As a devout Catholic reader of such dark fiction, I should be absolutely horrified by this novel. But I'm not. My favorite author, Michael D. O'Brien, whose novels always have an invisible character, namely, the hand of God, believes the Harry Potter series to be of demonic origin (more or less), would despise this book, which in many ways is like Harry Potter meets The Departed. But I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The story is delightfully demonic, and I mean that in the most positive way. Joseph Garraty takes the concept of magic and applies it to the modern world of organized crime. The elements of magic in The Price are everything that priests, popes, and evangelists have always feared: an activity inherently performed by demons that is fundamentally opposed to God.
The protagonist of the story begins a life of magic benevolently enough: as a child, not aware of his activities. As he grows older, his ability fades until he is approached by a man who teaches him to cultivate his abilities. He takes part in the underworld as a means to protect his family from Russian gangsters, but it ends in an all-out war. There is a cost to doing magic, however, and this is what eventually leads the character to almost go insane. The cost is a deeply metaphysical one that ultimately threatens the wizard's very soul.
Garraty's writing and storytelling are superb. I did not want to set my Kindle down once I started reading. Unlike treatments of magic in other stories, Garraty presents it in the worst-case scenario that has been most feared: as a deal with the devil. Although the protagonist begins with good intentions, the evil wears at him and peaks when he enters a church during Mass and uses his magic to set aflame a crucifix.
He even incorporates another feared aspect: the sexual. During the witch-craze in Europe and America, it was believed that witches and wizards would engage in sexual activity with beasts, usually goats, and possibly Satan himself who would appear in the form of a goat. There is no bestiality in The Price, but in the midst of animal sacrifice and the summoning of demons from the deepest circles of hell, there is sexual arousal and enjoyment.
Why do I think all of this is a good thing, at least as far as a story goes? Because Garraty takes a most unreal topic and creates a story that is very real, and, in some sense, rooted in reality.
My only complaint is that I could not believe the setting. If the writer did not tell us that the story is set in Boston, there is no way I would have known that fact. There are no clear geographic references, and one glaring error: multiple times he references the "small cathedral" in Boston. But the Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Cross is quite large. Furthermore, most of the language is too polished. A little bit of work could have made it sound more authentic. These criticisms are minor, though, and did not diminish the quality of an otherwise great book.