Lem is a mage (well, he refers to himself as a trickster, but basically he can do magic with blood). He's also a con man and taking care of Mags, who is also able to work magic, but is mentally challenged. They're down on their luck, just getting by, bleeding themselves to perform crap tricks like making a one dollar bill look like a twenty for a meal. Then all hell breaks loose.
This is a pretty dark and visually ugly world. Magic users cut themselves to make magic. Or they cut others. Blood fuels magic. More blood, more magic. The more powerful magic users have bleeders to bleed for them. And the highest level users slaughter people. They're not good people, as Lem says.
So, Lem and Mags make the mistake of breaking into an apartment and discover a body in a bathtub. This is only the beginning of their troubles, though. Because then they rescue a girl locked in the trunk of a car - a girl who has magical runes all over her. And that's a very bad thing. Why? Because they've pissed off a very strong mage who has plans for the girl.
Why did I like this book so much? In all honesty, I think its because Lem doesn't try to be likeable as a character. But he is. He takes care of Mags as best he can. He wants to save Claire (the girl in the trunk). If he has to con people to do it, then that's just what he has to do. He's practical. And compared to his fellow mages, he's a damned saint.
I loved this book from the first page. It's dark and gritty and it bleeds hopelessness at the same time it gives you hope that Lem can do what needs to be done. Where it ends up....well, you'll have to read it to find out. Let's just say Lem is tested in ways that would break most people. But he's smart, tough, resolute and persistent.
This is a definite must read if you like dark urban fantasy. I can't wait for the next book to come out.