. I appreciated the gradual reveal of her background too. Of course, events in Minimum Wage Magic also make her question where she draws the line — what won’t she do? Where does she draw the line? Finally, Minimum Wage Magic is about her learning to work with someone else and let other people in. She ends up teaming up with another Cleaner, and while there’s not much romantic content in Minimum Wage Magic, I’m assuming there will be a slow burn romance plotline. Look, he’s a sexy guy with a mysterious past. Assuming he’s the love interest isn’t much of a leap.

Opal’s Korean, and I can’t speak as to how well that aspect of her is portrayed. On other representation notes, Minimum Wage Magic does acknowledge queer people exist (this is something I now watch for in all books I read), but… I wasn’t thrilled that the only queer character was a lesbian woman who made the straight protagonist uncomfortable by flirting with her. It felt a bit like the “predatory lesbian” stereotype.

With that one quibble, I really enjoyed Minimum Wage Magic, and I can’t wait for more installments in the series!

Review from The Illustrated Page.
Profile Image for Blodeuedd Finland.
3,402 reviews292 followers
January 13, 2019
I miss the Heartstrikers! I must sadly say that there are no cameos. But people from the series are mentioned. Yes I kept hoping someone would pop up, even if it had made no sense. Cos I miiiiiss them!

But to this book then. Opal is a cleaner. She cleans out places and sell the good stuff. She studied magic at College, but she needs money, and fast. It takes a while to learn why. She also has a troubled family relationship (I was sort of right, but not quite.) She just wants to do her own thing and I can respect that.

She also has the coolest AI sidekick called Sybil, who is in her phone, or whatever electronics she can be in.

I do not want to say too much about the story, but there is a magical mystery to solve. And she will have help.

The DFZ is such a freaky place, and the story never gets boring. But yes I missed the old gang. Who wouldn't! I also really wonder if the next book is about Opal too or someone new...I certainly look forward to more! It was a good book, and I hope it will be as great as a certain other series

I have only listened to her once before and I think that was goo. Now Emily brought in another world and I felt she was Opal. Since all those others I have talked about, well to hear their voices I would have to hear THE voice.

Fun, exciting.
Profile Image for Cheesecake.
2,680 reviews368 followers
October 26, 2022
A lot like her other books I read (under her other pen name; Rachel Bach) with lots of tight action and mysteries that unfold a little at a time, but still leave a lot unanswered by the end.
It's a series with the same characters so you aren't going to get a nice ending with all the loose ends tied up. You do get an HFN where the MCs can get a breather and rest up for the next time the sh*t hits the fan.

This is slightly spoilery but not much;

Opal's parents are wealthy control freaks and she is determined to keep her freedom. But she owes her father a lot of money and with all the bad luck she's been having lately, she may not be able to make the next payment.
She's a cleaner, a person who buys abandoned homes and 'cleans them' and resells what she can to recoup her loss and more. This is a pretty lucrative business in a city that is actually alive and tends to redesign itself a little bit everyday.

The world building was fun and well thought out. The city used to be Detroit but is now called 'The DFZ'. There are gods, magic, dragons, cyborgs and whatever else you would find in a near future world where magic returned a few decades ago.

Opal teams up with Nick out of necessity. He's a fellow cleaner who she's been wary of in the past. Not someone she'd want to meet in a dark ally. But as they get to know each other while saving each other's bacon time and again, she finds he's not as bad as she thought he was. Definitely an anti hero with an unsavory past. His past though isn't revealed much here. Something to look forward to in future books. There's enough bread crumbs dropped to know it's gonna be delicious!
Although it's pretty obvious that Nick and Opal will become a couple, there's no sexy times in this one.

In this book, we learn about Opal's past and how she came to be a craptastic mage cleaner . The only character that got on my nerves was Opal's AI, Syble. I wanted to run her over with a mac truck!

Anyways, it's a fun roller coaster ride!

Safety is good.
Profile Image for The Captain.
1,073 reviews372 followers
October 11, 2019
Ahoy there me mateys! Those who have been aboard for a while know that urban fantasy and I are not usually friends. In fact we tend to be enemies. I can’t explain why. It’s just a truth. And yet this here be a combined review of the first two books in this urban fantasy series. Keep reading to find out why. While I try to post no spoilers, ye have been forewarned and continue at yer own peril . . .

So basically, I can blame two things for reading this series. One is the fascinating cover of book one that always drew me attention to the book when I saw it. It is striking and appealing. It made me want to know what the book was about when I saw it. Every single time. So I would read the blurb, think it sounded interesting, think “nah urban fantasy,” and then forget about it again. See cover. Repeat. The other influence be this review from Matey Niki Hawkes @ theobsessivebookseller which finally convinced me to read the dang thing. It it she says:

within this world Rachel Aaron has created a fun fusion of genres – fantasy elements (dragons, magic), urban fantasy plot and settings, all told with an exuberant YA feel (without any unfortunate YA tropes or issues). If you’re sick of the same old stuff, let this author give you a breath of fresh air. 🙂

So I added it to the list. Then the day came. I am a mood reader who didn’t know what I wanted to read. Then I discovered Amazon Prime reading which just happened to have minimum wage magic as one of the books I could borrow. So I did and I loved it. I loved it enough to immediately buy book two and read that one as well. I am irked that I have to wait for book three.

So what is the series about? Well the books are set in a future Detroit after magic has returned to the world following a very long absence. The city is the most magical one on the planet. Basically anything goes – well except for not paying rent. Should ye fall behind, yer unit gets sold to the highest bidder, a Cleaner, who gets to empty the place for the next tenants in exchange for the authority to keep whatever the previous owner has left behind. Very much not a glamorous job.

One such Cleaner is Opal Yong-ae who is a freelance mage trying to pay a debt on a fierce timeline. I won’t get into the whys and wherefores of the debt because of spoilers. But let’s say that her latest job turns out to be different because of the dead body in the apartment and not much else of real value. Trouble ensues. And it was fun.

Part of the fun comes from the character of Opal herself. She be a bit of mess. She is smart, thrifty, and clever but cannot control her magic very well. Instead of control she uses blunt force. Force that causes magic to backfire on the user. Ouch. She has an AI mental-wellbeing assistant that cracks me up. And a run of very bad luck so that she might not make her next (very near) payment. But she be determined.

The other part of the fun comes from the wonderful world building. The city is sentient and kinda confusing. It likes to move buildings and streets around and redesign itself. It also has a working relationship with the dragons of the city. Then there are the other gods. And mythical creatures. And mages. And cybernetic folks. And yet for me, I think the appeal of this was following a silly (but awesome) human in a very cool urban fantasy world.

I liked how everything was wrapped together. I liked that the romance to come was present but didn’t override the plot. I liked the light, playful feel of the writing despite the high stakes and action. The plot twists in the book were both unexpected and plausible. The slow unveiling of Opal’s past was well done. And I even loved the ending that I did not see coming even though hints were there. This book was everything I wish urban fantasy always was.

So what about book two? Well the second book picks up about a week after the first one. Opal is still trying to track down money only there be major logistical problems. Plus Opal makes several bad choices that don’t help. I actually think book two was even better than the first. The stakes have ramped way up and the consequences to Opal’s actions are intense.

The romance does come into play here but I actually thought it was sweet and yet did take an unexpected tangent. I loved the complexities of all the relationships in this one and thought they were fairly seamlessly integrated into the plot. I loved watching Opal’s stubbornness get in the way. Though I also loved her sense of honor. Even the ending was excellent despite the cliffhanger because it wrapped up the second book’s plotline while setting up part of what book three will be about.

Now this series apparently is a spinoff in the same universe as the Heartstriker books even though the author did set them up to be read independently. I am not sure if I want to read the other series or not. I only wish that I had book three of the DFZ series right now. If more urban fantasy was like this then maybe I would like it better. Arrrr!

Side note: Any suggestions from the crew about urban fantasy recommendations where romance is not the focus? Be aware that I have tried the Dresden Files and Kate Daniels series and wasn’t enthralled.
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